11 Bollywood Directors Who Turned Out to be Awesome Actors

Did you know that Nagesh Kukunoor not only acted in the offbeat independent movie ‘Hyderabad Blues’, but directed it as well? Or, did noticed Mahesh Manjrekar’s cameo appearance in his directorial debut ‘Vaastav: The Reality’? Read on to find more such astounding facts about directors who turned actors.

By Saurav Ray

Jun 23, 2018  Updated On : Aug 25, 2018

If we compare a movie to an orchestra, the director is the conductor and the actors are musicians. While musicians play their instruments, conductors play the orchestra. Actors are the masters of their craft and specialize in one area, whereas directors are the big picture guys who have to involve in different aspects of filmmaking.


That’s why it’s difficult to even imagine a director leaving the seat behind the camera to be in front of it. However, there are some directors in the Bollywood film industry who started out as directors and went on to become excellent actors. Here is the list.


Farhan Akhtar



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Farhan Akhtar’s transition from the director’s chair to the stage is remarkable, and his performance in ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ is a testament to that! He made his directorial debut with the 2001 movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ and went on to direct successful movies such as ‘Lakshya’, ‘Don’ and ‘Don 2’. He made his acting debut with ‘Rock On!!’ and delighted cine viewers with his role in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Wazir’, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’.


Nagesh Kukunoor



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Nagesh Kukunoor put all his money he earned (about Rs 1.7 million) from his engineering career in the US in producing ‘Hyderabad Blues’, which he directed and acted. After that, he acted and directed ‘Rockford’, ‘Bollywood Calling’, ‘3 Deewarein’, ‘Hyderabad Blues 2’, ‘Dor’ and ‘Lakshmi’. He has directed successful movies such as ‘Dhanak’, ‘Mod’, ‘Iqbal’ and ‘Aashayein’.


Nishikant Kamat



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Nishikant Kamat made his Bollywood debut as the director of 2008 movie ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ and in 2011 he acted in ‘404 Error Not Found’. He went on to direct ‘Force’, ‘Drishyam’, ‘Rocky Handsome’ (he played the role of the antagonist as well) and ‘Madaari’. In the last one year, he has acted in three Bollywood movies ‘Daddy’, ‘Julie 2’ and ‘Bhavesh Joshi’.


Anurag Kashyap



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Anurag Kashyap started his career in Bollywood by co-writing Ram Gopal Varma`s ‘Satya’ and made his debut as a director with ‘Paanch’, which was never released owing to censorship issues. He then went on to direct acclaimed movies such as ‘Black Friday’, ‘Gulaal’, ‘DevD’, ‘Udaan’, ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘Ugly’, ‘Raman Raghav’, and ‘Mukkabaaz’. He made cameo appearances in numerous movies including ‘Black Friday’, ‘Trishna’, ‘Bhoothnath Returns’ and ‘Happy New Year’. He played the negative character in ‘Shagird’, ‘I Am’ and ‘Akira’.


Tigmanshu Dhulia



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The director of ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ series, ‘Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster’ series and ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ began his career in Bollywood as a casting director of ‘Bandit Queen`, before making a cameo in ‘Stiff Upper Lips’. After directing some movies including ‘Haasil’ and ‘Shagird’, he acted in ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur I&II’, ‘Shahid’, ‘Manjhi - The Mountain Man’ and ‘Hero’.


Mahesh Manjrekar



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Mahesh Manjrekar began his career in Bollywood by directing ‘Vaastav: The Reality’ in 1999 and after that he made acclaimed movies including `Astitva`, `Kurukshetra`, `Hathyar`, `Viruddh... Family Comes First`.  He acted in several movies such as ‘Kaante’, ‘Plan’, ‘Run’, ‘Musafir’, ‘Zinda’, `Dus Kahaniyaan’, ‘OMG: Oh My God!’ and ‘Bajirao Mastani’. He received rave reviews for his negative roles in ‘Wanted’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.


Tinnu Anand



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Tinnu Anand, Naam Toh Suna Hoga!! No? If you’re a fan of Amitabh Bachchan movies ‘Shahenshah’, ‘Kaalia’ and ‘Major Saab’, you’re likely to know who we are talking about. Tinnu Anand entered into Bollywood as an assistant director with ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’ and four other movies. He then directed ‘Duniya Meri Jeb Mein’ and the above-mentioned movies. He made his acting debut with 1987 silent movie ‘Pushpak’ and had since acted in numerous movies including ‘Agneepath’, ‘Dayavan’, ‘Saat Rang Ke Sapne`, ‘Kaalapani’, ‘Bombay’, ‘Krantiveer’, ‘Damini’, ‘Lajja’, ‘ Hadh Kar Di Aapne’ and ‘Dabangg’.


Sudhir Mishra



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Sudhir Mishra debuted as a director with 1987 film ‘Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin’ for which he won the National Film Award for Best Debutante Director. After that, he directed some great movies such as ‘Dharavi’, ‘Main Zinda Hoon’, ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’, ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’, ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ and ‘Inkaar’.  He has acted in `Khamosh`, `Traffic Signal`, `Raat Gayi, Baat Gayi?`, `Sazaye Maut` and `Cinema is Everywhere`.


Anurag Basu



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Anurag Basu debuted as a director in ‘Saaya’, which failed to garner commercial and critical success. His next movie ‘Murder’ became a sleeper hit, so does his next ‘Gangster’. While directing ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’ he was diagnosed with acute leukemia in 2004. After fighting the deadly disease and recuperating from it completely, he directed ‘Life in a … Metro’, ‘Kites’, ‘Barfi!’ and ‘Jagga Jasoos’.  He made his acting debut with Onir’s ‘I Am’ in which he played the role of a physician. His second movie as an actor was ‘Shamitabh’ in which he played himself.


Prakash Jha



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Prakash Jha debuted as a director with 1982 documentary ‘Shree Vats’. After making one more documentary ‘Faces After The Storm’ in 1983, he went to direct successful movies including ‘Parinati’, ‘Mrityudand’, ‘Gangaajal’, ‘Apaharan’, ‘Raajneeti’, ‘Aarakshan’, ‘Chakravyuh’ and ‘Satyagraha’. He produced, directed and acted in ‘Jai Gangaajal’. After that, he directed ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’.


Karan Johar



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The man behind Shah Rukh Khan’s lovable character Rahul in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ And ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’, Karan Johar began his Bollywood dream as an assistant director of ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, in which he acted a minor role. Apart from the first two films, he directed ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’, ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’, ‘My Name Is Khan’, ‘Student of the Year’, ‘Bombay Talkies’, ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ and ‘Lust Stories’. He played himself in a few movies before playing the antagonist in ‘Bombay Velvet’.


These are the eleven Bollywood directors who turned actors and did a great job at that.

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