Movie direction and filmmaking is an art and for years, this art has been associated with only men. However, there are many female directors who proved that with a visionary mindset and hard work, success can be achieved even in a male-dominated industry like Bollywood.
Here is the list of the top 15 female directors who set the benchmarks with their artistic excellence and hard work, making their huge contribution to cinema. Check the list below.
1- Zoya Akhtar
Zoya Akhtar’s father Javed Akhtar is a legendary writer and poet, and brother Farhan Akhtar is a versatile film personality who is a successful actor, director, producer, and writer but Zoya made her own identity in the film industry.
Zoya is a passionate filmmaker did a diploma in filmmaking from New York University Film School then started to assist Indian filmmakers and directed later Luck By Chance (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Bombay Talkies (2013), Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) like successful projects.
Apart from that she also directed movies like Lust Stories, Gully Boy, Made in Heaven, and The Archies.
2- Farah Khan
A successful choreographer turned director and producer got more success and she is Farah Khan. After doing more than a hundred songs, choreographer Farah Khan debuted the comedy-drama Main Hoon Na (2004) and proved that she is versatile and hugely talented.
Her successful films Main Hoon Na (2013), Om Shanti Om (2007), and Happy New Year (2014) led by King Khan while Akshay Kumar starred Tees Maar Khan (2010) failed at the Box Office.
3- Gauri Shinde
Ace filmmaker R. Balki’s wife Gauri Shinde is a genius writer-director and her films English Vinglish (2012) and Dear Zindagi (2016) received critical acclaim for brilliant direction. She produced 2022 crime thriller Chup: The Revenge of the Artist, directed by her husband R. Balki.
4- Reema Kagti
Reema’s directional debut Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. (2006) is a comedy-drama, the next one Talaash: The Answer Lies Within (2012) is a psychological horror movie also co-written by Reema herself and now directing a sports drama Gold (2018) where Akshay Kumar will play India’s first gold medalist. You can see that she is impressive in all genres. She along with Zoya Akhtar founded a film and web studio, Tiger Baby Films, in October 2015.
5- Nandita Das
A critically acclaimed actress Nandita Das acted in more than forty films including English, Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, and Tamil. Actress turned director Nandita’s directional debut Firaaq (2008) received several awards and nominations. Hindi short film In Defence of Freedom (2017) was also praised and Manto (2018) created a buzz before release. In 2022 drama film Zwigato had a world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
6- Deepa Mehta
India-born Deepa Mehta lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Indo-Canadian film director-writer Deepa is critically acclaimed for Water (2005) and was sent by India and Canada for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Fire (1996), Earth (1998), Heaven on Earth (2008), and Midnight’s Children (2012) are other best films directed by Deepa Mehta.
7- Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Dangal (2016) director Nitesh Tiwari’s wife Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari made her own identity in Bollywood and her Hindi films Nil Battey Sannata (2016) and Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) received critical acclaim and Box office success. Nil Battey Sannata Tamil remake of Amma Kanakku (2016) received the same response.
8- Pooja Bhatt
90’s popular actress Pooja Bhatt is the eldest daughter of veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt but she is better known for her own work in the industry. In 2003, this beautiful actress turned director and received an amazing response for the direction and then directed Holiday (2006), Dhokha (2007), Kajraare (2010), Jism 2 (2012) later.
9- Meghna Gulzar
Meghna Gulzar is the daughter of legendary lyricist and director Gulzar and former actress Rakhee but every Hindi movie lover knows this talented girl by her own work in Bollywood best known for Filhaal… (2002), Just Married (2007), Dus Kahaniyaan (2007), Talvar (2015). Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal starring Raazi (2018) received amazing reviews.
10- Leena Yadav
Leena Yadav is a multi-tasking film personality who has worked as a film and TV serial director, writer, editor, and producer. Sanjay Dutt and Aishwarya Rai starred thriller drama Shabd (2005), Big B’s thriller Teen Patti (2010), and Parched (2017) received positive reviews.
11- Kiran Rao
Kiran Rao, the Indian screenwriter, director, and producer, is the ex-wife of Bollywood’s Mr. Perfectionist. She began her film career as an assistant director on the acclaimed 2001 sports drama film Lagaan. She made her directorial debut with the 2011 drama film Dhobi Ghat, which was released internationally as Bombay Diaries and Mumbai Diaries and was produced under Aamir Khan Productions.
Although it was an average performer at the box office, the film won international acclaim and premiered at film events including the Toronto International Film Festival, etc. It was long-listed for the 65th BAFTA Awards in the Best Film Not in English language category. Laapata Ladies, her other directorial effort, will be released in 2023.
12- Shonali Bose
The National Award-winning director, Shonali Bose, earned her breakthrough with her first feature film, a 2005 biographical drama film based on her novel of the same name, which tells the story of the 1984 Sikh riots. The film garnered lots of praise and awards, including the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English. Her status as a director grew after directing movies like Margarita with a Straw and The Sky is Pink.
Bose also directed one of the segments of Amazon Prime Video’s romantic comedy anthology series Modern Love Mumbai.
13- Tanuja Chandra
Tanuja Chandra is the daughter of writer Kamal Chandra and the sister of film critic Anupama Chopra and author Vikram Chandra. Before starting her career as a director with the 1998 psychological thriller film Dushman, she co-wrote the screenplays for acclaimed movies like Tamanna, Dil To Pagal Hai and Zakhm.
Her directorial debut film, Dushman, was a commercial success. Her second feature directorial is Akshay Kumar starrer Sangharsh (1999), followed by Yeh Zindagi Ka Safar, Sur- The Melody of Life, Zindaggi Rocks, Qarib Qarib Single, etc.
14- Alankrita Shrivastava
Alankrita Shrivastava, known for her female-centric films, made her directorial debut in 2011 with the romantic drama film Turning 30, but her 2017 critically acclaimed film “Lipstick Under My Burkha” earned her wider recognition.
The film won her several accolades, such as the Grand Prix at the Creteil International Women’s Film Festival and a nomination for a Filmfare Award. Later, she directed Amazon Prime’s web series Made in Heaven, the 20202 film Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitaare, the 2021 Netflix web series Bombay Begums, and a segment of Modern Love: Mumbai.
15- Sai Paranjpye
The 84-year-old director and screenwriter was born in March 1938 to a Russian father and an Indian mother, Shakuntala Paranjpe, who was also an actress, a writer, and a prominent social worker.
The veteran director was awarded Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, in 2006 in recognition of her contribution to the Indian film industry. She is the director of award-winning movies like Sparsh (1980), Katha (1983), Chasme Buddoor (1981), Disha, etc.