Ashutosh Gowariker: He may have started out directing a suspense comedy Pehla Nasha, followed by the thriller, Baazi but Ashutosh made period dramas his own. Whether it was India's official Oscar entry Lagaan, Jodha Akbar, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se or his next Mohenjo-Daro, the director loves going back in time and recreating the golden eras. ''I just love love stories ....especially those which are set in different times. And if those 'times' are several centuries ago, then the intensity of that romance grows multiple fold," he is quoted to have said. Ashutosh's films are known to take a long time from conception to execution, but each one is lovingly made with minute detailing and lavishly picturised, irrespective of its fate at the BO. Not only does he dare to dream but also translates it on screen.
Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra: Aks, Rang De Basanti (RDB), Delhi-6 and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB) - nothing is common between these films except that they are directed by one man - Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra. The subjects are as different as chalk and cheese - while the first was a supernatural thriller, RDB was a modern-day take on patriotism, Delhi-6 a dark satire and BMB, a biopic. Irrespective of the subject, Mehra brings it to the screen with the same passion, zeal and spirit. With his next film Mirza Sahiban, Mehra moves into the romantic genre. The director is working on the contemporary version of Mirza and Sahiba's tragic love story. He has roped in newcomers Harshvardhan Kapoor (Anil Kapoor's son) and Saiyami Kher. As Mehra had said earlier, "I believe that a film chooses you, not the other way around."
Anurag Kashyap: Unconventional and non-conformist is the best way to describe maverick filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. Starting off as a writer for TV serials like Star Bestsellers, and films such as Satya, Shool, Jung and Nayak he made his directorial debut with Paanch the most talked about film that never made it to the theatres. His next, Black Friday based on Mumbai blasts was critically acclaimed, winning awards at international film festivals. But it was with Dev D, a contemporary take on Sarat Chandra's novel Devdas that Kashyap came into the limelight. His film was considered a breakthrough in Bollywood for its innovative narrative style and visuals. Gulaal and That Girl In Yellow Boots won rave reviews for their offbeat subjects and treatment, but did not find much favour at the BO. His last release Gangs Of Wasseypur, however has proved to be a turning point for the director. The film was a commercial success spurring him to make a big-budget period drama Bombay Velvet with Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma, no less! A game-changer, Anurag is looked up to by indie filmmakers and is on the list of every top Bolly actor. Amitabh Bachchan is all set to make his fiction debut on TV with a serial Yudh directed by Anurag!
Hansal Mehta: It took over a decade for the filmmaker to get noticed, but when he did it was with a bang. A National Award for his hard-hitting story of a lawyer and human rights activist Shahid Azmi who died in an encounter. Not only was it critically acclaimed, it got a lot of word-of-mouth publicity. Hansal followed it up with another realistic drama CityLights, a poignant story of a farmer coming to the city to make a living, which got positive reviews for the minute detailing and "overwhelming experience". Starting out with a cookery show Khana Khazana, Hansal made his directorial film debut with Jayate followed by Chhal, Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai, Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar and Woodstock Villa among others. However, neither of the films made a mark and Hansal took a break from film making. It was when he read about the murder of lawyer Shahid that Hansal felt the urge to return to cinema. "I was mesmerised by this young lad who had taken on the system on his own. He was killed at 32, but there was so much he had achieved before that. I knew there was a story to tell there," the director is quoted to have said. Its success spurred him to make another film within a year. "You can't get away from film making. I now know that I will die in a director's chair," he has said in an interview.
Imtiaz Ali: Whether it was Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, or the latest Highway, all the films are centered on a journey - literally or metaphorically. Jab We Met, a romcom between a feisty Punjabi girl and a quiet and reticent businessman kicked off with a train journey where the duo meet. Love Aaj Kal traversed between the past and present with parallel love stories, while Highway was a road movie with the story of a victim falling in love with her kidnapper. In an interview, Imtiaz had said, "In a journey, you come at a place where you don't know what is going happen the next moment... The unexpectedness of it makes it a very dynamic experience for me. A journey for me in a movie is very dramatic." His films are also suffused with a Sufi vibe - Rockstar has been described as a love story with sufi wisdom! The director is now gearing up for his next film Tamasha starring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. For the director, who started out with TV serials, the journey to the top has been glorious!
Farah Khan: She is the first woman choreographer-turned-director to openly embrace the Manmohan Desai formula of masala films. Before she stepped in, women directors like Sai Paranjpye were known for sensitive and realistic films. Farah Khan made her film larger-than-life with all the quintessential Bollywood ingredients like the reincarnation theme, lost and found melodrama, the song-dance routine, action – the works and is unapologetic about it.. Her next, Happy New Year brings her hit Om Shanti Om pair Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone together again after Chennai Express. Two years ago, Farah made her acting debut in Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi, which got her rave reviews. Her heart, however, lies in directing and she choreographs occasionally for close friends and brother Sajid Khan.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali: The very mention of his name conjures up colourful costumes, opulent sets, lavishly picturised song sequences and stunning imagery. In short, his films are all about grandeur. Save for his first film Khamoshi - the Musical and critically acclaimed Black, most of Bhansali's films from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas to Ram Leela have been visual spectacles. His films are more often than not adapted from literary works, but he gives his own take to the characters and makes you believe in them. With Guzaarish, Bhansali turned music composer and though most of the songs are slow and soft, they were extremely well-received. The filmmaker has also got other directors to helm films under his banner. His Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi marked the directorial debut of his sister Bella Sehgal. He is currently working on his most ambitious project Bajirao Mastani, which was announced way back in 2003 with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Now, the film has his hit Ram Leela jodi Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone gearing up to create magic again!
