Famous 20th Century Indian Writers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore
72
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 7, 1861
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: August 7, 1941

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

 2 Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie
7
Famous As: British-Indian novelist
Birthdate: June 19, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mumbai

Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist whose work Midnight's Children is widely considered the best novel of all Booker Prize winners. In 2007, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to literature. In 2008, he was ranked 13th in the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 list published by The Times.

 3 Sarojini Naidu

Sarojini Naidu
12
Famous As: Poet and Freedom Fighter
Birthdate: February 13, 1879
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hyderabad, India
Died: March 2, 1949

Sarojini Naidu was an Indian poet and political activist. An important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, she was a proponent of anti-imperialistic ideas, women's rights, and civil rights. Her illustrious career as a poet earned her the nickname Nightingale of India. After India became independent, she became the first woman to hold the office of Governor in the Dominion of India.

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 4 Mammootty

Mammootty
5
Famous As: actor, film producer, screenwriter, film actor
Birthdate: September 7, 1951
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chempu

National Film Award- and Padma Shri-winning Indian Malyali actor Muhammad Kutty Panaparambil Ismail, or Mammootty, is a superstar in Southern India. Initially a lawyer, he later soared to fame with films such as Vidheyan and Mathilukal. He also chairs Malayalam Communications and is devoted to medical and other charitable causes.

 5 Ruskin Bond

Ruskin Bond
11
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 19, 1934
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kasauli
Sahitya Akademi Award-winning children’s author Ruskin Bond is best known for creating the protagonist Rusty, modeled on his childhood in Dehradun and found in his books such as The Room on the Roof. Many of his books, such as The Blue Umbrella have been made into films. 

 6 Shreya Ghoshal

Shreya Ghoshal
4
Famous As: Singer, Writer, Actor, Composer
Birthdate: March 12, 1984
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Durgapur

National Award-winning singer Shreya Ghoshal grew up in Rajasthan and later moved to Mumbai, where her electrical engineer father was posted. After gaining attention with the talent show Sa Re Ga Ma, the classically trained artist was catapulted to fame with her playback singing in Devdas, and never looked back.

 7 R. K. Narayan

R. K. Narayan
12
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 10, 1906
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: May 13, 2001

Remembered as one of the greatest authors of Indian literature in English, R. K. Narayan created the iconic character Swami and related his experiences set in the fictional town of Malgudi. The Sahitya Akademi and Padma Vibhushan winner was also the brother of cartoonist R.K. Laxman.

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 8 Meena Kumari

Meena Kumari
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bombay, Bombay Presidency, India
Died: March 31, 1972

Known as Hindi cinema’s “Tragedy Queen,” Meena Kumari is remembered for her stellar performances in films such as Pakeezah and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. The four-time Filmfare-winning actor sank into alcoholism after her separation from her abusive husband, director Kamal Amrohi, and died of liver cirrhosis.

 9 Javed Akhtar

Javed Akhtar
5
Famous As: Screenwriter, Politician, Writer, Poet, Lyricist, Songwriter
Birthdate: January 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India

Born into a family of Urdu poets from Gwalior, renowned Indian lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar had initially been a screenwriter, along with Salim Khan, for films such as Sholay and Deewaar. The Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan winner has also been a Rajya Sabha MP.

 10 Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat
6
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: April 22, 1974
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New Delhi, India
Indian investment banker-turned-writer Chetan Bhagat is known for his bestselling novels such as Five Point Someone and One Night @ the Call Center. Many Bollywood movies, such as Kai Po Che! and 3 Idiots, have been adapted from his novels, with the former winning him a Filmfare Award.

 11 Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria
5
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: January 20, 1964
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Fareed Zakaria is an Indian-American journalist, author, and political commentator. He has been serving as an editor-at-large for Time and editor for Newsweek International. He has also been serving as a columnist for Newsweek. His show, Fareed Zakaria GPS, which he hosts for CNN, has won a Peabody Award

 12 Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor
6
Famous As: Writer, Politician, Diplomat
Birthdate: March 9, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London

Born in London, to an Indian couple, Shashi Tharoor is known for his award-winning books such as the The Great Indian Novel and his over-the-top English vocabulary. Tharoor is also a Congress MP. He made headlines when his wife Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel.

 13 Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy
13
Famous As: Novelist, Writer, Screenwriter, Essayist
Birthdate: November 24, 1961
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Assam

Apart from her bestselling books such as The God of Small Things, Man Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy is also known for her left-wing political activism. Born to a Syrian Christian mother and an Indian Hindu father, Roy had initially studied architecture and worked as a script writer.

 14 Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Harivansh Rai Bachchan
6
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: November 27, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Prayagraj, India
Died: January 18, 2003

A pioneer of Hindi romantic poetry and the Chhayavaad movement, Harivanshrai Bachchan is best remembered for his book of 135 quatrains, Madhushala. He was the first Indian to earn a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University. He was also the father of legendary Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.

