Indian cinema has seen many great directors — from different regions, from different backgrounds, from different milieu. But when one thinks of Indian cinema, it is the Hindi cinema (“Bollywood“) that first comes to mind. Therefore, when preparing this list we were cognizant of the fact that Indian cinema is so much more than just Bollywood. Only nine out of the twenty in the below list can be classified as purely Hindi film directors; others are regional language directors (some of them may have made Hindi films, but they don’t necessarily belong to Hindi film industry).
Another important point to note here is that all twenty names are men. And even though we considered respected names like Deepa Mehta and Meera Nair for the list, unfortunately, they couldn’t make it to top 20. It does bother us to not see any women representation in the list, but that’s more because of the fact that Indian film industry hasn’t been as kind to female directors as it has been to male directors. Hopefully, we see this trend change in near future. With that said, here’s the list of the greatest and best Indian directors — that we arrived upon after vetting more than 200 well-known names. Enjoy the diversity! The list include Hindi directors, Telugu directors, Tamil directors, Malayalam directors and Bengali directors.
20. Rituporno Ghosh
Probably the most underrated filmmaker in this list, Rituporno Ghosh is arguably one of the greatest Bengali filmmakers ever, and that is no mean feat considering the contribution of Bengal to Indian cinema in general. Ghosh’s films, whether it is the emotionally wrangled ‘Raincoat’ or the Miss Marple (the famed fictitious character created by Agatha Christie) inspired ‘Shubho Mahurat’; have always managed to end up being a subtle examination of complex human relationships.
A self-proclaimed Satyajit Ray fan, Ghosh’s films do have Ray’s trademark simplicity and realism, but what makes him stand apart is the grace with which he tackles complex emotional entanglements. His penchant for long dialogues between the characters could be compared to modern film luminaries like Abbas Kiarostami and Richard Linklater; but unlike them, his films are largely set indoors, in dim, natural lighting, which plays right into the narrative. Ghosh’s cinema will pull your heartstrings, as you are left wondering about the subtle intricacies of life. Undoubtedly a genius, his untimely demise in 2013 left a huge void in Indian cinema, but Ghosh will continue to live in our hearts through his timeless works of art.
Notable Films: ‘Raincoat’, ‘Shubho Mahurat’
19. Anurag Kashyap
The enfant terrible of Indian cinema, Anurag Kashyap has been the catalyst which proved instrumental in ushering in a new generation of bold and unflinchingly honest filmmakers. Right from his first feature ‘Black Friday’ (his actual debut as a director was in ‘Paanch’, which is still unreleased), Kashyap has brought forth an uncanny freshness to Bollywood. He has an eye for the dark underbelly of the society we live in, often portraying weird characters deeply entrenched in reality. Each of his films deal with complex ideas, while leaving behind a commentary on the contemporary world. But it was his ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ that finally catapulted into being one the most influential contemporary directors. Sure, some of his films are unconventional, like his box office disaster ‘No Smoking’; but no filmmaker has experimented with his craft with the audacity that Kashyap has, and that makes him the only contemporary director to make this list.