Vishal Bhardwaj: He is on the wishlist of every actor and an inspiration for several filmmakers. As a music composer, Vishal is in a class of his own. A rare instance of a composer-turning-director, Vishal started out by composing for Gulzar's serials. He came into the limelight with the chartbusting music of Macchis. This was followed by several hit films Satya, Chachi 420 etc, and later all the films he directed starting from Makdee. Greatly inspired by Shakespeare, Vishal started adapting the Bard's works one after the other. His Maqbool was based on MacBeth, and Omkara was adapted from Othello. He is currently filming Haider based on Hamlet that compelete the triology. Known for his dark noir films, his Kaminey set against the backdrop of Mumbai underworld got great reviews and was even compared to Pulp Fiction. The film did extremely well at the BO resurrecting Shahid Kapoor's career. Over the years it has achieved cult status. His last two releases 7 Khoon Maaf and Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, however did not live up to people's expectations. Besides directing, Vishal is also instrumental in giving directorial break to his assistant Abhishek Chaubey with Ishquiya and Dedh Ishquiya, which he produced. He is also all set to direct John Adams (composer)' A Flowering Tree at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
Sooraj Barjatya: Long before Karan Johar drilled the concept of "loving your family", Sooraj Barjatya owned and patented it. If Maine Pyar Kiya was a love story, it was also about family ties, betrayals and reunions. His next, the magnum opus Hum Aapke Hai Kaun was a lesson in family values, traditions, culture and above all living happily in a joint family. Starring Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit, the musical - it had 14 songs - was the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time. In fact, Karan had said that he decided to become a director after seeing the film that had so much "soul in it". Sooraj made a hat-trick of hits with Hum Saath Saath Hai, again a family entertainer. Interestingly, his hero, irrespective of the actor playing it, is always called Prem! Sooraj's next venture, again a family drama and the remake of Chitchor was a disaster. But he was back with a bang with Vivaah. He then produced Ek Vivah...Aisa Bhi, which did not fare well at the BO. The low-profile director is now teaming up with his pehla Prem, Salman for Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.
Zoya Akhtar: Farhan Akhtar's sister and Javed Akhtar's daughter - it was but natural for Zoya to follow in her brother's footsteps and foray into film direction. Her debut film Luck By Chance starred Farhan in the lead role and was about the journey of an actor in the tinsel town. The film boasted of an ensemble cast and had all the Bolly A-listers from Aamir Khan to Hrithik Roshan making cameo appearances. Highly appreciated, the film however did not do well at the BO. Zoya's second outing the coming-of-age road film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara turned the tables for her. The film not only got good reviews, it also went on to become a super hit. Currently, she is filming her next, Dil Dhadakne Do, the story of a dysfunctional Punjabi family on a cruise trip. She has also co-written Reema Kagti's Honey Moon Travels and Talash. All her films have revolved around the journey of the pivotal characters, albeit in different forms!
John Abraham: A MBA-turned-model-actor-producer, John Abraham has judiciously used his skills to emerge a winner in all his ventures. A former media planner and Gladrags Manhunt winner he appeared in several music videos before he debuted as an actor in Jism. Though he was noticed for his good looks, his next outings Paap, Saaya etc, did nothing for his career till Dhoom came his way. The negative role in the action film turned the tide and he went on to do Kaal, Garam Masala, both box-office succcess and experimental films like Water and Kabul Express that won critical acclaim. Though Dostana with Abhishek Bachchan proved to be a smash hit, his subsequent releases got lukewarm response. John got back into the reckoning with Force and went on to give back-to-back hits with Desi Boyz and Housefull 2. Interestingly, the first film he decided to produce under his banner was the experimental Vicky Donor starring newcomers Ayushmann Khurrana and Yami Gautam. The film won both critical acclaim and commercial success. His next, Madras Cafe based in Sri Lanka had him playing the lead role and did well. His upcoming films include Welcome Back and Rocky Handsome. He is also producing and acting in a film based on the wrestler Gama. Best way to blend his love for sports and films, right?
Aanand L Rai: Best known for his romantic comedy Tanu Weds Manu, Aanand surprised everyone with his intense love story Ranjhaana next. Not only is he unpredictable in his subjects, but even his casting is unique. He has the knack of bringing unusual pairs on screen - Kangana Ranaut - R Madhavan (Tanu Weds Manu), Sonam Kapoor - Dhanush (Raanjhana). He is currently working on the sequel of Tanu Weds Manu that will see Kangana in a double role. For Aanand who graduated from TV serials to make his debut with a forgotten film Strangers, it's been a great turnaround.
Tigmanshu Dhulia: His films are rooted in realism. Whether it's a love story set against the backdrop of student politics in Haasil, unearthing the drug racket in Charas, the biopic on the athlete-turned-dacoit Paan Singh Tomar that won the National Award or the thriller Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster, Tigmanshu Dhulia's movies rarely stray from reality. "My whole attempt is to make in-between kind of films that are commercial and aesthetically right," the writer-director had said earlier in an interview. His last movie Bullet Raja may have bitten the dust, but Tigmanshu is gearing up to make a comeback with Jai Ramji.