 15 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
10
Famous As: Independence Activist, Reformer
Birthdate: May 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bhagur
Died: February 26, 1966

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.

 16 Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad
4
Famous As: Linguist, Author, Film director, Actor, Translator, Screenwriter
Birthdate: May 19, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Matheran, Maharashtra, India

Actor, film director and playwright, Girish Karnad was also a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree in philosophy, political science and economics. A prolific writer, he authored scores of plays in Kannada, which were later translated into other languages. Also an eminent actor, film director and screenwriter, he was conferred with numerous awards including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.

 17 Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: June 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kolkata

Vikram Seth is an Indian poet and novelist. He is credited with increasing the readership of the English language in India. A revered and celebrated writer, Vikram Seth has been honored with several prestigious awards, such as the Sahitya Academy Award, WH Smith Literary Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, Crossword Book Award, Padma Shri, Commonwealth Poetry Prize, and Commonwealth Writers Prize.

 18 Nasser Hussain

Nasser Hussain
3
Famous As: Cricketer
Birthdate: March 28, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Madras, India

Born to an Indian Muslim father and a British mother in Madras, Nasser Hussain moved to England with his family, as a child. At 12, he was the youngest to join the Essex Under-15 cricket team. He grew up to become one of the best English Test cricket captains.

 19 Soumitra Chatterjee

Soumitra Chatterjee
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 19, 1935
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Krishnanagar, Bengal Presidency, British India

Soumitra Chatterjee was an Indian film actor, director, writer, playwright, singer, and poet. He often collaborated with prominent director Satyajit Ray, with whom he worked in 14 films. A veteran actor with over 210 film appearances, he was the recipient of multiple prestigious awards, including the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India's highest award in cinema given by the government of India.  

 20 Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh
5
Famous As: Novelist, Lawyer, Journalist & Politician
Birthdate: February 2, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hadali, British India (now in Khushab District, Punjab, Pakistan)
Died: March 20, 1999

Known for his bestselling book Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh was a reputed lawyer, politician, and journalist. He was also known for his widely popular column With Malice towards One and All, which was featured in many Indian newspapers. His post-colonial writings mirrored his wit and sarcasm.

 21 Amrita Pritam

Amrita Pritam
5
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 31, 1919
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Gujranwala
Died: October 31, 2005

Amrita Pritam was an Indian poet, essayist, and novelist who wrote in Hindi and Punjabi languages. She is widely regarded as the first major female Punjabi poet and the leading Punjabi-language poet of the 20th century. In 1956, she was honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award, becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious award.

 22 Ashutosh Rana

Ashutosh Rana
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 10, 1967
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gadarwara, Madhya Pradesh, India

While he initially played Ravana in local Ramleela productions of his native state Madhya Pradesh, Indian actor Ashutosh Rana later soared to fame with the series Swabhimaan. The NSD alumnus later won Filmfare awards for his roles in Dushman and Sangharsh. He is married to actor Renuka Shahane.

 23 Kiran Bedi

Kiran Bedi
4
Famous As: Police officer
Birthdate: June 9, 1949
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Amritsar, India

Kiran Bedi is an Indian police officer and social activist. In 1972, she became the first Indian woman to serve as an officer in the Indian Police Service. From 2016 to 2021, she served as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, playing an important role in the development of the Indian Union Territory. Her life has inspired many films, including Karthavyam.

 24 Mahasweta Devi

Mahasweta Devi
5
Famous As: Human rights activist, Writer, Poet, Novelist, Educator, Short story writer
Birthdate: January 14, 1926
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dhaka
Died: July 28, 2016

Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning Indian author Mahasweta Devi is regarded as a gem of the Bengali literary world. She had also been a left-wing social activist, and her works such as Hajar Churashir Maa and Rudali have either tribals or people from the marginalized communities as their protagonists.

 25 Mulk Raj Anand

Mulk Raj Anand
3
Birthdate: December 12, 1905
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Peshawar, Pakistan
Died: September 28, 2004

Mulk Raj Anand was an Indian writer best remembered for his depiction of the people belonging to the backward class in traditional Indian society. Anand, who wrote in English, was one of the first Indian writers to achieve an International readership. In 1968, Mulk Raj Anand was honored with India's third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.

 26 Palak Muchhal

Palak Muchhal
5
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 30, 1992
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Indore

 27 Rahul Khanna

Rahul Khanna
5
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 20, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bombay, Maharashtra, India

Rahul Khanna is an Indian film actor and writer best known for his work in the Hindi film industry. He is also known as the elder son of popular actor Vinod Khanna. Apart from working in the film industry, Rahul Khanna also appears on TV, hosting important events like the Miss India pageant, the IIFA Awards, and the Screen Awards.

