Dev Benegal

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Dev Benegal
Born (1960-12-28) 28 December 1960 (age 61)
New Delhi, India
OccupationFilm director, Screenwriter, Photographer
Years active1980–present
Known forEnglish, August (1994)

Dev Benegal is an Indian filmmaker and screenwriter, most known for his debut film English, August (1994), which won the Best Feature Film in English at the 42nd National Film Awards.

Early life and education[edit]

Dev was born in New Delhi to Som Benegal, a theatre director, and his wife Suman.

Dev Benegal grew up in New Delhi. In 1979, he left Delhi for Mumbai (then Bombay), to pursue a career in movies.[1] He won an Asian Cultural Council grant in Film, Video & Photography to study Film History in the Cinema Studies Program at New York University from 1989–90.[2]


Early career[edit]

He began his career with legendary animator Ram Mohan and got his first job with Shashi Kapoor's Filmvalas.[3] After assisting Shyam Benegal in films like Kalyug (1980), Mandi (1983) and his famous documentary on Satyajit RaySatyajit Ray, Filmmaker (1984)—Dev Benegal directed a series of short short films, Kalpavriksha: The Tree of Life (1988), Kanakambaram: Cloth: of Gold (1987), and Anantarupam: The Infinite Forms (1987). He directed several documentaries, including Shabana! (2003) with Indian film star Shabana Azmi and Abhivardhan: Building for a New Life (1992).

Debut Feature Film and India's National Film Award[edit]

In 1994 he wrote and directed his adaptation of Upamanyu Chatterjee's 1989 novel by the same name, based on the Indian Administrative Service, English, August (1994). The film received praise from critics for its modern and urban themes and was hailed as the cinematic counterpart to the later Anglo-Indian literary movement. It also won the Best Feature Film in English Award at National Film Awards,[4] and is now hailed as a landmark in contemporary Indian cinema as it ushered in a wave of independent Indian filmmakers, commonly known as "multiplex films" in India.[1][5]

The New York Times wrote:[6] In “English, August,” his first feature film, Mr. Benegal deftly manages the feat of using the scalpel of humor to lay bare a young man's painful but edifying immersion in an alien culture within his own land and to deliver potent sociological and political messages. Irreverent humor, frustrated idealism and earnest compassion are blended with a keen sense of character, place and political reality in the auspicious English, August.

"English, August" won the Special Jury Award at the 12th Torino Film Festival 1994.[7] It won both the Silver Montgolfiere (Silver Grand Prix) and the Gilberto Martinez Solares prize for the Best First Film at the 16th Festival des 3 Continents, Nantes France, 1994[8]

Later Films and Upcoming Projects[edit]

Split Wide Open (1999), another Hinglish film, was also a critical success and won a Special Jury Prize at the 2000 Singapore International Film Festival. Writing for The Hindu, Savitha Padmanabhan said: "Split Wide Open is a bold and strong statement on the filth and lawlessness that have wormed their way into the city of dreams, Mumbai".[9] In an article for The Times of India, the film's lead actor Rahul Bose wrote: "Critics flayed me: After Split Wide Open was released, critics ripped apart my character. To be an English-speaking slum-dweller who is also a smuggler, I spent a month in slums and even shadowed a cocaine-dealer for two weeks. Ironically, the criticism at home turned into praise when I won the Best Actor award for Split Wide Open at the Singapore Film Festival."[10]

Benegal's latest film, Road, Movie (2009), about a travelling cinema troupe in Rajasthan, and starring Abhay Deol and Tannishtha Chatterjee as the lead, premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.[4][5][11] In its review, The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "Dev Benegal's 'Road, Movie' takes you on a magical mystery tour into the heart of India and its robust cinema. It is, in fact, a road movie without the comma, but it is also about being on the road in a vast Indian landscape and about the phenomenon of touring cinemas that still exist in rural India. The film is specifically Indian, yet designed for wider appreciation in festivals and, if all goes well at the European Film Market, in cross-over releases in international territories."[12]

His project Bombay Samourai was an official selection for the Hong Kong Asia Film Finance Forum (HAF)[13] at the HongKong International Film Festival. This film is in development.[14]

Dev Benegal is also developing a film on the life of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.[15]

Other works[edit]

24x7 Making Movies[edit]

In 2006, Benegal started a production program called 24×7 Making Movies, where he invited young people from all over India to come and make a film in 24 hours.[16] The program has produced over 60 short feature films.


Benegal is a long time advisor to eQuinoxe Screenwriting Workshops for Professionals.[17] He has been invited by Under The Volcano, the international program of writing master classes to create and conduct a screenwriting master class for their 2020 program.[18]

Themes and style[edit]

Pritish Nandy while describing Benegal's films, said: "Dev Benegal spearheads the brat pack of movie directors who are all out to prove that indian movies is not all pelvis thrusting and running around trees."[19]

An academic paper (Prateek, Prateek. (2013). "Popart": The 'global' avatar of bollywood. 5. 247-257) on Bollywood draws upon insights from his work and describes it as follows: "Benegal’s cinematic dialogue with Indianness of English along with Englishness of India, with narratives of belonging, and with the compacted heterogeneity of urban-industrial India, established in his early cinema... Benegal understands the gravity of the national metaphor of 'unity in diversity', and tries to manifest it in the polyphony of various languages and different dialects – English, Hindi, and Telugu. Equally important are his 'artistic' story-telling skills, a trait usually found in the art cinema: the capacity to create credible characters (human or otherwise, like Dadru, the frog) and cultures, skilful scene-setting, mastery of pace and timing, and power of imagination."[20]


