BizAsia’s Top 5 Directors of 2016


As is often claimed, directors are the captain of the ship as far as movies go. The cast and crew come together under the director’s instructions to bring the director’s vision to life on screen.  With 2016 having been a successful year for the film industry, a number of directors have reason to rejoice. have picked five directors who left a strong impression this year with the films they created.

Ram Madhvani – ‘Neerja’

Ram Madhvani 340x

A biopic on the life of flight-attendant Neerja Bhanot, ‘Neerja’ pays tribute to the brave martyr whose life tragically ended on a hijacked flight in 1986.  Ram Madhvani, as a first-time director, handled the sensitive story with brilliance, evoking every desired emotion from his audience.  The film won both critical acclaim and appreciation from the audience, with the director’s work being praised by all. Having shot a large chunk of the film in the confined space of an airplane, Madhvani still managed to keep the audience gripped. Madhvani also extracted from his leading lady, Sonam Kapoor, a performance which is undoubtedly her career’s finest.

Shakun Batra – ‘Kapoor & Sons’

Shakun Batra
Shakun Batra

After a successful commercial debut with ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’ (2012), Shakun Batra returned this year with ‘Kapoor & Sons’ which has questionably catapulted him into being one of the top directors of his time.  The family drama primarily tells the story of two estranged brothers, while also juggling a number of other tracks within their family. With so much going on, it could potentially have been easy for the vision to have gone wrong but Batra’s sensitive and natural direction brought to life his characters’ world in an applause-worthy way.

Abhishek Chaubey – ‘Udta Punjab’

Abhishek Chaubey
Abhishek Chaubey

Dealing with the very relevant and disturbing topic of substance abuse, ‘Udta Punjab’ is not a regular run-of-the-mills commercial entertainer.  Abhishek Chaubey tells his gritty, dark and realistic story in a way that keeps the audience glued. The director ensured his songs move the story forward, characters evoke all kinds of emotions in you and his actors’ performances stay with you even after the end credits roll.  Having four popular stars in his movie, Chaubey also succeeded in ensuring each was given a strong role.  While the characters each have their own backstory, the eventual interlinking of them and how the film falls into place was commendable.

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury – ‘Pink’

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury

Perhaps the most relevant film of the year, ‘Pink’ centres around women’s rights and societal pressure, while delivering one simple message: “No means no”.  Having made a number of Bengali films, which have gone on to win National Awards, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury stepped into Bollywood with ‘Pink’ and the industry and its fans have most definitely welcomed this talented director. Having extracted natural performances from his cast and succeeded in getting his message out, Chowdhury’s work was nothing short of brilliant.

Nitesh Tiwari – ‘Dangal’

Nitesh Tiwari
Nitesh Tiwari

Having previously directed the children’s films ‘Chillar Party’ (2011) and ‘Bhoothnath Returns’ (2014), Nitesh Tiwari stepped into unknown territory with ‘Dangal’. Tiwari teamed up with Aamir Khan for the sports-themed biopic and the results were evidently wonderful. The direction ensures the film is realistic and simple.  While the maker succeeds in delivering a message to his audience, he does so without appearing preachy at any point.  Tiwari also succeeded with the challenge of directing two debutante actresses in unconventional, tough roles, as well as directing the child actors who essayed their younger parts.

2016 saw films of various genres receiving much appreciation and acclaim both with critics and at the box office. It would therefore be unfair to not give credit to other fine directors of the year who did not make it to our aforementioned list.

Raja Krishna Menon’s ‘Airlift’ was a nail-biting thriller and Menon definitely left an impact. It is alleged that Menon was personally attached to the story of the film, as his family members had been through the crisis shown in the story; it is perhaps this emotional connect with reflected in the way he directed the film.

Karan Johar, a man of many hats, returned to direction after four years with ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’. While the story of the film met with a mixed response, Johar brought out the best in his actors and managed to make his audience both laugh and cry.

With high expectations to live up to after her debut with ‘English Vinglish’ (2012), Gauri Shinde delivered yet again, and how, with ‘Dear Zindagi’ this year. Shinde’s sensitive touch as a director turned ‘Dear Zindagi’ into a winner and proved that she is not a one-film wonder.

As 2016 comes to a close, 2017 promises to be another great year for Bollywood, with many seasoned directors set to return to duty; one can also expect to see more new directors enter the industry to charm the audience with their talent.

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