Aparna Sen the beautiful actress turned film director revived the ‘Satyajit Ray‘ kind of parallel cinema in India. She was a top actress of the late 1960s and 1970s in Bengali and Hindi films. She jumped in to film direction in the early ’80s with actor-producer Shashi Kapoor‘s English film 36 Chowringhee Lane, which Kapoor had made to explore the histrionics of her wife Jennifer Kendal. The movie depicted a soulful tale of an aged Anglo-Indian teacher living in Calcutta. The film won National Film Award Best Director for Aparna Sen. The film also won the Grand Prix (the Golden Eagle) at the Manila International Film Festival. This motivated her and she went on to direct many including Mr. and Mrs. Iyer that won Sen her second National Film Award as Best Director. Her few successful films as a director are Paroma, Sati, Yugant, Paromitar Ek Din, 15 Park Avenue, etc. She has to her credit 9 National Film Awards and an equal number of international film festival awards for her direction in films. The government of India has also saluted her talent bestowing her with Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in 1987.
Before Arpana Sen, the lady who restored to the realistic cinema was theatre doyen Vijaya Mehta. She was originally a theater director but she directed few outstanding artistic films like her directorial ventures, Rao Saheb (1986) and Pestonjee (1988). She started her career in Marathi Theater as an actress and gradually rose to dizzy heights as an excellent director. Her command as a theater director was so much admired that she was awarded the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for excellence in Direction in 1975.
Another Maharashtrian lady, after Vijaya Mehta, who wrote her name in golden letter in Indian cinema as a brilliant lady director is Sai Paranjpye, the filmmaker who started with an all-time classic cult hit Chasme Buddoor and later made a hard-hitting serious award-winning movies Sparsh dealing with issues of the blind.
A graduate from National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi in 1963, she started her career as an All India Radio (AIR) in Pune. Late she took to writing and directing Marathi, Hindi, and English plays on a professional level. In the 80’s she made headline with family comedy Chasme Buddoor (1981) which was later remade by David Dhawan by the same name but David could not reproduce the enjoyable romance and comedy of the original.
She won 3 National Film Awards including National Film Award for Best Director Award for Sparsh and 2 Filmfare Awards both for Sparsh including Filmfare Best Director Award. She also won the Padma Bhushan title in 2006 in recognition in Indian arts.
Nandita Das won acclaim first as an actress for her powerful performances in movies like Fire and Earth and later won laurels for her directorial debut Firaaq. Starring Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Sanjay Suri, etc Firaaq took a serious look at the horrifying Gujarat riots and its repercussions on the Muslims in India.
The above are a few female directors who have brought innovations to the Indian Cinema