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15 Indian women filmmakers and screenwriters who are breaking stereotypes

The year is 1913. Dadasaheb Phalke is making India’s first feature film Raja Harishchandra. The film has an all-male cast. In fact, Phalke has cast a male actor Anna Salunke even for the female lead. It’s taboo for women to participate in theatre or cinema. Cut to 2022. A documentary about women journalists co-directed by a young woman is nominated for the Oscars. Indian women filmmakers and screenwriters are finally having their moment in the sun.

Times have changed for the better. Women are calling the shots in the historically male-dominated Indian film industry. Female filmmakers and screenwriters are a growing voice in the country today. They are breaking stereotypes, one brilliant script at a time.

There’s a new breed of women in Indian cinema who are giving the film industry an imperative facelift. From bringing fresh narratives to the screen to transforming male characters, these incredible Indian women as filmmakers and screenwriters are a breath of fresh air. Or rather a wind of change.

Indian women filmmakers and screenwriters you should follow

Mira Nair


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One of the first female directors in India, Nair paved the path for the future clique of Indian women filmmakers and screenwriters with her realistic cinema. Before making feature films, she was a documentary filmmaker. The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker is known for developing multi-layered characters and emotionally gripping stories. Some of her best works include Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, Mississippi Masala, and Queen of Katwe. Her most recent venture was the British miniseries A Suitable Boy, an adaptation of Vikram Seth’s magnum opus novel.

Zoya Akhtar


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Zoya Akhtar must be credited for transforming the process of character development in Indian cinema. Her male characters don’t fit into the mould of the quintessential Bollywood macho man. They are vulnerable. They are journalists and copywriters. They respect women and challenge patriarchy. Akhtar studied filmmaking at New York University. She started her career by assisting directors like Mira Nair and Dev Benegal. Her directorial debut, Luck By Chance, depicted the harsh realities of the film industry. She is best known for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do. Akhtar also co-wrote and co-directed the hit web series Made in Heaven.

Guneet Monga


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Through her production company, Sikhya Entertainment, Monga has gifted the Indian audience content-lead movies like The LunchboxMasaanGangs of WasseypurPagglaitHaraamkhor, and Soorarai Pottru. Monga was the executive producer of the Oscar-winning short documentary Period. End of Sentence. She is the co-founder of Indian Women Rising, a cinema collective. Monga has been honoured with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, France’s second-highest civilian award, for her contribution to world cinema and her commendable work towards women empowerment.

Juhi Chaturvedi


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Juhi Chaturvedi is known for introducing uncomfortable topics to mainstream Bollywood cinema. She forayed into Bollywood as a screenwriter with the 2012 blockbuster Vicky Donor, which revolved around sperm donation. Chaturvedi also wrote Piku, which was based on an elderly Bengali man and his struggle with constipation. In the heart-wrenching and extremely underrated October, Chaturvedi gave us a lesson or two in real unconditional love. She has won the National Film Award for Best Original Screenplay and Best Dialogues. Her most recent script was Gulabo Sitabo, which starred Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurana.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari

A former advertising professional, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari ventured into filmmaking in 2013 with her short film, What’s for Breakfast. She received the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award for Best Short Film and Special Jury Award for Best Director & Screenplay for it. She made her directorial debut in Bollywood with the 2016 comedy-drama Nil Battey Sannata. She also directed its Tamil remake Amma Kanakku. But it was the 2017 romcom Bareilly Ki Barfi that established Tiwari as a face of change in Indian cinema. She bagged the Filmfare Award for Best Director for the movie. Her upcoming film is said to be based around the lives of businessman Narayan Murthy and his wife-author Sudha Murthy.

Meghna Gulzar


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Born to legendary filmmaker and lyricist Gulzar and actress Rakhi Gulzar, Meghna Gulzar studied filmmaking in New York. She began her career as a freelance writer and poetess. Her venture into the film industry came as a screenwriter in her father’s 1999 film Hu Tu Tu. Her first film as a director was Filhaal, which was released in 2002. She made a remarkable comeback with the soul-touching crime drama Talvar in 2015. Her patriotic thriller Raazi starred Alia Bhatt in the role of an Indian spy. The movie became one of the top-grossing Indian films of all time. It also won her the Filmfare Award for Best Director. Her last movie, Chhapaak, was based on the life of acid-attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal.

