Directors with talent, not surnames
No, we don't suddenly mean there's an epidemic of filmmaker only using their first name, a la Madonna.
It's just that the film industry is hard to get into and mostly ruled by people who've grown up within it, and we decided to look at the directors who have been complete outsiders.
The following ten directors are top-notch filmmakers and the current crop to watch and follow in the country, and this list shows us that you don't have to be born into a film family to become one of the country's top helmers.
(As far as trends go, however, an advertising background definitely helps. Also, Ram Gopal Varma's contribution to our cinema is bloody immense.)
Arguably the most talented filmmaker in the country, this multifaceted maestro -- he sings, he directs, he writes, he composes -- was born to Ram Bhardwaj, a poet in the city of Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, and Vishal's musical start was as a harmonium player for ghazal singers in Delhi food festivals.
He tasted great success as a composer after making music for Gulzar, after which he turned director -- and there's been no looking back.
Image: Vishal Bhardwaj
The cult-creating Kashyap was born in Gorakhpur, UP. His father worked for the state electricity board, and most of Kashyap's upbringing was in Benaras.
He studied Zoology in Delhi University, and started dabbling in theatre. Then came a film festival which totally opened his eyes, and Kashyap got his break when Ram Gopal Varma hired him to work on the script for Satya.
Image: Anurag Kashyap
Hirani actually wanted to be an actor. Born in Nagpur to a Sindhi family, he tried a Mumbai acting school but was soon fed up.
He specialised in editing at the Film and Television Institute of India and worked in advertising for a while before working with fellow FTII alumnus Vidhu Vinod Chopra as editor for his Mission Kashmir.
Image: Rajkumar Hirani
A Delhi boy, Dibakar went on to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad to study graphic design, but left it after three years.
He then entered advertising and worked successfully as a copywriter, and it is in advertising that he met writer Jaideep Sahni.
Sahni and Dibakar co-wrote Banerjee's directorial debut, Khosla Ka Ghosla, a self-funded film that took ages to see the light of day but won extreme accolades -- and a National Film Award -- when it did.
Image: Dibakar Banerjee
Born in Uganda, Shimit Amin grew up in Florida and started making movies right out of college.
Starting with independent films in Los Angeles, Amin entered Bollywood as an editor on Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot.
Bollywood wasn't easy to shake off, and then came the critically acclaimed Ab Tak Chhapan, which he directed for Varma.
Image: Shimit Amin
A Pune man, Raghavan wrapped up college and came to Mumbai to be a journalist, but a short stint at Stardust convinced him that wasn't good for him.
This led to a direction course at the FTII, and then a struggle for two years, during which he made a short film called Raman Raghav.
His big break came when he met Ram Gopal Varma and showed him the film, after which Ramu gave him Ek Hasina Thi to direct.
Image: Sriram Raghavan
Anurag started out as a television director, helming Tara, an iconically successful 90s soap.
He worked in television right upto 2002, and made his first film Kuchh Toh Hai for Ekta Kapoor.
Then came a four-film association with Mahesh Bhatt's Vishesh films, which included smash hits Murder and Gangster. Basu's next film, Kites, is one of 2010's most highly anticipated releases.
Image: Anurag Basu
Born in Hyderabad, Kukunoor's early love for cinema didn't initially translate into a career as he became a Chemical Engineer and started working as an environmental consultant in the US.
He invested the movie he made here to back his own tiny film, Hyderabad Blues, which was a smash hit and opened the doors for all those with filmmaking dreams.
Image: Nagesh Kukunoor
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
A Delhi man, Mehra was an extremely experienced ad filmmaker -- working with clients like Coke, Pepsi and BPL -- before he got to make a music video called Aby Baby for Amitabh Bachchan.
He then got Bachchan to produce a film starring the Big B called Aks, and his distinctive style immediately won him an audience.
Image: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Another Delhi guy, Navdeep did his share of advertising work before being so consumed by film noir -- and, specifically, by Chinatown -- that he churned out a screenplay.
His Manorama Six Feet Under, a Rajasthan-based retelling of Chinatown, was an instant critical success.
Image: Navdeep Singh