Post-2000 Indian Cinema changed drastically with various divides among the varied categories and styles of filmmaking as various raw, and unique cinematic voices came to the front of Indian Cinema. There were some films in previous years that acted as a precursor to the kind of Cinema that was being produced. The 2000s also marked the globalized era with quite a wide array of access to world cinema. Therefore, one could see this reflected in the cinematic medium too. So, this list focuses on the top 10 Indian filmmakers of contemporary times. There are some criteria on which this list is based; first of all, the filmmakers should have made their debut after the 2000s and have directed at least two films. So here is the list of the top 10 contemporary Indian filmmakers.
10. Vikramaditya Motwane
If one just picks up his filmography, one can see the range and diversity of subject matter in each of the films. Firstly, he started out with a very rooted coming-of-age drama in “Udaan” (2010), followed by a romantic tale and a very poignant adaptation of O Henry’s “The Last Leaf” in his film “Lootera” (2013), then he shifts into the terrain of a survival thriller in his film “Trapped” (2016), then a one of its kind vigilante action film “Bhavesh Joshi Superhero” (2018) and lastly the mad meta-comedy film “AK vs. AK” (2020). He has not only switched genres but effectively brought something new into the Indian context, where innovation seems to have been quite lacking. Furthermore, he managed to execute these films in a very structured and layered manner.
9. Lijo Jose Pellissery
Lijo’s films have always had a kind of sensational energy and madness associated with them, which makes them a delight to watch and also makes one reflect upon humanity and human nature. His way of contradicting the aural cacophony with chaotic visuals gives his film a totally different aesthetic. He also has a knack for orchestrating massive long-take set-pieces that are both engaging and bring in a sense of realism. He has also perfectly managed to show a quirky, almost sarcastic sense of humor in his films while commenting on serious themes such as death, the human being as a beast, etc. This twisted and very critical vision of human nature is very prominent in his films such as “Jallikattu” (2019) and “Ee. Ma. Yau” (2018), along with his masterpiece, “Angamaly Diaries” (2017), which is not a film but a word in itself.
8. Dibakar Banerjee
Probably among the most underrated directors right now, he can always ensure quality in varied genres. His way of depicting urban spaces, especially the middle-class strata, is definitely one to look out for, and how he manages to master genres such as comedy in films like “Khosla Ka Ghosla” (2006) and “Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!” (2008) to hard-hitting and gritty dramas like “Love Sex Dhokha” (2010) and “Shanghai” (2012). He also remains very consistent, rarely turns out a dud, and always has something exciting in his store. Along with that, Dibakar’s understanding of the country and its people is impeccable, which is further enhanced through his layered portrayal.
7. Nagraj Manjule
Even now, Indian Cinema predominantly consists of male and upper-caste voices. The emergence of Dalit voices in Indian Cinema, although in a very minute way, gained prominence after the 2010s. Nagraj Manjule rises to the occasion, where all of his films reflect caste discrimination, along with subverting genre tropes in order to talk about these serious topics, as seen in “Sairat” (2016), which on paper looks like a simple boy-meets-girl narrative. His debut film, “Fandry” (2013), is definitely one of the most hard-hitting films of this decade, and his films always manage to etch out images that will be glued to one’s mind. His Hindi language debut with the Amitabh Bachchan starrer “Jhund” (2022) also showcased something that had never been seen before, and Nagraj never shies away from speaking about his people without diluting or sugar-coating issues, even in a mainstream mode.
Vetri is a filmmaker who does not shy away from reflecting the angst of the proletariat masses in his film. His films have always been very progressive, pro-people, and anti-authority. But it is through his detailed and meticulous direction that he brings these themes out onto the big screen. Vetrimaaran has always showcased an uncompromising approach while dealing with the serious subject matter, from caste violence to police brutality and so on. Even his weakest film, “Asuran” (2019), is an important and highly engaging drama. But his true capabilities are showcased in the films “Visaranai” (2016) and his epic crime saga set in the northern part of Chennai, “Vada Chennai” (2018).
5. Thiagarajan Kumararaja
After making only two films in a span of eight years, Thiagarajan Kumararaja has established himself as a genius with his vision and execution. Both films, “Aaranya Kaandam” (2011) and “Super Deluxe” (2019), are masterpieces of contemporary Tamil Cinema, and Kumararaja’s major strength lies in his detailed world-building through the numerous characters in his films. His films also possess a sense of raw and a very gritty effect while depicting various human traits and also raise questions rather than giving answers, all these that too in a very non-preachy way.
