Top 10 Best Bollywood Directors of All Time



His premature death in 1964 at the age of just 39 left the movie world saddened. This icon of Indian cinema however, seemed to have a premonition since his classic films had themes of death wishes. A somewhat troubled mind with bouts of depression, Guru Dutt showed how internal pain could create poetic are

10. Anurag Kashyap

Yes there are several ‘great’ directors in Bollywood who appear on various lists of 10s and 25s but we just thought that this offbeat director needed to get a mention on our list. Anurag Kashyap has been around for a long time (19 years) as a director and screenwriter. His film Black Friday was acclaimed but he only really got people’s attention with his modern day interpretation of Devdas called Dev.D. After that he was walking on velvet with lots of films, awards and production companies wanting him to write and direct for them. He went on to start his own production house called AKFPL so that he could give a helping hand to new young filmmakers, producing movies like That Girl In Yellow Boots, Shaitaan and Udaan. Of course then came the highly riveting and successful two part Gangs of Wasseypur that even went to Cannes for a showing in the Directors Fortnight. Anurag’s flair for films on the underworld, on the seedy side of life, on alternative lifestyles and his dark sardonic look at issues makes him a rare breed of filmmaker who adds a bit of fun and mischief into the movie landscape.



9. Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Grandeur and beauty are what this director holds within his heart and imparts this vision to all of his films. His remake Devdas (2002) starring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai was a critical and box office success. His popular romantic blockbuster hit was Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). Bhansali is a genius of sorts, writing, producing, directing and even doing the music for his films. In fact, he has designed the soundtrack for his films even before creating them. His movie Black (2005) about a blind and deaf girl was chosen as Time Magazine’s (Europe) 25 Best Films of the Year. Known for his quirks and sometimes-short temper, Bhansali recently banned mobile phones from the set of his Ram Leela (as images on set were leaked out). Perfection and an eye for detail make him a unique and brilliant filmmaker.



8. Rajkumar Hirani

Just three films. Yes, that’s it, just three films are all Rajkumar has directed (and written) and yet he makes it to this list. Simply because all the films were critical and box office successes achieving almost cult status. For three films he’s won several awards including National and Filmfare awards. This is one director to watch out for. He is best known for his Munnabhai MBBS (2003) and the follow up to that Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006) as well as the film 3 Idiots (2009) that starred Amir Khan. What Munnabhai did was break the trends and actually set an ideology that people could relate to and adopt as part of their lives and lingo. Gandhigiri (the teaching of Gandhi) became quite the buzzword back then. A film’s ability to influence such a large segment of society with its theme cannot be underestimated. And this continued with 3 Idiots and its ‘All Izz Well’ theme that focused on the education system and the problems of the youth. Raju Hirani’s films are known to strike a reality chord every so wonderfully, with humour and pathos and never sacrificing entertainment value. His next film is always eagerly awaited.8


7. Yash Chopra

Bollywood’s king of romance Yash Chopra passed away this year (2012) leaving behind a grand legacy of chiffon saris and fairy tale dreams. His brother was the legendary BR Chopra who he later worked with on unforgettable classics like the multistarrer Waqt. He later branched out on his own to start YRF: Yash Raj Films, which is one of the biggest production studios in the country now. He earned the moniker of formula filmmaker after his sweeping melodramas and romances in foreign locations. And so the glossy film was born making everything look pretty and poetic. His best period was with two films, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Deewar (1975) and Kabhi Kabhie (1976). Also memorable were the song-less Ittefaq, Trishul (1978), Kaala Patthar (1979), Silsila (1981), Chandni (1989), Darr (1993), and the one of his finest, the award-winning Lamhe (1991). Music played an integral role in Yashji’s films; he worked with the likes of Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Hridayanath Mangeshkar. Yash Chopra was the romantic young at heart director. His son Aditya Chopra made his directorial debut with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), which has had the longest-running release in cinema history.


6. Mehboob Khan

A pioneer producer-director in Indian cinema, Mehboob Khan was the son of a policeman. He ran away at eighteen to become an actor with the Imperial Film Company. After that he wanted to produce and direct so he set up his own production company and Mumbai’s famous Mehboob Studios. Mother India (1957) was one of his greatest films and it was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Khan’s works usually revolved around themes like the struggle between the classes, the oppression of the poor and rural life. Later in the 50s he made more commercial films like Andaz (1941) and Aan (1953). A great director is one who launches actors who achieve greatness and Mehboob Khan was one of them. Hi actors like Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Nargis, Nimmi, Sunil Dutt, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar went on to have successful careers. Khan even has a commemorative stamp with his face on it.



