Number one on my list. A pathbreaking film which heralded a new approach to film narrative in India. It opened Indian cinema to the world. I would rate Pather Panchali the most important film in the history of Indian cinema.
Director: Satyajit Ray
Charulata is a perfect film. I don't think any other Indian film has reached this level so far. It had great performances, greater cinematography and art direction, and even better narration. These two Ray films are number one and two on my list. The rest are not in any particular order.
Director: Satyajit Ray
Adoor introduced a unique way of depicting the socio-political situation of contemporary India. It is metaphorical.
Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
It is an open-ended film, quite unlike other Indian films. It makes a major statement about the continuity of history. It is about a famine, and the film is about filming the famine. Structurally, a very unique film.
Director: Mrinal Sen
It raises quite a few questions about the relationship between the State and the individual, about calamity and crisis in a subtle way. Generally, when you make films in a subtle way, emotions get dried up but this doesn't happen in Piravi.
Director: Shaji N Karun
A very honest cinematic rendering of a social situation. There is also simplicity and clarity because of which it connects with the audience.
Director: B V Karanth
It deals with one of the major events of Indian history, the Partition of India. The film does not sensationalise or sentimentalise the issue, but brings forth the trauma of displacement in a very objective way.
Director: M S Sathyu
A unique experiment in Indian cinema. It uses a very traditional folk idiom and folk structure but tells a story that is very contemporary in nature like untouchability, caste relationships, etc. It ends with a multiple interpretation.
Director: Ketan Mehta
A very interesting film. Has a very minimalistic approach, but in an effective way. It talks about the tragedy of a woman. What makes it unique is that the director uses traditional religious motions in a cinematic way.
Director: Aribam Syam Sharma
Let me add a film of mine to the list. I have used a different narrative structure here. The personal becomes the political in the film, but without showing the political development of any society. I tried to show the negative and positive of the Nehruvian era through the small world of a man.
Director: Girish Kasaravalli