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How Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee ventured out of their comfort zones

The four filmmakers, who have worked on the anthologies Bombay Talkies (2013) and Lust Stories (2018), are attempting different genres in their next projects.

Sonal Pandya

This year, Indian filmmakers have been shifting gears and genres with their upcoming films. Today’s announcement of director Karan Johar’s historical film set in the Mughal era proves that they are trying to step away from what they know and do something different.

Takht (2020) has a large star cast that includes Ranveer Singh, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Alia Bhatt. Though it is said to be a family saga about love, ambition and greed, the film is set against the backdrop of brother betraying brother for power in the Mughal era.

Karan Johar’s six directorials so far have been mostly love stories and triangles, all contemporary tales filmed mainly in foreign locations.

Meanwhile, Anurag Kashyap is taking up a full-fledged love triangle for the first time with Manmarziyaan (2018), which is scheduled to have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, ahead of its Indian release.

The film’s English title is Husband Material, referring to the two men in the triangle perhaps. Starring Abhishek Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu and Vicky Kaushal, Manmarziyaan is a co-production with producer Aanand L Rai. The intense love story, however, does show flashes of Kashyap’s darker style with the characters’ reckless behaviour and attitude.

It feels like Kashyap was building up to this more mainstream film after Mukkabaaz (2018), which came out early this year. A sports drama with a strong romance, Mukkabaaz had a potent political message as well.

Zoya Akhtar’s next, Gully Boy (2019), with Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, is set in the slums of Dharavi, a far cry from her last feature, Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), where her protagonists go off on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise.

With her short film in Lust Stories (2018), Zoya Akhtar explored the quiet, unsettling life of a maid, who is in a physical relationship with her employer but can never share his life. With Gully Boy, she is exploring the life of street rappers like Naezy and Divine who have gone on to great fame.

Ranveer Singh plays an aspiring rapper-singer while Alia Bhatt plays a Muslim girl. Zoya Akhtar's films have come under scrutiny in the past for only examining the lives of the rich. With Lust Stories and Gully Boy, she is showing her range.

The final member of the anthology group, Dibakar Banerjee, will unveil his next, a romance titled Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, in 2019. Banerjee's previous films, Khosla Ka Ghosla! (2006), Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008), Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010), Shanghai (2012) and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015) have been black comedies or political thrillers. This is the first time he is attempting a romantic film.

In Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, starring Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, the two play differing personalities who are thrown in together on a journey.

All four filmmakers set out to do something different when they each made a short film for the anthology Bombay Talkies (2013) and they continued that this year with Lust Stories. While each film was connected by the theme of location or emotion, each director had a different take on the subject.

For Kashyap, Zoya, Banerjee and Johar, it appears that this challenge of attempting something different has traversed to their films as well. For that, their audiences will be elated that they aren't stuck in a rut and are able to alter their styles.