5. Vijay Anand

Also known as Goldie Anand, this director, editor, producer, screenwriter and actor was part of the Anand brothers illustrious trio: Chetan, Dev and Vijay. All three were masters of their craft of cinema. Vijay directed several of the films that his brother Dev Anand starred in. Vijay wrote the script for Taxi Driver (1954) in his teens and the film was directed by brother Chetan (produced by their company Navketan) and starred Dev for whom the film was a milestone. Vijay made his directorial debut with Nau Do Gyarah, shot in a record 40 days. His biggest and most well known film was romantic drama Guide. But he also made several criminal/action films like Teesri Manzil (1966), Jewel Thief (1967) and Johny Mera Naam (1970) that influenced Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddar. What makes Vijay Anand a celebrated filmmaker is that he never fell in to the trap of a particular genre of films. He would address various issues such as marital problems and urban existence. Vijay’s films were also about the music, which in some played a part of the narrative. He was adept at song picturisation: one of his memorable scenes was in the film Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (the song Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar) that was shot inside the Qutub Minar. Waheeda Rehman and Rakhee have called him a genius filmmaker and his work is certainly testament to that.5


4. Hrishikesh Mukherjee

One of India’s beloved filmmakers, a man who didn’t make glamorous films but movies that stirred in you feelings of warmth, barrels of laughter and buckets of tears. If you’ve seen Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s heart wrenching Anand (1971) and his riotously funny Chupke Chupke (1975) then you’ll know what we’re talking about. Ageless stories about the middle class, he had his pulse on the woes and wit of the common man. And all of his films were wholesome goodness that could be watched by the family. Proving that working with the best will bring out the best, Hrishikesh got his start working with acclaimed director Bimal Roy on classics like Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958) and Do Bigha Zameen (1953). Though his first film Musafir (1957) didn’t do well, his second Anari (1959) won 5 Filmfare Awards (not Best Director though as his mentor Bimal Roy won that for his film Sujata) and made him a director that stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna sought after to work with. A master editor who knew his craft like the back of his hand, his actors would entrust their character’s fate fully to him. True respect. His other great films included Anupama (1966), Satyakam (1969), Guddi (1971), Abhimaan (1973), Namak Haraam (1973) and the hilarious comedy Gol Maal (1979).


3. Bimal Roy

One of the most acclaimed directors India has seen winning several national and International prizes including the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1953 for Do Bigha Zamin), Bimal Roy was a director who added soul to every film he touched. You cannot forget songs like Suhana Safar Aur Yeah Mausam Haseen (from his Madhumati) or the eternal love story Parineeta (1953, remade twice later). Bimal Roy was known for his socialistic films in which he always portrayed a sense of realism. He was known for Do Bhiga Zamin (1953), Parineeta (1953), Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Yahudi (1958), Sujata (1959) and Bandini (1963), which was rare film for the time due to its focus on a female protagonist. Roy had a keen fascination for human weaknesses and strengths and for making romantic melodramas with a social angle entertaining. Several Indian and international films have found inspiration in his works like the American film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975) and the Hindi film Karz (1980). They both dealt with the subject of reincarnation inspired by Bimal Roy’s greatest commercial success, Madhumati. Truly one of the greatest in Hindi cinema.


2. Raj Kapoor

Son of legendary actor Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor was known as India’s showman acting in several films. At the young age of 24 he directed and produced his own film (Aag, starring himself) and set up a production company called RK Films. He acted in many of his own films but directed only 10 in his career, all of which have left an indelible mark on Indian cinema. The passionate young Raj Kapoor was nominated for several Filmfare Best Director Awards and won four of them. Raj’s films Barsaat (1949) and Awaara (1951) were smash hits and even though his Mera Naam Joker (1972) – inspired by his muse Charlie Chaplin – was a box office failure, it is today considered a classic and was one of Raj Kapoor’s personal favourites. Talent was aplenty in the filmmakers of the time and Raj Kapoor was multi-faceted being an actor, director, producer and a musician. A patriot with an undying passion Raj Kapoor will always be remembered as a director who could be a terror on set but did his work with an unbridled pride rarely seen.


1. Guru Dutt

His premature death in 1964 at the age of just 39 left the movie world saddened. This icon of Indian cinema however, seemed to have a premonition since his classic films had themes of death wishes. A somewhat troubled mind with bouts of depression, Guru Dutt showed how internal pain could create poetic art. He just made 50 films but they are among the Golden Age of Hindi cinema. His first film was thanks to good friend and actor Dev Anand who let him direct his home production Baazi (1951), a classic film noir that did quite well. But Dutt’s most seminal works were his films successful Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), which was a box office disaster at the time but is now considered a cult classic. His ability to blend artistic and commercial success lead to several great movies. Perfectionist that he was, if he wasn’t satisfied with a film, he’d just scrap it not caring about the repercussions, which explains all the incomplete films he had at the time of his death. At some point he decided not to direct and just act and produce films like Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (there is some speculation that he actually directed this film and not the credited director Abrar Alvi). Guru Dutt was one of those rare breeds of creative people who achieved plenty in a short period of time but personal problems and inner conflicts, like a true artiste, lead to his being snatched away from us perhaps before his time.



His premature death in 1964 at the age of just 39 left the movie world saddened. This icon of Indian cinema however, seemed to have a premonition since his classic films had themes of death wishes. A somewhat troubled mind with bouts of depression, Guru Dutt showed how internal pain could create poetic are.


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