Year Title Awards & Honors
2009 Road, Movie
1999 Split Wide Open
1994 English, August


Year Title Awards / Notes
2019 Tempest
2018 The Revenge of the Non-Vegetarian Based on a novel[26] by Upamanyu Chatterjee
2018 Further to Fly From the story "Occupant" by Meera Nair
2015 Dark Fiber
2014 Dead, End Network of Asian Fantastic Films Prize[27]
2012 Stairway to Heaven
2010 Samurai Official selection at the Hong Kong Asia Film Finance Forum[28]
2009 Road, Movie Official selection of Atelier du Cannes at the Cannes Film Festival[29]
1999 Split Wide Open
1994 English, August


Year Title Awards & Honors
2003 Shabana!
1997 Merchants & Marxists: Stones of the Raj
  • Stones of the Raj series for Channel Four
1993 Field of Shadows
  • South for Channel Four
1992 Abhivardhan: Building for a New Life
1988 Kalpavriksha: The Tree of Life
  • Official Selection 1st Bombay International Film Festival (1990)
  • Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards for Excellence (1988): Certificate of Merit
1987 Kanakambaram: Cloth of Gold
  • Official Selection 1st Bombay International Film Festival (1990)
  • Official Selection "Indian Panorama" at the Indian International Film Festival New Delhi (1989)
1987 Anantarupam: The Infinite Forms
  • Official Selection 12th Asian American International Film Festival New York (1989)
  • Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards for Excellence (1987): Special Jury Award
  • Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards for Excellence (1987): Best Cinematography


Year Nominated work Category Result Notes
2014 Dead, End (screenplay) Network of Asian Fantastic Films Prize[27] Won Hong Kong International Film Festival
2011 Road, Movie Best Sound for Vikram Joglekar[30] Won 17th Annual Star Screen Awards
2010 Road, Movie Golden Duke Award[25] Nominated Odessa International Film Festival
2009 Road, Movie Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix Award[25] Nominated Tokyo International Film Festival
2000 Split Wide Open Special Jury Prize[25] Won Singapore International Film Festival
2000 Split Wide Open Silver Screen Award[25] Nominated Singapore International Film Festival
2000 Split Wide Open The Grand Prix[23] Won Turnhout International Film Festival Belgium (Focus Op Het Zuiden)
2000 Split Wide Open Grand Prix[25] Nominated Bratislava International Film Festival
2000 Split Wide Open Best Actor for Rahul Bose[31] Won Singapore International Film Festival
1995 English, August Best Feature Film in English Won National Film Awards
1994 English, August Silver Montgolfiere (Silver Grand Prix)[24] Won Festival des 3 Continents
1994 English, August Golden Montgolfiere (Golden Grand Prix)[24] Nominated Festival des 3 Continents
1994 English, August Gilberto Martinez Solares (Best First Film)[24] Won Festival des 3 Continents
1994 English, August Special Jury Award[25] Won Torino International Film Festival
1994 English, August Prize of the City of Torino[25] Nominated Torino International Film Festival
1988 Kalpavriksha Certificate of Merit[31] Won Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards for Excellence
1987 Anantarupam Special Jury Award[31] Won Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards for Excellence
1987 Anantarupam Best Cinematography[31] Won Indian Documentary Producers Association Awards for Excellence


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cinema under the sky: Mint, 21 December 2007.
  2. Grant awarded to Dev Benegal
  3. Kendal, Dev Benegal Writes About His Experience of Working Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer; Benegal, Dev (23 December 2017). "All in with Jennifer and Shashi Kapoor". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Road Movie schedule and Dev Benegal profile Archived 16 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine Toronto International Film Festival.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Dev Benegal's Road Movie to premiere at Toronto fest Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine Hindustan Times, 28 August 2009.
  9. "Film Review: Split Wide Open". The Hindu. 31 March 2000. Retrieved 22 May 2019.[dead link]
  10. "Rahul Bose: Split wide open - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  11. Road, Movie is a reflection of my journey, says director CNN IBN, 15 September 2009.
  12. "Road, Movie -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  13. Dev Benegal’s project ‘Samurai’ Selected for HAF By, 6 January 2010.
  14. IFEA delegation in Hong Kong, attending Film & TV market
  15. British Council ropes in Indian alumni to promote UK varsities
  16. Staff, Edit (13 November 2006). "Hungama Mobile And Dev Benegal Get Users To Create Content For Internet And Mobile". Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  17. "". Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  18. "Screenwriting". UTV. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  19. "Encounters - Dev Benegal - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  20. "Prateek Prateek | The University of Queensland, Brisbane | UQ". ResearchGate. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  21. "Road, Movie". Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  22. "2000: SGIFF 13". Singapore International Film Festival. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Indo-American Arts Council, Inc". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 "Festival des 3 Continents | Programmes | 1994". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 25.5 25.6 25.7 Awards IMDb
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Dev Benegal wins at Hong Kong Film Bazaar". Indian Television Dot Com. 4 April 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  28. staff2010-01-06T12:47:00+00:00, Screen. "Hong Kong Asia financing forum selects 25 projects for 8th edition". Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  29. Tartaglione-Vialatte2006-03-17T00:00:00+00:00, Nancy. "Puiu, Weerasethakul among film-makers in Cannes Atelier". Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 "Awards & Citations – Dev Benegal". Retrieved 15 May 2019.

External links[edit]