"Mera Shauq Tha Aur Manoranjan Ne Mera Shauq Poora Kiya."
Many well known Bollywood actors switched to directing films, whilst continuing to act in them also.
With the exception of a few, most of these Bollywood actors who became film directors also played the lead role themselves.
For many of these performers, becoming directors was a natural progression for their creativity. There were others who went into direction purely as they had a keen interest in film making.
Raj Kapoor (late), Guru Dutt (late) and Feroz Khan (late) were at their very best when directing and starring in the same films.
In many ways, these three Bollywood actors were very innovational and ahead of times as directors.
We look at 11 Bollywood actors who have directed themselves over the years.
Legendary actor Raj Kapoor was the ultimate showman director. Aag (1948) was his directional debut, portraying the country boy Kewal Khanna in it.
He played a lead role in five further films that he directed. The musical Barsaat (1949) went on to depict the various notions of love, with Kapoor being the wealthy and thoughtful Pran.
The crime drama Awara (1951) saw India’s class division as the main treatment. Director Kapoor shows how the son of a judge does not follow the same profession. Playing thief Raju, Kapoor’s character is like Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp.”
With the sentimental story of Shree 420 (1955), Kapoor gave himself a vagabond country boy image. His Chaplinesque character of Ranbir Raj embarks on a journey to Bombay for a better future.
Sangam (1964) was Kapoor’s first colour film as a director. This glossy love triangle features Kapoor as Sundar Khanna.
Finally, he wore the circus clown boots for the character Raju in his mammoth autobiographical fantasy film Mera Naam Joker (1970). The film had a very fairy tale and dream-like structure.
He won ‘Best Director’ Filmfare Awards for Sangam and Mera Naam Joker.
His most popular pairing was with actress Nargis, featuring in three of the aforementioned films.
He also had a close association with screenwriter Khwaja Ahmad Abaas, music directors Shankar-Jaikishan and vocalists Mukesh and Manna Dey.
Actor Guru Dutt took to direction early on his career, becoming a master in this field. His first film as a director was the action ship adventure Baaz (1951), starring also as the Malabar prince Raj Kumar Ravi.
His innovative directorial crime drama Aar Paar (1954) saw Guru Dutt acting as Kalu the taxi driver and mechanic.
He wore his director’s shoes for the social comedy, Mr & Mrs 55 (1955). Dutt adopts the role of a poor likeable beggar and cartoonist Preetam Kumar in this film.
The plot of the film uses critical humour to address the gradual reforms of India’s upper class.
Pyaasa (1957) was a dark melodrama, highlighting the life of a homeless poet named Vijay.
His final film as a director and actor was the elaborate and semi-autobiographical fantasy Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959).
This complex film follows the life of famous movie director Suresh Sinha (Guru Dutt) through flashback.
Dutt’s close associates in his films included writer Abrar Alvi and cinematographer Venkatarama Pandit Krishnamurthy.
Actor Johnny Walker was also a permanent fixture in his films. Additionally, he had a hand in the introduction of actress Waheeda Rehman.
The handsome Sunil Dutt (late) had the dual responsibility of director-actor in three films between the 70s and 80s.
The experimental monologue mystery film Yaadein (1964), saw Dutt taking on the role of Anil. The movie shows Anil arriving home, only to find out that his wife and children are not there.
With his wife Priya (Nargis) leaving a note behind, Anil begins to recollect memories from the past. Whilst Anil is regretful, he desperately wants to reunite with his family.
Dutt is very creative with his camera angles, sound, caricatures for this black and white noir film. Anil is the only single character in the film, with Priya and two child characters appearing in silhouettes
Dutt’s next film Reshma Aur Shera (1971) is an action drama film. The film follows the love story of Reshma (Waheeda Rehman) and Shera (Sunil Dutt), despite belonging to rival families.
Things get messy for the two lovers as the film develops. Shera wows to kill his brother Chhotu (Amitabh Bachhan) after he is responsible for the murders of Reshma’s father and brother Gopal (Ranjeet).
The film also has wonderful costumes and desert locations, reflecting Rajasthani culture.
Playing Shankar, Dutt also has a small part in Rocky (1981) – his third film as a director. The young educated Shankar who works for Ratanlal (Anwar Hussain) in the construction business is killed early on in the film.
Shankar is survived by wife Parvati (Rakhee) and son Rakesh/Rocky D’Souza (Sanjay Dutt). Rocky is on a mission to avenge his father’ death.
Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar starred in the film romantic drama film, Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966).
Despite being uncredited, Dilip Kumar also directed the film after falling out with director Abdul Rashid Kardar (credited).
The colour film tells the story of Shankar, the adopted son of a Thakur (DK Sapru). Shankar who works on the farmlands is mistreated by Thakur’s tyrant son Ramesh (Pran).
