• Tishya Doraiswamy

Top 5 Bollywood Film Directors

It's one of the biggest film industries in the world, known for flamboyant dances, dramatic plots, and stunning sets - it's Bollywood. So today, we take a look at the 5 best directors in Bollywood - the creators of some of the most iconic movies we've watched.


5. Imtiaz Ali

Imtiaz Ali is an Indian director, producer, as well as writer. He started his career directing TV programs for Zee TV and Doordarshan. His cinematic directorial debut, however, was made with Socha Na Tha, which took him three years to make. However, it wasn't a box office success. He garnered critical acclaim, however, with his film Jab We Met, which became a box office hit.

Following this, he directed Love Aaj Kal, which remains his biggest commercial success.

In 2014, his production company released Highway, which is regarded as one of his best-directed films to date. His film Jab Harry Met Sehal was a box office success but garnered negative reviews in India.

He's been nominated for 8 Filmfare awards, and his films are some of the most well known in the country.

4. Sanjay Leela Bhansali

As one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in India, he’s the recipient of 5 National Film Awards, 11 Filmfare Awards, and a BAFTA Award. He’s also a recipient of the Padma Shri, one of the highest awards given to civilians in India. 

He began his career as an assistant director to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, but after they had a falling out, he split from him and made his own debut with Khamoshi: The Musical. Although it didn’t do well commercially, it garnered critical acclaim and even won a Filmfare Award. His breakthrough in Indian cinema, however, with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, which was a massive success and won several awards. 

His next film, Devdas, was the highest-grossing film of 2002 and was the most awarded film at Filmfare, as well as India’s submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It received both, national, as well as international acclaim. 

In 2014, he directed the biographical film Mary Kom, which became the first Hindi film to screen at the opening night of the Toronto Film Festival. 

In 2015, he directed the period drama Bajirao Mastani, featuring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, and Priyanka Chopra. The film became one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time, winning several awards. His next film was yet another period drama, Padmaavat, which featured yet another impressive cast including Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, and Ranveer Singh. While the film received mixed reviews, it garnered fame both within as well as outside the country. 


3. Vishal Bhardwaj

Coming from a small-town background, this director first began his career as a music composer for several films, including Fauji, Maachis, and Sanshodhan. However, in spite of being a reputed composer, he soon became known as arrogant and started losing out on jobs. Wanting to continue composing music, he decided to shift towards movie direction to continue generating opportunities for himself. He made his directorial debut with Makdee, a comedy horror film which screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003. 

Bhardwaj is known for his adaptations, frequently using Shakespearean dramas as inspiration. His film Maqbool was adapted from Macbeth and screened at several international film festivals. It was ranked as one of the 100 greatest Indian films of all time. 

In 2006, he adapted Omkara from Shakespeare’s Othello, and although it was positively received, the box office results spoke otherwise. 

His film Kaminey, starring Priyanka Chopra as well as Shahid Kapoor, was also a box office success. 

In 2014, he directed Haider, yet another adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays – this time, Hamlet. Set in the Kashmir conflict in 1995, the film received critical acclaim but also controversy amongst Hindu nationalists.

He’s a 7-time national film award winner, having won awards in 4 categories – and for good reason!


2. Rajkumar Hirani

PK, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, 3 Idiots, Sanju - besides being incredibly successful films, what do they have in common? That's right, they’re all directed by Rajkumar Hirani, every film of who’s has been a massive success. Today, he’s the winner of eleven - that’s right, eleven Filmfare Awards. However, he wasn’t always a director. After attempting to pursue a career in film editing for several years, he was forced to move over to advertising. Here, he became a prominent director of advertising films. 

He knew, however, that he wished to make movies, and in 2003, he directed his first film - Munna Bhai M.B.B.S, which was a commercial success not just in India, but worldwide. This film itself won 4 Filmfare awards. The second movie in the series, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, grossed even more than the first - $27 million worldwide. 

His third film, 3 Idiots, became the highest-grossing Bollywood film not in that year or decade, but in the history of Bollywood, and established Hirani as one of the most prominent directors in the industry. This, however, was soon overtaken by another film of his - PK - which became the highest-grossing Indian film of all time. His last film, Sanju, yielded similar results and is one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time. 

When every single film of a director becomes iconic in the hearts of people, you know they’re doing something right - you know that they’re a genius. And so is the case with Rajkumar Hirani. 

To know about the struggles that he had to get his first film (Munnabhai MBBS) made, do watch his THIS exclusive interview with Anupama Chopra.


1. Anurag Kashyap

The one topping this list is the Indian film writer, director, producer, and actor who is a master at the craft of direction. He has rightfully won several awards for his films. These include four Filmfare Awards, and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and letters) by the Government of France.

However, he wasn’t always so successful. 

Inspired by his experience at the International Film Festival of India, Kashyap went to Mumbai with Rs. 5000. As expected, the money soon ran out, pushing him out on the street for several months. In 1998, however, he was hired to write the script for the film Satya, which is today regarded as one of the best films in Indian cinematic history. Following this, he directed his own film Paanch, but it still remains unreleased. However, he also wrote scripts for several films during this time.

One of Kashyap’s most famous films, however, was Gangs of Wasseypur, which was screened at film festivals around the world, including the Toronto Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival. 

Kashyap is often regarded as the pioneer of indie cinema in India, in the early 2000s. His distinct film style is evident in almost all his films - he uses guerrilla filmmaking techniques and prefers to make his scenes as real as possible, often pushing actors to improvise dialogues. 

To hear his story from the horse’s mouth, take a watch at this VIDEO


Note: The selection for this list and the ranking was done based on the following criteria:

a) The director should have directed at least 5 films.

b) Only Hindi film directors were picked for this list.

c) Documentary/ short film directors were not considered for this list.

d) The rating was done using the average imdb ratings of the top 5 films directed by that film maker.


Let us know who your favourite director is in the comments below, and share this article with your filmy friends!

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Tishya Doraiswamy, Content Writer @ Skyshot Media

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