4. Chaitanya Tamhane
His directorial debut at the age of 27, “Court” (2014), is among the best films that the country has seen in recent times, and it also had such an impact that veteran filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron decided to back his next project. His second film, “The Disciple” (2020), also fetched him the Best Screenplay Award at the prestigious 77th Venice International Film Festival. Even at such a nascent age, Tamhane has achieved some of the most extraordinary feats and reached great heights through his somber, slow, and very calm approach to filming his subjects and giving a meditative quality to his films and, at the same time reflecting upon the situation of India in current times.
3. Vishal Bharadwaj
Vishal Bharadwaj is definitely the best person when it comes to film adaptations. His filmography consists of impressive films based on various literary works by people ranging from William Shakespeare to Ruskin Bond and other Hindi authors. He has made the best possible film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in his films “Maqbool” (2003) (based on Macbeth), “Omkara” (2006) (based on Othello), and “Haider” (2014) (based on Hamlet). Other than that, at the beginning of his career, he made pathbreaking children’s films like “Makdee” (2002) and “The Blue Umbrella” (2005). He gave the millennial Hindi Cinema a voice of authenticity, showcasing and accurately representing the rustic terrains of various parts of India, along with films that have a sense of tenderness and innocence associated with them, at the same time commenting on the political climate and atmosphere in either a very subtle way or quite directly.
2. Sriram Raghavan
Sriram Raghavan is definitely the ‘Master of Thrillers’ in the current climate of Indian Cinema, along with being one of its finest craftsmen. His skill as a filmmaker is impeccable, and films directed by him embody a perfect blend of every kind of Cinema, from old-school Hitchcockian thrillers, the tonal sense of Melville, and the blend of dark humor like the Coens, to the mainstream Hindi thrillers of Vijay Anand and masala filmmaking like Manmohan Desai. He is a pure example of a cinephile, which is reflected in his deliciously twisted films. He is also one of the pioneers of Bombay noir with films primarily based on Pune, such as “Ek Hasina Thi” (2004), “Johnny Gaddaar” (2007), “Badlapur” (2015), and “Andhadhun” (2018). His films are intense from the get-go, and Sriram’s directorial prowess helps him toy with the audience’s minds through his highly intense films.
1. Anurag Kashyap
Without a doubt, he is the most decorated filmmaker in India currently, with a hefty body of work that has garnered acclaim not only within his country but also on a global platform. Before he marked his debut as a director, he had already established himself as a game-changing writer through his screenplays for various Ram Gopal Varma-associated films, including “Satya” (1998), “Shool” (1999), and “Kaun?” (1999). But his directorial debut, “Paanch” (2003), followed by “Black Friday” (2004), were both banned by the CBFC. Yet, his films changed the entire landscape of Indian Cinema and tackled various genres with the exploration of themes such as North Indian masculinity, violence, anger, politics, and gender in various of his films, ranging from a unique adaptation of Devdas to “Dev.D.” (2009), hard-hitting real-life event-based “Black Friday” (2004), politically charged “Gulaal” (2009), more personalized and autobiographical neo-noir “Ugly” (2013), to his magnum opus, “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012), to his magnum opus, “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012), and even though the recent films are not up to the benchmark Kashyap had set with his previous films, he remains one of the most impressive voices in Indian Cinema right now.
Other than these, there also remain filmmakers who had only made a single feature film, due to which they were not incorporated in this list; this includes Neeraj Ghaywan [“Masaan” (2015)], Anand Gandhi [“Ship Of Theseus” (2012)], Avinash Arun [“Killa” (2014)], Rahi Anil Barve [“Tumbbad” (2018)], and Raam Reddy [“Thithi” (2015)]. Other than these promising filmmakers, there also remain the special mentions, which are as follows: Rajkumar Hirani, SS Rajamouli, Rajat Kapoor, Shimit Amin, Hansal Mehta, Abhishek Chaubey, Pa. Ranjith, Mari Selvaraj, Ivan Ayr, Gurvinder Singh, and Bhaskar Hazarika.
See more: Top 10 Indian Films Of The Last Decade (2010-2019), Ranked