Six Indian diaspora directors acing Hollywood

Indian traditions to gothic horrors, Indian filmmakers serving all


October 8, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

Six Indian diaspora directors acing Hollywood

Bruce Willis and M Night Shyamalan on the sets of film 'Glass'

From commercial comedy films of Tarsem Singh to philosophical ones of Babu Subramaniam and psychological thrillers of M Night Shyamalan, international cinema is another industry where Indian diaspora has gradually made a place for itself. While many still struggle to rise to fame, a few filmmakers of Indian-origin have already made waves for their remarkable work in Hollywood.

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Hollywood has been a dream destination for many from the entertainment and visual art fields across the world. While Bollywood boasts of being the second biggest money-making film industry in the world, filmmakers from Indian diaspora have also received attention and appreciation from both worlds. have gained critical acclamation from the world’s oldest film industry, over the years.

About a decade ago, Immortals, directed by Tarsem Singh, with Freida Pinto in the female lead, became the highest revenue generating at the American box office, in 2011, within a week of its release. The movie, released in 3D, grossed over USD 32 million in its opening weekend and was screened at over 3,000 locations in America. It was also a global blockbuster, receiving over USD 38 million across 35 countries. In the process, Tarsem Singh became the first director of Indian origin to top American box office numbers. Sharing space with a range of people in from various culture and nationalities in the cinema, a few from the Indian community have become big names that influence Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera.

Here is a list of some notable Indian-origin filmmakers working in Hollywood.

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M Night Shyamalan                                                        

M Night Shyamalan

Shyamalan’s trademark style lies in the unexpected plot twists that define his films

Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan is an Indian-American filmmaker and actor. Born in Pondicherry, India and raised in Pennsylvania in the United States, the 50-year-old filmmaker has achieved cult status through his genre-defining horror-cum-supernatural thrillers and has become a household name in Hollywood.

His film The Sixth Sense (1999) makes it to all lists based on horror films. His trademark style lies in the unexpected plot twists that define his films. His latest release Split (2016) was the number one film on the US box office for three weeks. He is also one of the executive producers of the popular TV show Wayward Pines, running since 2015.

In 2008, Shyamalan was awarded the Padma Shri by the government of India. His upcoming two untitled motion pictures are slated to be released in 2021 and 2023.

Mira Nair

Mira Nair

Mira Nair is an Indian-American filmmaker based in New York

Born in Odisha in 1957, Mira Nair is an Indian-American filmmaker based in New York. Her production company, Mirabai Films specialises in films based on economic, social or cultural aspects of Indian society for international audiences. Among her best known films are Mississipi Masala (1991), Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996), The Namesake (2006) and the Golden Lion winning Monsoon Wedding (2001). Her film, Salaam Bombay! (1988), received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in English Language.

A recipient of Padma Bhushan in 2012, Nair has announced her upcoming project as journalist Ellen Barry’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated story The Jungle Prince of Delhi about the royal family of Awadh, to be adapted into a web series for Amazon Studios.

Tarsem Singh Dhandwar

Tarsem Singh Dhandwar

Tarsem Singh with actress Julia Roberts

Born in Punjab’s Jalandhar and based in California, USA, Tarsem Singh is the director of several famous music videos, films and commercials in Hollywood. Singh started as a director of music videos for companies like En Vogue, Deep Forest and R.E.M. One of his most famous commercials is Pepsi’s We Will Rock You campaign, featuring Britney Spears, Pink and Beyonce.

His most popular films include Mirror Mirror (2012) starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins and Immortals (2011) which earned over USD 200 million worldwide. He has worked with many top-notch actors like Mickey Rourke, Ryan Reynolds, Freida Pinto and Jennifer Lopez.

Last month, on September 25, Tarsem made his return to music videos with Lady Gaga’s single 911, his first in 26 years.

Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha's

Gurinder Chadha’s family was part of the Indian diaspora in East Africa

The first-ever British Asian woman to make a full-length feature film, Gurinder Chadha was born in Kenyan capital Nairobi in 1960. Her family was part of the Indian diaspora in East Africa. They moved to London later. Her first feature, Bhaji on the Beach (1993), won numerous international awards including a BAFTA Nomination for the Best British Film of 1994 and Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Newcomer to British Cinema. She became a filmmaker of international repute when her film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) opened to rave reviews and was nominated for a Golden Globe award.

Another of her film, Bride & Prejudice (2004) was commercially successful and critically acclaimed in India, UK and South Africa, cementing her position as one of the most successful contemporary female British filmmakers. Last year, Chadha created, co-wrote and directed the Indian historical series Beecham House which aired on ITV, UK. For her upcoming projects, Chadha has announced that she will be remaking the 1983 French film L’Argent in English and Hindi.

Asif Kapadia

Asif Kapadia

Kapadia is the mastermind behind the globally acclaimed and loved documentary on the life and tragic demise of singer Amy Winehouse

Born in a British Indian household in 1972, UK based filmmaker of Indian origin Asif Kapadia is a renowned name in the British film circle. His early award-winning films include The Sheep Thief (1997), winner of the 2nd Prize Cinefondation for Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival and The Warrior (2001), winning the BAFTA Award for Best British Film in 2003. The Warrior is also significant it was late actor Irrfan Khan’s first international exposure.

Kapadia is the mastermind behind the globally acclaimed and loved documentary on the life and tragic demise of British singer Amy Winehouse. Amy is one of the most popular documentary feature made till date and has won many awards including an Oscar for best documentary feature. Kapadia’s latest achievement includes being an Honorary Associate of London Film School.

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Deepa Mehta

Deepa Mehta

Deepa Mehta is best known for her Earth-Water-Fire trilogy, which dealt with issues considered taboo in the Indian society

Known as the flag bearer of the Indian sentiments in Canadian cinema, Deepa Mehta was born in Amritsar, Punjab in 1950. She is best known for her Earth-Water-Fire trilogy, which dealt with issues considered taboo in the Indian society. Water (2005) was nominated for an Academy award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. Although it was officially a Canadian entry, it featured Indian actors like Lisa Ray and John Abraham in the lead.

Her other significant films include the frothy Bollywood/Hollywood which made Bollywood a craze in Canada and Heaven on Earth which gave actress Preity Zinta, her first international best actress award at the Chicago Film Festival.

Her latest directorial work in Anatomy of violence (2016), generated critical acclaims by most critics as well as faced backlash and ban in India for its raw portrayal of Delhi’s ‘Nirbhaya’ case of 2012. Mehta’s upcoming project is a film titled Violence, as an executive producer, to be released in December this year.




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