In the golden age of Hindi cinema, Indian thesps such as Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Dev and Goldie Anand both directed and acted.
But the number of multihyphenates had died down until recently, when two actors ventured into helming. Aamir Khan, who starred in 2001’s foreign-language Oscar nominee “Lagaan,” made his directorial debut with “Taare zameen par,” (Stars on the Ground). The pic, which has wowed auds since its December bow, is this year’s Indian foreign-language Oscar entry.
Khan, who started as an assistant director to his uncle Nasir Hussain in 1984’s “Manzil manzil,” says he didn’t intend to direct “TZP.” “It happened by accident,” Khan says.
Khan took over as helmer from scribe and first-time director Amole Gupte.
The pic’s plot revolves around a misunderstood boy with learning disabilities.
“It is hard to direct kids,” Khan says. “You have to be really patient and communicate with them well. You have to build a bond with them.”
Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of distrib UTV says, “We have a long-standing relationship with Aamir and are happy to be involved in any creative enterprise he undertakes, whether as an actor, producer or director.”
Nandita Das’ entry into direction was more deliberate. The longtime actress, who has served as a Cannes film fest juror, co-wrote “Firaaq” (Separation) over three years with Shuchi Kothari, who teaches scriptwriting at New Zealand’s Auckland U. The pic, based on the 2002 riots in Gujarat, India, when Hindus and Muslims attacked each other, has made the fest rounds at Telluride, Toronto, Vancouver and Pusan. The film is to be released in India in January, with Wide Management handling international sales.
Das had the idea for the film after “waking up to newspapers filled with stories of violence,” she says. ” ‘Firaaq’ is a work of fiction, based on a thousand true stories.”
As actors, both Khan and Das have sometimes collaborated with directors who wanted their input.
“It was always exciting to watch the rest of crew work toward shaping a scene,” Das says. “I would get involved with suggestions or just asking questions. As an actor, you can only do your bit, and have no control over the hundred other factors that shape the film.”
Busy with his film “Ghajini,” released Oct. 29 in time for the Hindu holiday of Diwali — a primemoviegoing period — Khan has had no time to mull over scripts or consider other directing opportunities.
But Das says she would like to direct more.
“I don’t see it as a change in profession. But it is an addition to the ways in which I like to communicate.”