Alankrita Shrivastava


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Adding to the list of Indian women filmmakers and screenwriters, Alankrita Shrivastava has done commendable work in a short span of time. She is one of the most respected contemporary screenwriters and directors in India today. Her noteworthy works as a writer and director include Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte SitareLipstick Under My Burkha, Netflix’s Bombay Begums, and Made in Heaven. Her films have bagged several awards at prestigious international film festivals, including Tokyo, Glasgow, MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, and IFFLA.

Tanuja Chandra


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Tanuja Chandra is a senior director who never ceases to surprise her audience with her brilliant movies. Her last film Qarib Qarib Singlle, a quirky rom-com resonated with singles of all age groups. Chandra co-wrote the screenplay of the hit 1997 film Dil To Pagal Hai. Some of her early films as a director were Sangharsh and Dushman. Both films were female-centric and garnered critical acclaim as well as box office success. Chandra’s career as a director started with the 1995 television series Zameen Aasmaan. She has also authored a book of short stories titled Bijnis Women.

Gauri Shinde

Before working in leading advertising agencies like IBW, Bates Clarion, and Lowe Lintas, Gauri Shinde forayed into filmmaking by assisting documentary filmmaker Siddharth Kak. A graduate of the Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication, Shinde became popular with her directorial debut English Vinglish, which was inspired by the life of her own mother. Her next film Dear Zindagi starred megastar Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt and revolved around mental health. Shinde has made over 100 ad films. Her short film Oh Man! was screened at the Berlin Film Festival. She is married to filmmaker R. Balki, her former colleague from her advertising days.

Reema Kagti


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Kagti has been associated with Excel Entertainment, helmed by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidwani. She has worked as a writer and producer on films like Gully Boy and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Kagti made her directorial debut with the 2007 film Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. She then directed the neo-noir Talaash: The Answer Lies Within, which starred Aamir Khan and Rani Mukherji. Kagti recently co-founded Tiger Baby Films with Zoya Akhtar. She also co-wrote and co-directed the critically acclaimed Amazon series Made in Heaven, a story about the lives of two wedding planners.

Nandita Das


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Actor-turned director Nandita Das is one of the most celebrated names in contemporary Indian cinema. After working as an actor in over 40 feature films in ten different languages, Das ventured into filmmaking with her 2008 film Firaaq. Her 2018 film Manto starred the talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui as writer and playwright Saadat Hasan Manto. The film was premiered at Cannes Film Festival. Das has also been on the Cannes jury twice. She is the first Indian to have been inducted into the International Hall of Fame of the International Women’s Forum. Her next movie will star comedian Kapil Sharma, where he will be seen in the role of a food delivery executive.

Rima Das


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Rima Das made headlines the world over after her film Village Rockstars was nominated at the 90th Academy Awards under the Best Foreign Language Film category. Das wrote, directed, edited, and produced Village Rockstars. She was honoured with the National Film Award for Best Film and Best Editor. Her filmmaking career started with her 2009 short film Pratha. Her first feature film Antardrishti was shot on a DSLR. Her films have been screened at some of the most prestigious film festivals in India and across the globe. Das is known for being a multi-tasker and dons many hats as a writer, director, producer, editor, cameraperson, and art designer.

Shonali Bose


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Best known for Margarita with a Straw and The Sky Is Pink, Shonali Bose has travelled the world with her critically acclaimed films. Her first feature film Amu was an adaptation of her own novel of the same name and chronicled the 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi. Amu won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English. She also co-wrote and worked as an assistant director for the 2012 war film Chittagong. Bose has been the jury of several international film festivals. Bose also won the Sundance Mahindra Global Filmmaker Award and a NETPAC Award for Margarita with a Straw.

Kiran Rao


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A graduate of the Sophia College for Women and the AJK Mass Communication Research Center at Jamia Millia Islamia, Kiran Rao is a force to reckon with. She began her career as an assistant director to Ashutosh Gowariker on Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. She also assisted him on Swades: We, the People. Rao was also seen in a small cameo in Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai. She assisted Mira Nair on the indie hit Monsoon Wedding. Rao made her directorial debut in 2010 with Dhobi Ghat, a critically acclaimed film about the lives of Mumbaikars. She is also the proud producer of movies like Dangal, Delhi Belly, and Secret Superstar.

Leena Yadav


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Leena Yadav is best known for writing and directing the internationally acclaimed Parched. The female-centric movie was based on the lives of four women in rural Rajasthan. The movie portrayed the hardships faced by women in the tyrannical male-dominated society. Parched premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. Yadav began her career as a writer and director in the Indian television industry with her show This Week That Year. She has also directed the Rishi Kapoor-starrer 2018 film Rajma Chawal. Her lesser-celebrated films include Teen Patti and Shabd.

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