Best Directors of Bollywood

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This year, during one of the award ceremonies, while receiving the award of Best Director for Queen, Vikas Bahl narrated an anecdote while he was shooting Queen.

So, one day my father asked me, What does a director do?
“Papa, I direct the movie”. 
“Oh, so you’re behind the camera”
“No, cameraman does that”
“Okay, so you write the story”
“No, writer writes that”
“Okay. So you do the casting?”
“No, casting director does that”
So I was trying hard to figure out what I do at the shooting. Then one day, my father came to the shoot and he was hoping that I would be standing there and saying, “Lights, Camera, Action”. I didn’t say that either. First AD said that. So I was hoping that something I will do that day which will seem like I still work at the sets. And before I could say “Cut”, cameraman said that as he felt the shot was not OK. So, I couldn’t even say “Cut”. 
So I was neither behind the camera, nor did I write the story or did the casting, or said “Lights, Camera, Action” or said “Cut”. All I did was, put the best team together that made a film that now makes me look the best director. And I am so thankful to that team. 
Since the beginning of the cinema, directors have played a very pivotal role in the entire film making. As evident, while they might not be handling any technical work in the movie, but they stay on top of everything and ensure things are perfect is a mammoth task they handle. Their key responsibility, to get the best of out their team, decides the fate of the movie.
While Indian cinema has been blessed with some iconic directors like Mani Ratnam, Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Yash Chopra, Subhash Ghai and Ramesh Sippy, there are many more in making among the contemporary lot.
Looking at their IMDB user ratings, one thing clearly comes out that directors that guarantee blockbuster movies are not necessarily the best ones, except Rajkumar Hirani who has a deadly combination of 100 crore club movies which are loved by viewers as well. And deservingly, he is THE BEST among the current lot of directors. You may see lot of surprises as some of the big names like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Prakash Jha, Kabir Khan, Rohit Shetty, Priyadarshan, Anurag Basu and Sujoy Ghosh fails to make it to the top lot. I have deliberately kept directors like Mani Ratnam and Shyam Benegal out of this as they are far beyond this list.
Some of the conditions considered for this rating include:

  • At least three movies should have been directed
  • Only complete movies (no short movies) after 2000 have been considered
  • Director should have at least one Hindi movie release in last three years
Due to the above exclusions, we don’t have some of the big names like Ayan Mukherjee, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Farhan Akhtar, Aparna Sen, Mira Nair, Vikramaditya Motwane, Amol Gupte etc. in the list. Here’s the list of top 10 directors based on their IMDB ratings.
Known for movies with a message, Rajkumar Hirani has directed four movies and all the four have not only broken records at box office but are cherished even today by masses. His USP of blending a social message with entertainment perfectly differentiates him from the current lot. It’s no wonder that he is on top of the list in best directors.
While Neeraj Pandey just passed the criteria to be in the list, there is no doubt that he will remain in top 5 in the years to come. Only three movies old, this man has showed Bollywood how to make thrillers. I can only recall Abbas Mastan who created that magic in 90s.
It’s hard to believe that someone who made Khosla Ka Ghosla, also made Love, Sex Aur Dhoka or Detective Byomkesh Bakshi. Known for experimenting in his films, almost all the movies of Dibakar Banerjee’s have received critical acclaim. Very few directors try out such a wide variety of genres (comedy, drama, crime, political, thriller) in the beginning of their directorial career and then do it with such  perfection.
While his first movie went pretty much unnoticed, Shoojit Sircar has come a long way with Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe and Piku. His ability to pick up sensitive and diverse topics and give it a perfect treatment differentiates him from the rest – be it Kashmir in Yahaan, sperm donation in Vicky Donor or Sri Lanka crisis in Madras Cafe or father-daughter relationship in Piku.
Nishikant Kamat is a surprise entry among top five. While he has three movies so far in his directorial CV, except for Force, the other two – Mumbai Meri Jaan and Drishyam – has been amazingly well received by the Indian audience. He is a big name in Marathi cinema with blockbusters like Dombovali Fast (remade in other languages) and Lai Bhaari which broke all box office records in Marathi cinema.
When it comes to romantic movies, nobody, among the current lot, does it better than Imtiaz Ali. Except for Socha Na Tha, his debut, all of his movies have been a box office success. Some of his movies like Jab We Met and Highway are the ones that can go into your collection of all time best movies of Bollywood.
Anurag Kashyap has highest number of movies (10) among all the directors in this list. To give the audience high quality cinema consistently over last 15 years speaks volumes about him. He is perhaps best at picking up the right topic and converting it into a fantastic piece of cinema.
Vishal Bhardwaj has made his mark in Bollywood with very intense movies, largely based on Shakesphere and Ruskin Bond’s books, that might not have become box office success but have been always critically acclaimed. Be it Maqbool (based on Shakesphere’s MacBeth), Omkara (Othello), Haider (Hamlet), 7 Khoon Maaf (Ruskin Bond’s Susanna’s Seven Husbands) or The Blue Umbrella (Ruskin Bonds’s book with the same name) – he has always created brilliant movies out of them. His brilliance as a music composer have always ensured that his movies are great musicals as well.
The only lady among the top 10, Zoya Akhtar has only impressed so much with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. While personally, I loved Dil Dhadakne Do as well but from the ratings, it doesn’t seem to have been liked so much by all. However, she is definitely inspiring for the female lot, aspiring to direct in mainstream Indian cinema.
Sriram Raghavan is one of the finest directors when it comes to making thrillers. While Neeraj Pandey has a more unconventional approach to making thrillers that mimics Hollywood to some extent, Sriram Raghavan has been a master in terms of story telling and execution perfection. Except for Agent Vinod, his other three movies received tremendous critical acclaim. While Box Office blockbuster is still at bay for this man, it is just a matter of time.

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