12 Directors Who Got Grand Debuts Before Abhilash Joshiy For ‘King of Kotha’

Dulquer Salmaan’s most expensive Malayalam film yet is helmed by debutant Abhilash Joshiy. As we await the action unfold on Thursday, let’s look at the stories of a few other grand debuts
12 Directors Who Got Grand Debuts Before Abhilash Joshiy For ‘King of Kotha’

Dulquer Salmaan's King of Kotha, a period gangster film, is special for many reasons. The Onam release is billed to be the actor's most expensive film. It is also the first time we will get to see Dulquer in a full-on raw gangster role and the visuals seem promising. Yet the most interesting aspect of this massive film is that it is directed by a debutant: Abhilash Joshiy. 

Son of veteran director Joshiy, Abhilash is not the first to join this rare club of directors who have managed to turn heads even before their first film hits the screens. As we gear up to see Dulquer’s king of the masses on the big screen this week, let’s take a look at some other grand debuts of directors that made people sit up and take notice.

A still from King Of Kotha
A still from King Of Kotha

Shankar - Gentleman (1993)

After assisting directors Pavithran and SA Chandrasekhar on numerous films, Shankar was trying to land a producer for his first film. He did face a few rejections before KT Kunjumon (who also introduced Pavithran) showed interest in his script. And the foundation for their spectacle was laid. This partnership, which saw both the director and producer equally invested in the grandeur of a well-written film, sowed the seeds for what Shankar has managed to achieve over the years. In an interview, Kunjumon reminisces how he insisted that the film should be made as grand as it could be.

Gentleman was one of the first films to have advertisements in every newspaper and magazine. Even when distributors were reluctant to take on the film, the hype was getting larger than ever. The cherry on the cake: the film had a super-successful box office run, sealing Shankar’s kingly entry. And the rest is history. 

Atlee - Raja Rani (2013)

Like Shankar, his assistant Atlee set off to make his own film after working on the sets of Enthiran (2010) and Nanban (2012). But unlike the previous generation, Atlee belonged to a new crop of filmmakers, who showcased their talents through short films. By this time Atlee had released the short Mugaputhagam, and had registered his presence. With years of networking in the industry, Atlee managed to get stars Arya, Jai, Nayanthara and Nazriya Nazim for his debut film. Backed by AR Murugadoss, the lead pair (Arya and Nayanthara’s chemistry was a hit in their earlier film Boss Engira Baskaran) and Nayanthara’s comeback after a three-year hiatus in Kollywood, ensured the movie grabbed enough attention. 

Cibi Chakravarthy - Don (2022)

There seems to be a pattern as we take a look at this list. The next director in line is Cibi Chakravarthy, who is a former associate of Atlee. In 2022, when campus films and romcoms, especially starring a mainstream hero, were a rarity, Don promised an entertainer with huge doses of hilarity. Backed by Lyca Productions, Cibi’s debut film had the winning combination of Sivakarthikeyan, Priyanka Mohan and Anirudh Ravichander, who were teaming up after the impressive run of Doctor (2021).

Srikanth Odela - Dasara (2023)

Several film buffs are looking forward to what Abhilash has to offer also because it comes on the heels of Dasara’s major success. The Nani-starrer was helmed by debutant Srikanth Odela who offered a compelling cinematic experience with raw visuals and a rooted narrative. 

Dasara wasn’t the first time Nani trusted a debutant director. He has done it several times in the past including introducing Shiva Nirvana with Ninnu Kori and Nag Ashwin with Yevade Subramanyam. But with Dasara, the expectations were humongous and so was the budget. A grand set was erected to create the coal mines of Singareni village on the outskirts of Hyderabad on about 22 acres of land. Srikanth’s debut was not just a high-budget film but also a pan-Indian project, and he delivered. 

VA Shrikumar - Odiyan (2018)

Shrikumar was indeed new to the film space when he helmed Odiyan but he wasn’t a rookie director. Having directed more than 400 commercials, his entry into feature films was long due. He was initially supposed to have directed a film based on one of MT Vasudevan Nair’s novels, but that didn’t materialise. With Lalettan in the lead and Ashirvad Cinemas to back him, the director set out to narrate a fantasy story based on Odiyans, a clan that remains a legend in Kerala folklore, who are said to have shapeshifting powers. Odiyan broke records and still remains among the top titles to have the highest first-day box office openings in Kerala.

