At a little over 100 years of existence, Bollywood has acquired a unique legendary status and global following that few other industries can compete with. Among all the men and women who drove and influenced this film industry to its current shape are many revolutionary film directors who continually redefined what cinema in India ought to look like. We’ve compiled a list of seven such directors who every film-lover ought to be aware of.
Creator of Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool, considered to be among the greatest films ever made, in addition to several other trendsetting movies, Guru Dutt is one of Bollywood’s most revered. Starting as a choreographer in the industry, Dutt eventually worked his way to become an actor and director. While he found great commercial success through his earlier films such as Baazi (1951), Aar Paar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955), C.I.D (1956) and Pyaasa (1957), his most celebrated creation today – Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) – was a failure at the box office.
Among the most celebrated global figures in cinema, Satyajit Ray started his creative career as a ‘junior visualizer’ at a Kolkata-based ad agency. He then went on to design book covers for Signet Press, where he worked on a cover for the Bengali novel Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. The book then became the subject of his first film, Pather Panchali (1955) – which won immediate international acclaim and several awards. The film, combined with Aparajito (1956), and Apur Sansar (1959), make up the ‘Apu Trilogy’ which remain the best-known of Ray’s 36 films.
This much celebrated actor, director and producer has an incomparable legacy in Indian cinema, and is widely regarded to be “the greatest showman of Indian cinema.” Among his most known directorial works are Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Sangam (1964), Mera Naam Joker (1970) and Bobby (1973). The recipient of several national and international honors and awards, Raj Kapoor is the son of Prithviraj Kapoor, one of the founding fathers of Indian cinema and head of the Kapoor family that even today has a powerful presence in Bollywood.
Among the most influential film directors in the history of Indian cinema, Roy is the creator of many defining films such as Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Parineeta (1953), Biraj Bahu (1954), and Madhumati (1958). With a distinct realistic style of filmmaking, Roy’s works are particularly known for their ability to take on social issues and human suffering.
Known mostly for her award winning 80s comedies Chasme Buddoor (1981) and Katha (1983), Paranjpye’s films feature everyday folk and their, often relatable, stories. Paranjpye spent a long career in radio before she launched her National Film Award-winning directorial debut Sparsh (1980). Besides mass appeal around the country, her films have won several national awards.
Founder of Yash Raj Films, one of Bollywood’s most powerful production companies, Chopra is best-known for his work as a producer. However, his directorial ventures include several cult classics including Daag (1973), Deewar (1975), Kaala Pathar (1979), Silsila (1981), Darr (1993), and Dil to Pagal Hai (1997). Undeniably among Bollywood’s most influential figures, Chopra’s work has been instrumental in setting the tone of current mainstream Bollywood cinema.
One of the most influential figures in India’s parallel cinema movement, Lajmi is known for her realistic, low-budget style of filmmaking. Her films always feature female protagonists and focus on gender-based experiences in Indian society. Among her most famous works today are Rudaali (1993), Darmiyaan (1997) and Daman (2001).