Shankar loves Ramesh’s sister Roopa (Waheeda Rehman) and wants to marry her. However, Shankar is beaten by men instructed by Ramesh.
After surviving near-death, Shankar comes to know that he is the heir of a kingdom. This changes everything for Shankar as he gets the better of both Ramesh and Roopa.
In the end, everything falls in place for Shankar and Roopa. Praising the performances of the actors, an IMDb user writes:
“The performance by Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Pran, and Rani [Tarabai] are commendable.”
The film also did very well at the box office and was declared a hit.
The cowboy of Indian cinema Feroz Khan had a successful time as director and actor.
Way ahead of times, his films became famous for their breathtaking sceneries, bold heroines, stylish looks, melodious tunes and cars.
In the action-drama Apradh (1972), Khan dons his auto car racing gear as Ram Khanna. He escapes from a gang in Germany with his seductive lover Meena (Mumtaz).
But after arriving in India everything goes wrong for Ram, especially with his brother Harnam (Prem Chopra) influencing him to crime.
His second directorial Dharmatma (1975) saw Feroz playing the honest and brave Ranbir. The action-thriller highlights Ranbir’s estranged relationship with his father Dharmadas Dharmatma (Prem Nath), a gangster with a kind heart.
The film also shows a short love story between Ranbir and Reshma (Hema Malini) in Afghanistan.
The direction of the song ‘Kya Khoob Lagti Ho’ in the beautiful Bamiyan valley is a visual delight, featuring both Ranbir and Reshma.
In addition, the film reveals the close bond that Ranbir has with his sister Mona (Farida Jalal). Following the murders of Reshma, Dharmatma and Mona, Ranbir has the final say.
His most popular film as director and actor was Qurbani (1980). In this film, Khan plays the character of Rajesh, a motorcycle stuntman small-time thief.
Rajesh falls in love with cabaret dancer and singer Sheila (Zeenat Aman). Rajesh also has a close friendship with widower Amar (Vinod Khanna) not knowing that he also admires Sheila.
In the end, Amar sacrifices his life for Rajesh as Vikram Singh (Shakti Kapoor) shoots him in London.
Rajesh’s look and smoking in the disco song ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ by late Nazia Hassan highlights how Feroz was influenced by the west.
Rajesh also features in an action scene with Rakka (Amrish Puri) where a Mercedes car is completely destroyed. It was definitely clear that authenticity was important for Khan as a director.
Late dancing hero Shammi Kapoor starred in two films that he directed himself. This was during the latter part of his career when he had put much more weight.
His first film as director was the entertaining movie Manoranjan (1974). Kapoor plays the role of Dhoop Chaaon, a hotel owner in the heart of a red light district area.
His colourful character is very supportive of Constable Ratan ‘Sheru’ (Late Sanjeev Kumar). Ratan also disguises himself as a Nawab so that prostitute Nisha (Zeenat Aman) is unable to sell her body.
To promote the hilarious film, Shammi also directed a video publication named, “Shammi Kapoor Presents Manoranjan.”
Although the film did not so so well at the box office, Manoranjan became a cult classic favourite amongst fans.
Speaking about why he went into direction with Manoranjan, Kapoor told The Quint:
“Mera Shauq Tha Aur Manoranjan Ne Mera Shauq Poora Kiya.” [I had an interest, which Manoranjan fulfilled].
His next adventure as a director was the fantasy film Bundal Baaz (1976). An Indian version of Alladin, the romantic comedy was somewhat for the children.
Kapoor plays an old genie who assists Rajaram (Rajesh Khanna) to better his lifestyle. With his magical powers, the genie also helps Rajaram to marry Nisha Sharma (Sulakshna Pandit).
The film did receive critical acclaim, despite being unsuccessful at the box office.
The late actor-villain Amjad Khan took on the directors hat, with himself adopting pivotal roles in two films.
His first outing as a director-actor was in the action-drama, Chor Police (1983), playing the character of Barkhi Khan. Circumstances lead Barkhi astray as his involvement with criminals gets him into trouble.
Amjad also has several scenes in the film with actors Shatrughan Sinha (Inspector Sunil Rana) and late Kader Khan (Dr Sunil Rana).
The censor board also had some issues with this film, annoying Amjad at the time. Amjad directed the famous Asha Bhonsle track ‘Aaj Mera Dil Jhoom Jhoom Gaye‘ for this film.
Additionally, Amjad plays the somewhat comical Akram in the film Ameer Aadmi Ghareeb Aadmi (1983).
The film revolves around a rich mill owner Lal (Imtiaz Khan) and his poor workers.
After mill worker Subhash Gaekwad (Kader Khan) is wrongly imprisoned courtesy of Lal and his men, Advocate Ashok Saxena (Shatrughan Sinha) and Akram come to his rescue.
Despite having interesting themes, Chor Police and Ameer Aadmi Ghareeb Aadmi could only manage average businesses at the box office.
