International Director You Should Know: Nagesh Kukunoor

Nagesh Kukunoor got his start making low-budget Indian movies, but this year’s “Dhanak,” about a blind boy whose sister is determined to help him get a cornea transplant, won a grand jury prize in the Generation Kplus section at Berlin, and has helped the 48-year-old writer-director realize his goal of connecting with international audiences.

Life Imitates Art

Kukunoor got a degree in chemical engineering, and worked for a number of years in the U.S. In 1998, he made the English-Telugu “Hyderabad Blues,” in which he also starred, about the culture shock an Indian man experiences upon returning home after a decade of living in the United States. He subsequently moved back to India to become a filmmaker.

Changing Course

Gaining a local following for movies like the cricket-themed “Iqbal” and the bigger-budget mystery “8 x 10 Tasveer,” Kukunoor was troubled that distributors were marketing his films only on the subcontinent. In an attempt to break out, he got a Toronto fest premiere for his  2014 film “Lakshmi,” based on a true story about a teenage girl sold into prostitution. “Starting with ‘Lakshmi,’ I made a big push as a producer to sell internationally at festivals, and only then sell in India,” said Kukunoor, who was in L.A. for the Indian Film Festival Los Angeles where “Dhanak” was the closing night film in April.

Coming Full Circle

European festivals have been more open to his films, but Kukunoor said he would enjoy a return to the U.S. “I lived in the States for a long time,” he said. “I would love to come to Sundance, and (am) interested in working in Hollywood.” But, he added, making movies with themes that matter is important to him. “There are so many untapped stories (in India), because commercial cinema works in a very narrow sphere.”

More Film

  • Crawl Movie

    'Crawl' and Other Disaster Movies Pose Unique Obstacles for Production Designers

    The rampaging fires, earthquakes and storms of disaster movies present unusual challenges for a production: On top of the normal work of creating a film’s lived-in and realistic locations, designers must build sets that the forces of nature can batter, flood and ravage into something completely different. Take “Crawl,” in which a Category 5 hurricane [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Tops $130 Million Overseas

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has roared past $130 million in international ticket sales ahead of its domestic debut, led by $76.6 million in its first week in China. Other markets began launching Wednesday, led by France with $8.3 million in its first two days with the second-biggest opening day for a Disney movie after “Avengers: [...]

  • The Lion King The Gift

    Album Review: Beyoncé’s 'The Lion King: The Gift'

    Before touching down on what Beyoncé has called her “love letter to Africa,” it’s important to see what may have brought her to the mother of mankind, with its wide vistas and sonic planes, for “The Gift” in the first place — beyond, of course, voicing Nala in the film and whatever international marketing tie-ins [...]

  • The Lion King

    'The Lion King' Roars to $23 Million Opening on Thursday Night

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has pounced on a mighty $23 million in North American locations in Thursday night preview showings. It’s the biggest preview number since Disney-Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” set the record on April 27 with $60 million. “The Lion King” is expected to debut with $150 million this weekend. Some forecasts estimate the tentpole [...]

  • Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour

    Major Expansion Planned at Belfast Harbour Studios, Home of ‘Krypton’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Belfast Harbour Studios in Northern Ireland, where the Syfy series “Krypton” is shot, is set for a major expansion. The Warner Horizon-produced series has occupied the full site, which currently has two stages, since it opened in 2017. The landowners had signaled that they wanted to expand, and Variety has learned that plans for the [...]

  • Disney Movies

    Why Audiences Are Only Going to Disney Movies

    Julie Bikhman of Manhattan might buy the tickets, but when it comes to deciding what movie to see, her three young children are the ones calling the shots. “We pick them,” her 11-year-old daughter Annie declares before heading into a screening of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King.” “If it’s a Marvel movie, we know it’s [...]

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Rob Schneider Running for SAG-AFTRA Board, Supporting Matthew Modine

    Rob Schneider is running for a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate and as a representative of the union’s San Francisco branch. Schneider is a former cast member on “Saturday Night Live” with movie credits on “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” “The Hot Chick,” “The Benchwarmers,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content