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‘New wave’ directors make a splash in Bollywood

Mumbai — India’s Hindi-language film industry has traditionally been a tight-knit affair, with generations of actors, producers and directors forging careers in what was effectively a family business.

But a number of "new wave" directors are now breaking the mould, making their mark on audiences despite not having the benefit of an established "name" behind them.

Among them is Imtiaz Ali, who was an unknown when he came to India’s entertainment capital, Mumbai, from northern Bihar state to study film directing in 1995.

Others include R. Balakrishnan, a former advertising executive known as "Balki," and Anurag Kashyap, the son of a state electricity worker.

Balki is working on his second film, "Pa," with Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan, while fellow newcomer Anurag Basu, famous for the dark "Life… in a Metro," is directing "Kites" starring Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Moi.

Ali’s third film, "Love Aaj Kal" (Love Today), hits screens on Friday, with expectations that it will eclipse the success of his "Jab We Met" (When We Met), which came out two years ago.

The 38-year-old has broken through, despite the continued dominance of powerful Bollywood clans like the Bachchans, the Dutts, the Khans and the Kapoors. Yet he denies the industry is a closed shop.

"Our film industry has always been open to outsiders. You are welcome and it does not matter who you are if you have the talent," he said.

"After all, many of the big directors of today were outsiders in the industry when they began their career."

Directors like himself who have shunned the traditional song and dance "masala" movie format for more experimental, lower-budget movies, are not doing anything radically different from others in previous generations, he added.

"If you look at the history of our film industry, you will find that every decade a group of new directors came and shook the industry with their new kind of films," he said.

"In the 1970s, it was Ramesh Sippy with ‘Sholay’ (Burning Embers) then in the 1990s it was Aditya Chopra with ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ (The Brave Heart Will Get The Bride) making a love story."

He added: "You can say we are following that trend. The most important point is that you need to be convincing enough. Producers need to be convinced that when they put their money in they will get it back from your film."

Kashyap landed in Mumbai in 1993, starting his career as a scriptwriter before moving into directing, fulfilling an ambition that began when he saw the classic Italian film "The Bicycle Thieves" as a child.

The 37-year-old’s first film in 2004, "Black Friday," was about the 1993 serial bomb attacks in Mumbai. It was one of a number at the time to shun romance, music and fantasy to tackle more contemporary issues.

His follow-up, "No Smoking," flopped but "Dev D," his remake of the classic Indian novel and film "Devdas," about an obsessive lover, stormed to the top of the box office rankings earlier this year.

With Bollywood suffering the fall-out of the global economic downturn and recovering from a damaging producers’ boycott of multiplex cinemas, Kashyap is optimistic that there will be a raft of more innovative movies.

"I firmly believe that this year will be the golden year of Bollywood. The new wave cinema will go mainstream and you will see the change for sure," he said.