Directors Sujoy Ghosh, Ram Madhvani, Nagraj Manjule, Shakun Batra, Rajkumar Hirani, Nikkhil Advani, Gauri Shinde, Ritesh Batra, Ali Abbas Zafar and Sriram Raghavan have made movies that we have loved, but whose films do they like to revisit? Here they each list one film that has had a profound impact on them:
Sujoy Ghosh – Aranyer Din Ratri (1970), dir. Satyajit Ray
It’s a story about 4 friends who break out of their daily routine and go out to the forest to be one with nature. To break rules and experience life in their own way. They go to Daltonganj and embark upon a bungalow that says one cannot enter without permission. So that’s the first rule they decide to break and it’s about their life in this bungalow for the next two days. Every time I see the film, I see something new. Sometimes it was a love story, sometimes it was a story filled with angst, sometimes it was a message to society, sometimes it was just another enjoyable buddy film. And that’s what a classic is all about. Everytime I make a film, I go back to it to learn the way Ray has taught us to talk about things by not talking about things.
Ram Madhvani – Secrets & Lies (1996), dir. Mike Leigh
What happens with the best films is that they make you forget yourself and they also make you remember yourself. The movie is about black lady who goes to a very middle class white woman and says, “I’m your daughter.” I remember seeing that scene and thinking, “Here is a director who was interested in what Néstor Almendros called the ‘landscape of the human face’.” This movie did a lot of stuff inside me.
Nagraj Manjule – Cinema Paradiso (1988), dir. Giuseppe Tornatore
When I saw it, I felt myself in it. It was my life – the small boy who loves films and sneaks into theatres to watch films was me. I also cried a lot. I felt good that a small boy could be the ‘hero’ of the film. Maybe it had something to do with the kinds of film I’d seen and our idea of a ‘hero’. The kid’s instinct and graph is something I have really connected with and maybe that’s the reason I’m really attached to this film.
Shakun Batra – Drinking Buddies (2013), dir. Joe Swanberg
I saw it when I was finished writing Kapoor and Sons. It’s by Joe Swanberg, who is one of the guys who initiated mumblecore filmmaking in America. It’s a modern take on male-female relationships but it’s not a romantic comedy. He looks at it like a relationship film and that’s what I like about it. It tries to explore the line between friendship and physical attraction, physical infidelity vs. emotional infidelity and it does it without ever sensationalising it.
Rajkumar Hirani – Anand (1971), dir. Hrishikesh Mukherjee
When I saw Anand, I was completely blown by the character of Rajesh Khanna. Here was a man who was dying and he could be so happy and make everyone else so happy. I was blown by Amitabh Bachchan’s performance, Ramesh Deo, Dara Singh, Johnny Walker and that was my discovery to the world of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films. I got exposed to poetry, to Gulzar saab. And there began my journey with words. Then as a filmmaker I discovered that if you actually look at the film – there’s no great plot. Right in the first scene you tell the world Rajesh Khanna has died. It’s very anecdotal in nature but it still holds you. It defies all logic of scriptwriting.
Nikkhil Advani – Parinda (1989), dir. Vidhu Vinod Chopra
I saw Parinda in Satyam Cinema in Worli from 3pm-6pm. Then I went out, bought another ticket, went in and saw it from 6pm-9pm and then went out and came back again. I couldn’t believe the film that was unfolding in front of me. Parinda taught me that there was something known as technique and departments that do camera, sound and production design. For me, it became that one film that wanted me to become a filmmaker. Parinda made me understand how films are made and it made me fascinated by the craft. I studied it by the textbook. I don’t think any film made on the underworld is so wonderfully and beautifully packaged.
Gauri Shinde – Annie Hall (1977), dir. Woody Allen
I’d like to recommend all films of Woody Allen but I think Annie Hall stands out. It’s just two characters – Alvie, played by Woody Allen himself, and Diane Keaton’s. There’s this humour, this self-deprecating way in which he talks like the underdog.. It’s funny, there’s a lot of irony, satire and he makes even dark things look really light. It’s beautiful.
Ritesh Batra – 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), dir. Cristian Mungiu
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a Romanian film that epitomises the Romanian New Wave. The characters in this movie are ordinary people grappling in the shadow of an authoritarian state. It’s a story of friendship – an ordinary person going against odds to help a friend out with an illegal abortion. There is a very iconic 9-minute single shot scene in this movie where the camera stays on the protagonist as she is having dinner at her boyfriend’s house. All good is improvisation is directed and all bad improvisation is just improvisation. In this scene, every action – passing of plates, picking up of the glass – is directed and it’s perfect.
Ali Abbas Zafar – I Am Ali (2014), dir. Claire Lewins
I Am Ali, a beautiful documentary on the life of Muhammad Ali, is basically chapters of all the people who are associated with Ali. It has all the boxers that he fought, quotes from his coach, to his daughter, to his wife. And it just gives you a very personal insight into his life which will make you understand what he went through and how he became what he became.
Sriram Raghavan – Fargo (1996), dir. Joel Coen
Fargo is about a car salesman, a bit of a loser who wants a lot of money to set up his own business. His father-in-law has got the money but doesn’t want to give it to him. So he cooks up a plan. Through a contact, he gets the names of a couple of guys who are crooks. The film is not just funny. It’s violent, it’s kind of a black comedy and a noir thriller and at the end of it there is a strong dose of humanity. There is one scene involving a wood chipper that you will never forget all your life.