Zoya Akhtar to Alankrita Shrivastava: 9 female directors trying to bring down Bollywood's glass ceiling

Breaking the stereotypes, these female directors are making movies which are a little 'hatke' and at the same time deeply meaningful. Take a look.

Whenever we talk of Bollywood, the first thing that comes to mind are elaborate film sets, song sequences, action scenes, and situations that seem larger than life – but rarely does the talk divert to directors, music composers, lyricists.  Unless of course there is a controversy. If asked about our favourite directors, most often than not we would end up taking names like Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Rajkumar Hirani, Imtiaz Ali. And we shouldn’t blame ourselves for it, because even a simple Google search of Bollywood directors yields the names of only male directors in the top 10, even though we have some of the most brilliant female directors like Meghna Gulzar, Alankrita Shrivastava, Nandita Das to name a few.

Breaking the stereotypes, these female directors are making movies which are a little ‘hatke’ and at the same time deeply meaningful. Is it hard to make movies, which have a story and at the same time ‘entertaining’, or do we say engaging? Nope. And these women are out to prove it.

The most recent example can be Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha, which created a storm in Bollywood with its path-breaking storytelling. Here is a list of 9 such inspiring and dauntless directors, who at times, fought all odds for their love of cinema.

1. Alankrita Shrivastava
Alankrita Shrivastav decided to tell a simple story about the dreams and desires of four women living in Bhopal through Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017) but the Censor Board found it too ‘lady-oriented’. The film was stalled for almost nine months, before we finally got to see it in July this year.

Alankrita Shrivastava Lipstick Under My Burkha

2. Zoya Akhtar

Zoya Akhtar gave us such fantastic stories with Luck By Chance (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Talaash (2012) and Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) . ZNMD has become such a cult, that it would be rather difficult for Zoya to top it.

Zoya Akhtar Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

3. Nandita Das

Nandita Das is not only known for her bold roles in movies like Bawandar, Earth, Fire, she has also directed one of the most controversial films, Firaaq (2008), which dealt with the aftermath of Gujarat riots. Her upcoming movie on legendary writer, Saadat Hasan Manto is much-anticipated.

nandita das firaaq

4. Anusha Rizvi

Only a few have the courage to make a movie dealing with serious social issues like farmer suicides and Anusha Rizvi was one of them. She made Peepli Live, which got immense appreciation from the audience as well as the critics.

Anusha Rizvi Peepli Live

5. Gauri Shinde 

Gauri Shinde gave us English Vinglish (2012),  the story of a housewife’s struggle to break free of her husband’s inherent misogyny and her own inner insecurities as a vernacular-educated lady. A film that truly ought to be on everybody’s watch-list. Her latest film Dear Zindagi (2016) dealt with how our society deals with depression and anxiety and while not exactly a stellar watch, you definitely need to see it once.

Gauri Shinde English Vinglish

6. Meghna Gulzar 

With Talvar (2015), Meghna Gulzar decided to tell the story of the 2008 sensational Aarushi murder case and of course, it was controversial but the movie was liked by the audience and also received a lot of critical appreciation.

Meghna Gulzar Talvar


7. Kiran Rao

Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat (2011) was not made for the masses. No masala, no sleazy jokes, no item song for the front benchers, just the complex tale of four people from vastly different backgrounds who meet in the city of dreams, Mumbai.

Kiran Rao Dhobi Ghat

8. Reema Kagti 

In 2012, Reema Kagti decided to make a crime/drama movie with Talaash and the movie was definitely engaging and well-made. Starring Rani Mukerji, Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor – the film is a thriller that gives us a glimpse into the life of a couple falling apart after the death of their son.

Reema Kagti

9. Konkona Sen Sharma 

Actress Konkona Sen Sharma made her directorial debut with the thriller, A Death in the Gunj. The movie is about a student who goes on a family trip but soon learns that a vacation is sometimes more of a lesson than day-to-day life can be. Sounds interesting, right?

Konkona Sen Sharma

(Also read: Aamir Khan to Kareena Kapoor: 9 times we fell in love with non-romantic roles played by actors)

Did we miss anyone? Tell us who you’d like to add to this list in the comment section below.