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7 Most Influential Indian Directors During the Last 3 Decades

Updated on May 11, 2019
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An ardent movie buff who daydreams about writing a screenplay one day.

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During his promotional campaign in India, Joe Russo, one half of the Russo brothers, director duo for one of the most awaited yet the most secretive film of our times, revealed how a scene from an Indian movie (Robot/Enthiran(2010)) "almost" inspired the climactic scenes of Avengers - Age of Ultron.
The subtle flattery in such a comment that too about a movie which he was not directly associated with, may well be a topic of discussion for gossip columns. However, it's a known fact that the Indian film industry has grown leaps and bounds in the last three or four decades and has made a name for itself in front of the global audience.
Though Indian movies were at the forefront of World cinema from the times of Satyajit Ray and Pather Panchali, the recognition was limited to parallel cinemas and the appreciation it deserved illuded some of the commercial cinemas until recently. This welcome change towards the commercial flicks is not an accident. It's the result brought upon by the positive changes in an ever-evolving industry. From androcentric and misogynistic films to gynocentric and gender equality films, the industry is paving the way for more international subjects. At the core of this change are some of the directors who have elevated Indian cinema to a level that is deserving for the art form.


Zoya Akhtar

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The impact of a women filmmaker in an international arena is an undeniable fact and when that comes from an industry which celebrated misogynistic movies in the past, is motivating to say the least. However, parallel cinema success alone may not inspire all those talented women out there. Sometimes Commercial success is what defines an industry as a business. Zoya Akhtar has ticked all these boxes and has made her mark through both critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies. By putting her ten-year career under the scanner, it is evident that all those films are content driven which stands a class apart from some other commercial flicks which ride on gimmicks to be a success at the box-office. Moreover, being a director who is still in the early days of her career, we can expect that her best is yet to come.

Anurag Kashyap

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Anurag Kashyap announced his arrival in Indian cinema by co-writing a modern classic. Satya(1998), broke the stereotypic depiction of the Mumbai underworld and is still regarded as one of the best movies made in the last two decades. Though, making his debut as a writer, over the years Anurag has risen to one of the top directors in the country. He made a name for himself through his realistic, grippy and rustic thrillers with unpredictable storylines. And most of these flicks are considered modern-day classics and is some of the best movies that have come out from the Indian cinema industry in recent years.

Rituparno Ghosh

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Rituparno Ghosh had the tedious task of keeping up with the standards of Bengali cinema set by legends like Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. And considering the critical success he tasted until his unfortunate demise in 2013 he was able to keep up with that standard. Through the strong portrayals of his women characters, he made a place for himself among the greats of Indian cinema. He has tasted success both as a director and as a writer. Most of his critically acclaimed works garnered attention in National and International arenas and have won many awards across the globe including four National awards in various aspects including acting.

Mani Ratnam

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Mani Ratnam, the master craftsman from the south, has always brought a different perspective to traditional storylines, which is evident from the portrayal of his protagonists, most of whom are regarded as social outcasts by our society. Mani announced his arrival at Indian cinema through the cult classic Nayakan (1987), a movie loosely based on the life of the notorious Mumbai gangster Varadarajan Mudaliar. During his career span of 36 years, he has captured films which are inspired by the characters of India's two greatest epics - Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Through such movies, he recreated characters like Duryodhana, Karna, and Ravana as protagonists, who till then were only deemed as villains by the conventional. Mani Ratnam who primarily concentrated in Tamil films has another distinction of introducing A.R.Rahman to the Indian film and music industry through Roja(1992). Hence, it is a given that with such a glorious and long career, Mani Ratnam has been one of the most instrumental personalities in developing Indian cinema during these last 30 years.

Deepa Mehta

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The Indo - Canadian director who is widely known for her elements trilogy Fire(1996), Earth (1998) and Water(2005), is one of the most famous personalities for parallel Indian cinema in the global stage. Deepa Mehta's films with unique contents have won numerous prestigious awards and accolades in the international arena. A director with such a repertoire of films is bound for recognition in the Indian National awards. She has made films in Hindi, though English has been her language of choice. Apart from the elemental trilogy, the motion picture adaptation of the world-famous classic novel, "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie is also a renowned work from her. Though she may not have received the appreciation she deserves, Deepa Mehta is an instrumental personality for Indian cinema in the global arena.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

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A Director who is only second to Satyajit Ray, in terms of winning the National award for Best Director does not require an introduction. Adoor Gopalakrishnan has won the award five times. A director with a staggeringly long career spanning for more than 50 years has mainly concentrated in the Malayalam film industry. An ace director who has won the national awards with his debut movie back in 1972 has not looked back since. Over the years through his relentless contributions to parallel cinema, Adoor Gopalakrishnan has carved his name not just along with the legends of Indian cinema but world cinema too.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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