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Anand Gandhi Anand Gandhi’s The Ship Of Theseus has been acclaimed by Indian critics, film festival audiences and endorsed by Kiran Rao; which may lead you to believe …

Anand Gandhi

Anand Gandhi’s The Ship Of Theseus has been acclaimed by Indian critics, film festival audiences and endorsed by Kiran Rao; which may lead you to believe that the director was raised on world cinema. But Anand says, “I have been raised on a staple diet of mainstream cinema.” He drops another bombshell when he reveals that he was a writer for Ekta Kapoor’s immensely popular saas-bahu soaps like ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’. But it was writing these soaps, which he calls “a brilliant experience,” that ignited Anand’s offbeat creativity. He reveals: “I started seeking more.”

The Ship Of Theseus is a portmanteau film comprising three stories about people undergoing a personal crisis that changes their physical and mental makeup. Anand says, “The title alludes to a thought experiment. If every single part of the ship had been replaced over a century … the question arises whether it is the same ship that started its journey from the initial shore.”

This allegory for human life is ponder-worthy cinema at its best.

Anand Rai

Anand Rai successfully pulled off one of the year’s biggest gambles in Raanjhana … but he believes, “It’s not a gamble. I took up a challenge.” Semantics aside, what Anand managed is decidedly impressive. Fresh from the success of Tanu Weds Manu, he cast as his hero Southern superstar Dhanush, who was an unknown entity in Hindi films, and he chose Sonam, hitherto known best for being a fashionista, as his heroine. The director explains, “I saw Dhanush in Aadukalam for which he won the National Award. And when you meet Sonam, she is just a simple girl next door.”

Rai fashioned a sparkling gem on obsessive love that charmed critics and cineastes and endeared Dhanush and Sonam to audiences. Rai’s stories evoke innocence and nostalgia. He exults, “Raanjhana was a story I was hungering to tell.”

Ayan Mukherji

Ayan Mukherjee, who made his directorial debut with Karan Johar’s Wake Up Sid, has now captured a larger share of the limelight with Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, a critically well-received monster hit. The love story between a commitment- phobic globetrotter with issues, and a diffident girl who blossoms into her real self, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani has Mukherjee riffing on “friendship and love – the many different facets of life that I was trying to understand.” The director believes it is an improvement on his much appreciated debut because “I wanted to say everything in Wake Up Sid. I feel I have been able to express myself with much more nakedness now.”

Ayan forms a formidable A-team with Ranbir Kapoor. He pronounces, “Now that he has hit 30, Ranbir is in a different space. The level of maturity and confidence that he has gained as a human being is really nurturing him as an actor. He is the best!”

Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali has redefined modern-day romance cinematically with intense, insightful love stories like Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar. His latest, the Randeep Hooda-Alia Bhatt starrer Highway, is a deeply felt, unconventional story of an indefinable love between two unlikely protagonists – a kidnapper and his victim, both escaping from a dark past. Like many of Ali’s films, this one too is a journey across verdant North Indian landscapes … and the journey continues inwards till it reaches a cathartic crescendo. Imtiaz believes in “going outside the world that you live in to discover yourself.”

Ali’s next, the Ranbir-Deepika starrer Tamasha, is eagerly awaited. Ali has become the director whom today’s audiences look towards for uncovering a fresh facet to the eternal story of love.

 Rakesh Roshan

It’s not a matter of happenstance that Rakesh Roshan is one of the oldest B-town directors still cranking out hits today. Roshan has remained relevant by staying in step with the times. He points out, “I am 64 and Hrithik is 25 years younger but there is no generation gap, I have friends his age.”

Since 2000, Rakesh Roshan has unleashed four consecutive blockbusters — Kaho Na Pyaar Hain to Koi Mil Gaya, Krrish and now Krrish 3. They all star his son Hrithik Roshan, Roshan Sr shrugs, “He is my son and a very fine actor. If I go to other actors, people will think I’m a fool.”

The Roshans plan to keep mining the Krrish vein. Roshan says, “It is the only film with a story that keeps moving ahead in the sequels; you can identify all the characters by now. We will carry it forward.’

Rohit Shetty

After the runaway success of Chennai Express, director Rohit Shetty confirms that he is making another film with Shah Rukh. “You evolve as a human being, as a director, as a technician, as a writer when you work with SRK,” he says. “Our next will once again it will be a masala entertainer.” The judiciously adjudged admixture of generic masalas is a Rohit Shetty recipe that has the audience queueing up for seconds. Chennai Express had a rib-tickling Shah Rukh, a feisty Deepika Padukone tackling the rumbustious material while maintaining a strong Tamil accent (she had three teachers on the set) and a lungi dance that held the audience en(wrap)tured.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for unfolding grand, colour-saturated larger-than-life scenarios on the silver screen. His Devdas has found a place in Time magazine’s top 10 films of the millennium! After two disappointments Saawariya and Guzaarish, Bhansali made Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela on the same scale and with the same passion and attention to detail. “Indian audiences appreciate artistic work,” he maintains. Indeed, the film’s success signaled Bhansali’s comeback to the mainstream. This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is set amidst a colourful blaze of songs and dance and Bhansali ratchets up the violence and sensuality. But it’s the raw intensity of Ranveer and Deepika’s passion that ignited the celluloid and posited Bhansali’s mastery over his art.

Vijay Krishna Acharya

There has been a remarkable reversal of fortunes in Vijay Krishna Acharya’s life. After helming one of Yash Raj’s rare disappointments in Tashan (2008), he roared into prominence with the mega success of Dhoom 3. Acharya has earlier worked extensively on TV and as a writer on several successful films, and he brought that expertise in helming Dhoom 3, a taut thriller about revenge and subterfuge. Dhoom 3 had several eyewidening, expensively-shot action sequences and explosions galore but Acharya also kept the audience riveted with his complex emotional tale of the relationship between two twin brothers (played by Aamir Khan), the motivation behind their crime spree and how they evade the straight arrow cop (Abhishek Bachchan) hot on their heels. The film has reportedly become the first Indian film to cross Rs 500 crore internationally and Acharya has more than vindicated Yash Raj’s decision to stand by him through thick and thin.

Vikas Behl

After winning three National Awards for his debut film, Chillar Party, Vikas Bahl made one of the year’s quirkiest but best loved films, Queen. The film’s unusual premise has protagonist Rani (Kangana) going on a solo Parisian honeymoon after she is jilted at the altar by her boyfriend. Behl believes, “I think we get lucky if a disruption appears in our lives. We may be traumatised for a few days but later we are bound to thank God it happened, and you come out as a hero.” Sure enough, Rani embarks on a journey of self discovery and emerges empowered.

Queen has been appreciated for its gentle humour (“I find humour in strange places,” says Behl, “Kangana and I improvised a lot”) and for the efflorescence of its leading lady Kangana Ranaut into a major talent. Behl has been stamped as one of the most exciting talents making films today.

Vikramaditya Motwane

An affecting tale of a conman seeking his moral compass, Lootera reaffirmed Vikramaditya Motwane’s calibre as a film director. His first film, Udaan was a stark look at the problems of an angst-ridden youngster that won raves from the critics and was screened at Cannes. With Lootera, Motwane plunged into the 1950s and got Ranveer Singh to winningly play the title role and Sonakshi Sinha to surprise her detractors and deliver the best performance of her career.

Motwane gives some of the credit for his ability to switch from contemporary Udaan to post Independence Bengal to his apprenticeship with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. “I worked with Bhansali on Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas and once you are with him for a few months, you can understand any world.”

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