Rakesh Roshan made some important guest appearances in a few films that he directed. Roshan portrays the role of Vikram Saxena in the action thriller Khoon Bari Maang (1988).
Under mysterious circumstances, Vikram meets death following a road accident. Though the film does not visibly show this.
Roshan’s character is shown in a series of flashbacks. His wife Aarti Verma (Rekha) remembers the good times spent with him.
Roshan also appears in the song ‘Hanste Hanste Kat Jaye Raaste.’
Furthermore, Roshan went onto play the scientist Sanjay Mehra in the sci-fi film, Koi… Mil Gaya (2003).
Sanjay develops a computer, which sends sound sequences to space, hoping to draw interest from life outside of earth. However, the science fraternity ridicules him upon receiving a response.
Roshan’s character is killed off after he gets distracted by an overhead spacecraft when driving home with his pregnant wife Sonia Mehra (Rekha). Driving off the road, his car suffers an explosion.
Roshan also has a dream appearance as Sanjay Mehra in Krrish (2006).
Action hero Sunny Deol directed two films, along with featuring in lead roles. Sunny made his debut as a director in the drama film Dillagi (1999).
The film revolves around brothers Ranvir (Sunny Deol) and Rajvir (Bobby Deol). Ranvir’s character is quite responsible as he manages to turn his family restaurant to a successful business,
Not knowing, Ranvir arranges Rajvir’s marriage to Shalini (Urmila Matondkar), a woman he also fancies. Watch Dillagi and see how this love saga unfolds.
His second film as a director was Ghayal: Once Again. Sunny Deol reprises his character of Ajay Mehra in this sequel to the hit film Ghayal (1990).
The movie begins with flashbacks from Ghayal, showing Ajay killing Balwant Rai (Late Amrish Puri). After avenging his brother’s death, Ajay gives himself up to ACP Joe D’Souza (Late Om Puri).
Post prison release, Ajay becomes an investigative reporter for the print medium.
Despite a new career in investigative journalism, memories from his past continue to haunt Ajay. His psychiatrist girlfriend Riya (Soha Ali Khan) counsels him with his issues.
After discovering a video showing the murder of D’Souza, Ajay goes out looking for his murderers. The film was a success at the box office.
Marking his directorial debut, the inspirational Taare Zameen Par (2007) was helmed by Aamir Khan.
Aamir also has a very vital role in the film, playing the passionately influential art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh.
He creatively supports Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi (Darsheel Safary), a dyslexic child whose talent previously goes to waste and is misunderstood.
Besides the performances of the teacher and his student, Aamir’s direction was really appreciated. Indicine reviewing the film applauded Aamir for the way he managed such a sensitive subject matter:
“Aamir Khan, the director, has handled the delicate theme with dexterity and precision.
“He has not just succeeded in making every child a hero but actually helped us see a child in ourselves.”
Taare Zameen Par was certainly a great effort for a debutant director. Although, Aamir credits writer Amole Gupte for giving this beautiful story and helping him along the journey.
Aamir collected ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Film’ at the 2008 Filmfare Awards. He also bagged the National Film Award for ‘Best Film on Family Welfare.’
Ajay Devgn has starred in two films whilst directing. Devgn marked his debut as a director with the serious romantic drama U Me Aur Hum (2008).
The film shows how the love story of psychiatrist Dr Ajay Mehra (Ajay Devgn) and Piya (Kajol) dramatically changes after marriage.
Upon learning that Piya suffers from Alzheimer’s, Dr Mehra is forced to leave her in a mental hospital.
Raj Sen gave a positive review of Devgn’s direction, writing:
“Ajay Devgan’s first is an impressive directorial debut that starts abruptly but gathers force as it goes along, ending up finding its own voice [as] a powerful romantic drama.”
His second directorial Shivaay was an action-thriller. Starring Ajay Devgn in the title role and foreign actors, the film was Devgn’s most expensive production.
Mountaineering expert Shivaay is the central character of the film. Shivaaay falls in love with Olga (Erika Kaar) after meeting and rescuing her from an avalanche.
But after Olga delivers an unwanted child, she leaves Shivaay and goes to Bulgaria.
Years later Shivaay travels to Bulgaria after his mute daughter Gaura (Abigail Eames) insists that she wants to meet her mother.
Whilst trying to locate Olga, A group of child traffickers kidnap Gaura. With the Bulgarian police creating hurdles for Shivaay, he is up against time to rescue his daughter.
The film received ‘Best Special Effects’ at the 64th National Film Awards in 2017. Aseem Bajaj executes Ajay’s directorial vision for both films with his brilliant cinematography.
The only other notable omission from this list is actor Master Bhagwan who directed and appeared in the musical comedy Albela (1951).
Meanwhile, there is a lot that can be learnt from the above mentioned Bollywood actors who made the transition to directing. They all highlighted some very key issues and themes with their films.