Dibakar Banerjee's latest thriller, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, has emerged as one of the better films of 2021. A slow burner, the thriller may not keep you on the edge of your seats, but it certainly does a fine job of exposing society's double standards, when it comes to class and gender.
Then again, Banerjee is no stranger to using movies to hold a mirror to society's injustices, and his films are a brilliant example of both, expert direction and the power of engaging storytelling:
1. Khosla Ka Ghosla
An astute commentary on the problem or generation gap and middle-class in India, Banerjee's debut film Khosla Ka Ghosla is easily one of the finest Indian comedies. Banerjee, who was also the film's screenwriter, deserves complete credit for making the story heartwarming and hilarious, without resorting to vulgarity, offending sensibilities, or mocking a community.
2. Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!
Paresh's Rawal's multiple roles, Abhay Deol's suave charm, and Sneha Khanwalkar's eclectic music are undoubtedly amazing. But ultimately, this is yet another hilarious comedy by Banerjee. Banerjee builds a world that immediately hooks your interest, even when the story is about a thief who simply likes to steal! Now that's what you call brilliance.
3. Love Sex Aur Dhokha
Dibakar Banerjee changed the way we look at Indian cinema with his experimental anthology, Love Sex Aur Dhokha. And he managed to do so with a fairly new cast, nominal budget, and stories that were far different than the norm. Perhaps there's a lesson or two here for certain other filmmakers!
From exposing social flaws and the evils of the cyber age, Banerjee moved to take on the political climate of the country with the thriller Shanghai. Banerjee's clever take on the subject allowed the audience to actually enjoy the film, while also reflect on the issues it raised, rather than simply be spoon-fed the director's vision of India.
5. Star (Bombay Talkies)
In his first collaboration with directors Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, and Zoya Akhtar, Banerjee adapted Satyajit Ray's short story Patol Babu, Film Star into Star. While Banerjee is known to approach topics with surprising alacrity, in Star he adopted a slightly more whimsical and indulgent approach. It was as much a deconstruction of Bollywood, as an indulgent look at the love for your craft. But, thanks to Nawazuddin Siddiqui's flawless performance, he even nailed this deviation from his usual style.
6. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
Banerjee brought alive one of our favourite childhood heroes with Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!. Not only was this an intriguing crime mystery, but it also proved Banerjee's skill as a masterful storyteller - one who easily switched between genres without losing his signature style.
7. Lust Stories
It wasn't just the joy of watching Manisha Koirala in action that made me fall in love with Banerjee's segment in Lust Stories. It was also because of how artfully Banerjee presented a tale of a woman taking control of her desires and her destiny. Rarely, if ever, are female characters indulging in affairs viewed as anything but vamps or cougars. But Banerjee afforded Reena a depth and level of control that made for a welcome change indeed.
8. Ghost Stories
Critics could be divided over which segment of Lust Stories was the finest. But without question, Banerjee delivered the finest story in the anthology Ghost Stories. Subverting the usual horror tropes employed by filmmakers, especially in Bollywood, Banerjee took on the evils of oppression and delivered a thought-provoking, visually impactful, political thriller unlike any we've seen.
Can't wait to see what other stories Banerjee has in store!