Dev Benegal is considered the pioneer of the next generation of Indian cinema with his first feature film "English, August" (1994) acknowledged as a landmark film in contemporary Indian cinema. It won the countries highest award in cinema- The National Award for Best Feature Film (English). English, August was the first Indian film to be acquired for distribution by the 20th Century Fox. The film broke the stranglehold of Bollywood cinema and discovered a new young audience in India with its box office success. It also won Silver Montgolfiere (Silver Grand Prix) at the 16th Festival des 3 Continents, Nantes France, 1994 the Gilberto Martinez Solares prize for the Best First Film 16th Festival des 3 Continents, Nantes France, 1994 and the Special Jury Award at the 12th International Festival, Torino, Italy, 1994
His second feature "Split Wide Open" (1999) premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and won the Grand Prix at the Turnhout International Film Festival in Belgium. It also won the Special Jury Award Singapore International film Festival, 2000 and the Best Actor Award at the Singapore International Film Festival, 2000. Distributed once again by 20th Century Fox in a major nationwide release across India the film has become the top three highest grossing new wave films in India. Both international and national award-winning projects were the first Indian films to be distributed by 20th Century Fox played at more than 30 international festivals worldwide and were box office successes.
His feature film script, "Road, Movie" was an official selection for the prestigious Atelier du Cannes at the Cannes International Film Festival. Produced by the renowned American producers Ross Katz (LOST IN TRANSLATION) and Susan B. Landau (AN IDEAL HUSBAND), it was the first Hindi language filmed to be distributed worldwide by Fortissimo Films (2010) and was one of the first features to be distributed in the US by Robert De Niro & Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Films. "Road, Movie" was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival where it premiered and was selected as the Opening Night film at the Generation Plus section at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The screenplay for his next film "Dead, End or: How I Learnt to Stop Living and Love Being Officially Dead" won the Grand Prize at the NAFF/PIFAN International Festival Korea, 2014 and is in pre-production.
He has written and will be directing “Bombay Samurai”, a neo-noir set in Bombay about an elusive hit-man which begins filming in 2015. Dev Benegal’s work represents modern Indian cinema which is distinct from the realist or popular traditions of Indian cinema.
The strength of his films has been their humor, his characters and his unique style combining Indian narrative and western genre.
His passion for new voices and new stories in cinema saw the birth of his pioneering production program 24×7 Making Movies where he has produced over 60 short feature films. 24×7 Making Movies invites anyone below 24 years to make a short feature film in 24hours. Variety and the Cannes International Film Festival have acclaimed the films. This project empowers the youth of India to tell their stories and express themselves using film and digital as a medium.
Benegal is an advisor to the eQuinoxe Europe screenwriting workshop for film professionals 2015. He was on the Selection Advisory Committee for the second edition of Mumbai Mantra| Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab 2013. He was also an advisor to the Time-Warner Foundation & Asia Society’s New Voices Screenwriting Fellowship program 2011 & 2013.
He is also a photographer and is working on "Out of Darkness" a new one person show of photographs and timed installations.
Benegal has a long history in Indian cinema. He has apprenticed with India’s legendary Animation guru- Ram Mohan after which he has worked with the arthouse filmmaker Shyam Benegal on his feature films Kalyug (1980) and Mandi 1983). He was closely involved in the research, making and editing of the definitive documentary on Satyajit Ray- Satyajit Ray, Filmmaker (1984).
In addition to his feature films Dev Benegal has directed award winning short films which have played at leading International Film Festivals. Among them “Shabana!” (2003), on Indian film star Shabana Azmi, and “Abhivardhan: Building for a New Life” (1992) a film on community efforts after the Tehri Garwal earthquake and a series of short films, “Kalpavriksha: The Tree of Life” (1988), “Kanakambaram: Cloth: of Gold” (1987), “Anantarupam: The Infinite Forms” (1987).