Praveen Gandhi - Ratchagan (1997)

Fresh off the hat-trick success — Gentleman, Kaadhalan and Kaadhal Desam — producer KT Kunjumon chose to back another new director after introducing Shankar to Kollywood. This time around, it was Praveen Gandhi. The producer had then claimed that it was the most expensive Indian film at the time of its release. While we do not know the actual numbers behind it, a look at its opulent sets and casting would tell you the story.  The makers onboarded Sushmita Sen soon after her Miss Universe victory. The film also marked Nagarjuna’s first direct Tamil outing. As the casting made headlines on one side, the massive sets built by Thota Tharani left viewers in awe. Besides the set built for the plot, Tharani is said to have created eight sets just for the song ‘Love Attack’. In the long list of its monumental production value is the film’s climax, which has two villains fighting in a flying helicopter, which was captured by the cinematographer, who flew in another helicopter. The visually rich film, however, failed to impress the viewers with its story. 

Mallidi Vassishta - Bimbisara (2022)

Having grown up in a film environment, with his father Mallidi Satyanarayana busy producing projects, Mallidi Vassishta had a natural inclination towards the cinema space. So he began assisting directors in many films while writing stories and pitching them to actors. An avid movie watcher, he suddenly wondered how it would be if someone from the past time-travelled to the present, and this spark led to the fantasy drama Bimbisara. Nandamuri Kalyan Ram, who was also equally fascinated by folklore fantasies, came aboard the film. Mounted on a large scale with heavy VFX works, NKR backed the venture and played the lead role. Vassishta is now busy with Chiranjeevi’s next film, with a sequel to Bimbisara on the cards. 

Soundarya Rajinikanth - Kochadaiiyaan (2014)

The list would feel incomplete without Soundarya’s Kochadaiiyaan. In her debut film, she not only cast Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone but also onboarded AR Rahman to score the music. The period film also became India's first photorealistic motion capture film. Soundarya was setting the bar high and the expectations were naturally high. A massive star vehicle, a pan-Indian project, an epic period story, a 3-D animated VFX-heavy film — all these in a debut director’s outing, back in 2014, is the stuff of dreams; a rarity even in this list. However, a series of complications and animation issues resulted in a film that didn’t meet the built expectations. 

Ravi K Chandran - Yaan (2014)

After Ko, Nanban, Neeethane En Ponvasantham and Endrendrum Punnagai, Yaan seemed to be the next Jiiva film that was tailor-made for the actor to shine. After establishing his career as a cinematographer, one that he carefully built over two decades, Ravi K Chandran finally decided to don the director’s hat with Yaan. Thulasi Nair, who made her debut with Mani Ratnam’s Kadal was on board. The film also boasted a strong technical side with cinematographer Manush Nandan, editor Sreekar Prasad and music composer Harris Jayaraj. Bankrolled by RS Infotainment, the team travelled to Morocco, Iceland and Andaman and Nicobar Islands to record major sequences while they filmed songs in Switzerland. Even though a lot of expectations rode on Yaan, its strengths remained to be its dance numbers and visuals.

Prithviraj Sukumaran - Lucifer (2019)

There is a certain excitement as soon as you learn that Prithviraj Sukumaran is going to direct a film. Add to it, the news that the film would star Mohanlal alongside an ensemble cast of Vivek Oberoi, Tovino Thomas, Indrajith Sukumaran and others. Is there anything more needed to keep the audience enthusiastically waiting? After its successful theatrical run in 2019, a sequel, titled Empuraan, is now in the making. 

A still from Lucifer
A still from Lucifer

Manju Mandavya - Masterpiece (2015)

Three years before Hombale films and Yash became the talk of the country with KGF, they were busy backing debutant director Manju Mandavya for Masterpiece. It was a time when the director-producers duo were celebrating the success of their previous outing Mr and Mrs Ramachari (2014), which would go on to become a major part of Kannada pop culture. Besides the unending talks on social media and advertisements for the film, the makers went all out — for instance, they recorded a celebratory song with over 1,500 backup dancers. Its distribution rights were sold for a high price and the collections, despite receiving negative reviews, were massive. 

Madhavan - Rocketry: The Nambi Effect (2022)

Just like Prithviraj’s directorial outing, Madhavan’s debut was also a large-scale project. As much as the actor’s move to become a filmmaker created hype surrounding the film, another factor that piqued the audience’s interest was the film’s central concept. Rocketry was a biographical drama film based on the life of Nambi Narayanan, who was a scientist at ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and was accused of selling confidential information. In addition, the film had actor Suriya play a cameo in Tamil, while Shah Rukh Khan appeared in the role in the Hindi version, following a four-year hiatus.

A still from Rocketry: The Nambi Effect
A still from Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

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