As we all know Cinema is the backbone of India. It is treated as a religion ever since it became mainstream few decades back. Ever since the second half of 19th century, Indians have been promoting songs, dance forms, and storytelling in movies. Indian cinema has had several great directors – from different backgrounds, different religions, and from a different milieu.
The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of Indian cinema is Bollywood but it is much more than just Bollywood. As a matter of fact, Bollywood is just a part of Indian cinema as there are numerous regional language directors which have also chipped in with classical Bollywood movies but are absolute legends when it comes to Cinema.
I’m sure most of you are huge fans of Indian cinema and would love to know more about its history and all the legends that helped make it a huge industry that it is today. That is why we have prepared a list showcasing some of the greatest Bollywood Film makers of all time. Without further ado, let’s get on with the list.
8. V Shantaram
We start off our list with someone who was not only a founding father of Indian cinema but also a pioneer of it; he is none other than V Shantaram. He was not only an exceptionally gifted director but also a visionary. He was one of the first few film makers to realize that the efficacy of film medium as an instrument of social change and then used it to advocate humanism as well as expose bigotry and injustice. His greatest hit ‘Do Ankhen Barah Hatth’ was about moral lessons on values of dedication and hard work. It was the first Indian film to win international awards like Golden Globe and also Silver Bear Award.
7. Mrinal Sen
Next up in the list is the legendary Mrinal Sen whose life and immense work put in the industry can never be explained in words. He was one of the most contemplative directors cinema had ever come across. Sen along with other contemporaries like Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajith Ray revolutionized the face of cinema across India and made it into a huge industry that it is today. Even though he was heavily inspired by Western cinematic ideas like Italian neorealism, German expressionism and surrealism yet his work had the undeniable essence of Indian. He honed his craft during the tough period of great civil and political unrest which made Sen’s movies overly political which also earned him a fair share of detractors. He was also a genius as he knew how to emotionally engage an audience with his movies as his films rarely had a definitive ending which left behind a pondering audience filled with questions and scenarios.
6. Ritwik Ghatak
Next on the list is Ritwik Ghatak whom we already mentioned as a contemporary that helped revolutionise Indian Cinema. He was a theorist and film maker with immense creativity. He was also one of the most influential film makers of his generation. His strength was that he knew how to immaculately depict the social reality of that time. He was a huge admirer of the Russian auteur Sergei Eisenstein and brought an irreverent passion to his movies which were uniquely refreshing. Even though he was fiercely political, his work always had the penchant for dedicated tone and melodrama as realism was reflected in most of his movies. Some of his masterpieces were Nagarik and his autobiographic classic Jukti Jakko Aar Gappo.
5. Yash Chopra
Number 5th on the list is the legendary “King of romances”, better known as Yash Chopra. Strangely though, most of his best movies weren’t even romances. Even though he wasn’t an auteur like other successful film makers, he still managed to reach audience in a unique way in which only he could. He not only managed to influence aspiring film makers, but he also influenced the filmgoers.
More than the films themselves, he was famous for the scenes and moments in his movies that audience would fondly recall. This shows you clearly that not only did he have a good idea how to pulsate his audience but also his immaculate sense of timing. He also happens to be the most commercially successful Indian Cinema film makers till date which only proves his credibly as one of the most audience-friendly directors to have ever lived.
4. Bimal Roy
4th on the list is the Renaissance Man of Hindi Cinema; the legendary Bimal Roy. His timeless classics gave Indian Cinema a unique blend of not only authenticity but also a deft emotional touch at the time when overt melodrama was the norm. He was heavily inspired by the neorealism displayed in Vittarioa De Sica’s classic ‘Bicycle Thieves’ which lead to Roy creating a new genre of film making in Indian Cinema which successfully blurred the lines between commercial and parallel cinema.
He wanted to bring forward important social issues and displayed his immense versatility in movies like ‘Do Bhigha Zameen’ which was an intricate look at exploitation and poverty as well as his ‘Sujata’ which was a poignant romance portraying the evil of untouchability. Most of his work had a social outlook to it and dealt with important issues which helped him stand about from the crowd. He was known to get his point across without ever having to resort to preaching ever. He was also an incredibly humble man as he also helped several luminaries like Gulzar Saab, and Dileep Kumar become a household name.
3. Hrishikesh Mukherjee
3rd on the list is one of the all-time greats Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He is easily one of the greatest film makers of all time and we can just say that while excluding every great movie he made apart from “Anand”. His real genius lied in his simplicity and the way his movies didn’t shock you but touched you in a way only real life stories manage to do. There have been several film makers who were inspired by his story-telling skills but very few have ever been able to replicate them quite like Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
While great directors like Stanley Kubrick or Satyajit Ray were visionaries, auteurs and strived to reach the unexplainable sheer complexity of human existence, Mukherjee on the other hand just strived to reach the hearts of his audience. Nobody in the Indian Cinema can stake claim to having done this better than Mukherjee. In short, his feel-good movies weren’t meant to drastically change the world, in fact, they were meant to tell you that it is already a great place to live in.
2. Guru Dutt
Second on the list is the legendary Guru Dutt, the man responsible for directing arguably the greatest Hindi movie of all time ‘Pyaasa’. He didn’t stop with Pyaasa, he was much more than a one-hit wonder and went on to direct eternal classics like ‘Kagaz ke Phool’ and ‘Saheb, Biwi aur Ghulam’. His mind oozed with dense ideas of social change and scathing commentary on the stigmas and malice of society.
His films didn’t just epitomize the golden age of Indian Cinema but they also served as a reflection of Indian bourgeois itself. His movies also had a subtle quality about itself where the brazen truths and harsh realities of society were simmering under the surface waiting to explode. His classical films were timeless and still remain relevant to this day as India still continues to be plagued by societal curses like corruption, materialism and misogyny which he tried to address in his movies.
1. Satyajit Ray
There are no points for those who guessed this right as it was a no-brainer as to who is the greatest Indian Cinema film maker to ever grace the Bollywood industry. There is no film maker till date who has ever come close to achieves the artistic magnificence possessed by the iconic Satyajit Ray. No one would have that the young 28-year old who had assisted Jean Renoir with the shooting of ‘The River’ in India would soon be known as one of the greatest auteurs of Indian Cinema.
With a debut most can only dream of, Ray managed to put the Indian Cinema on the map and made everyone take note. His ‘Pather Panchali’ was one of the most profoundly humane movies you will ever come across. He then went on to direct two sequels and named this famed series as ‘Apu Trilogy’. In the 60s, his movies continued to awe the audience, especially his impeccable portrayal of human relationships and humanity; whether it was his brilliant take on feminism or the female resilience in Calcutta.
His amazing creativity managed to inspire generations of film makers not only in India but abroad as well. If only we could find enough words to describe Satyajit Ray and his immense contribution to India Cinema will we be able to finish with few wise words.
These were easily the best directors to have ever blessed us with their classics. I’m sure in this fast paced world we like to watch thrilling movies filled with action and thrills but if you want to know what beauty and creativity really is, then I suggest you Google the names of these film makers mentioned above and watch some of the best movies by them and then only will you be able to realize the true beauty of Indian Cinema.