One of the determining factors for any filmmaker's greatness could be the level of inspiration they evoke amongst the believers. In that light names of Bimal Roy, Vijay Anand, Shyam Benegal, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Yash Chopra would make it to most lists and so would Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Mehboob Khan, K Asif, Gulzar, Manmohan Desai and even Prakash Mehra. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Manmohan Desai and Yash Chopra might have been the biggest influences on the present crop of filmmakers but then Hrishida was himself greatly inspired by Bimal Roy and Yash Chopra patterned his career on his bhaisahab BR Chopra to a great extent. And the intangible but the more than subtle influence of Vijay Anand on most filmmakers who followed him can't be denied. While both Asif and Mehboob's significance can't be questioned their prominence is largely limited to the greatness of Mughal-e-Azam and Mother India. So, is there something more than the extent of inspiration that makes a filmmaker truly great?
Recall the cinema of those mentioned above and you'd notice how honesty in their art is one common binding factor across decades and genres. These filmmakers rarely channelized their energies on something that they didn't believe in. Be it a classic from the word go like Guide or something as outlandish as Amar Akbar Anthony a filmmaker's sincerity, or the lack of it, translates onto the screen. It's this honesty that permeates unto us when we sit through something as bizarre as Dharam-Veer, a film where in the same time frame Dharmendra wears Roman toga, Jeetendra dons breezy Victorian shirts, Zeenat Aman looks like the three-dimensional incarnation of Evelyn from He-Man comics and Pran fancies himself to be a Samurai! Compared to yesteryears contemporary filmmakers seem to be more interested in the packaging and presentation of their films than the content. The film's technical finesse gains paramount importance and many times the story is an accepted form of collateral damage. Based on the book of the same name Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday had everything needed to make an intriguing film but the synthetic approach, perhaps an offshoot of trying to remain faithful to the original subject, kept the film at a distance. A deeper look at some modern day great films like Rajkumar Hirani's 3 Idiots reveals a lack of natural warmth. Hirani uses his signature style of telling something as serious and real as the societal pressures on students to excel in an extremely funny and anti-authoritarian manner, yet the film that pulls more than all the right plugs seems a tad too manufactured to elicit the right reaction from the audience.
Today honesty in filmmaking is limited to trivial details like if the film was shot on location (Gangs of Wasseypur) or just how readily the star donned real looking fake moustache (Dabangg). Mother India was shot largely on soundstages while Naya Daur on authentic locations but that never changed anything as far being genuine was concerned on the part of the director. In spite of more honesty in the work filmmakers of past there's no doubt that on an average cinema today is more authentic than ever before when it comes to detailing but that still doesn't score more points for present day filmmakers. There's also a great deal of stress on how intricately does a filmmaker know the world he/ she creates and that often ends up becoming a yardstick for greatness. Dibakar Banerjee's west Delhi is a world that he inhabited for half his life and thence a Khosla Ka Ghosla or an Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye looks as real as possible. But it's Banerjee's approach that makes a film like Love, Sex Aur Dhoka equally visceral even though he might not have known people who whacked their own in a khap panchayat manner or made lewd sex tapes of innocent girls willing to do anything to prove their love. Unlike Banerjee the other young filmmakers seem to posses a limited worldview, which could be the reason why Farhan Akhtar's filmography with a Lakshaya and two Dons doesn't include an honest film post Dil Chahta Hai or the difference that exists between the Aditya Chopra of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and the Aditya Chopra of Rab Ne Banadi Jodi. God knows which college was Karan Johar thinking of when he imagined Kuch Kuch Hota Hai way back in 1998 and then Student of the Year almost 15-years later.