 28 Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh
3
Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Journalist
Birthdate: July 11, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kolkata

Jnanpith- and Padma Shri-winning author Amitav Ghosh is best known for his iconic bestselling books such as The Calcutta Chromosome and The Hungry Tide. Initially employed with the Indian Express, he later also wrote for publications such as The New Yorker. He is also a regular at international film festivals.

 29 Tom Alter

Tom Alter
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 23, 1950
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: September 29, 2017

 30 M. Karunanidhi

M. Karunanidhi
4
Famous As: Politician, Screenwriter, Author, Journalist, Writer
Birthdate: June 3, 1924
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Died: August 7, 2018

The patriarch of the Karunanidhi political family of India, M. Karunanidhi had been the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for almost 20 years. The DMK leader was also a noted scriptwriter and author, having written films such as Parasakthi. His son, M. K. Stalin is the current Tamil Nadu chief minister.

 31 Atlee Kumar

Atlee Kumar
4
Famous As: Director
Birthdate: September 21, 1986
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

 32 Kumar Vishwas

Kumar Vishwas
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 10, 1970
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Pilkhuwa, Uttar Pradesh, India

Kumar Vishwas is a Hindi poet, politician and lecturer. He was an active member of the anti-corruption movement, Indian Against Corruption, and was also one of the founder members of Aam Aadmi Party. Kumar Vishwas is known for his comments on topical issues relating to India.

 33 Sahir Ludhianvi

Sahir Ludhianvi
3
Famous As: Poet, Lyricist, Songwriter
Birthdate: March 8, 1921
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Q25628431
Died: October 25, 1980

Sahir Ludhianvi was an Indian poet and film lyricist best remembered for his works written in the Hindi and Urdu languages. He wrote lyrics for a number of memorable Hindi film songs. He was a member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement. Sahir was a staunch secularist, and he did not practise any religion

 34 Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

Ramdhari Singh Dinkar
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 23, 1908
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Simaria
Died: April 24, 1974

Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was an Indian poet, academic, patriot, and essayist. Regarded as one of the most prominent modern Hindi poets, Dinkar played an important role during the Indian independence movement,; writing poems that sparked nationalism. In 1959, he was honored with the prestigious Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award. The same year, he also received the Sahitya Akademi Award.

 35 Sudha Murty

Sudha Murty
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: August 19, 1950
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Shiggaon, Haveri, Karnataka, India

Known for her humility and simplicity, Indian philanthropist and author Sudha Murty had humble beginnings as a TELCO engineer. She is married to Infosys co-founder Narayan Murty and heads the Infosys Foundation. The Padma Shri winner has penned over 200 titles, such as Dollar Bahu, in both Kannada and English.

 36 Kazi Nazrul Islam

Kazi Nazrul Islam
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 24, 1899
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Churulia, India
Died: August 29, 1976

The Rebel Poet of Bengal Kazi Nazrul Islam is remembered for his vast body of literary work, including poems and songs written during the British Raj, mostly laced with socio-political overtones. His songs, known as Nazrul Geeti, are the staple for any Bengali household. He is also Bangladesh’s national poet.

 37 Dinesh D'Souza

Dinesh D'Souza
5
Famous As: Conservationists
Birthdate: April 25, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Born to Goan Christians in Bombay, Dinesh D'Souza later moved to the U.S. for higher studies. The Indian-American right-wing filmmaker and writer is known for his anti-Obama documentary 2016: Obama's America. Convicted of illegal campaign contribution, he was later pardoned by Trump. He was also associated with an adultery scandal.

 38 Gulzar

Gulzar
4
Famous As: Lyricist
Birthdate: August 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dina, Punjab

Famed Indian lyricist, poet, author, screenwriter, and film director Gulzar has been a major figure in Bollywood for over six decades. He started doing odd jobs as a teenager and eventually entered films, where he made a name for himself as a lyricist and screenwriter. He soon started directing films as well. He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards.

 39 Zakir Naik

Zakir Naik
7
Famous As: Physician, Writer, Intellectual, Preacher
Birthdate: October 18, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mumbai

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik is also the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation and his own broadcast network, Peace TV. Though a qualified surgeon, he later gained fame as a public speaker. His channel is banned in multiple countries, such as India, Bangladesh, and the UK, for its extremist nature.

 40 J. P. Dutta

J. P. Dutta
3
Famous As: Film producer
Birthdate: October 3, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mumbai, India

 41 Madhur Jaffrey

Madhur Jaffrey
3
Famous As: Actor, Television actor, Film actor, Writer, Film director
Birthdate: August 13, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Delhi

 42 Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi

Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi
3
Famous As: Islamic Scholar, Reformer
Birthdate: June 14, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bareilly
Died: October 28, 1921

Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.

 43 Suresh Oberoi

Suresh Oberoi
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 17, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Quetta, Baluchistan, British India

Born in Quetta in British India, Suresh Oberoi relocated to Hyderabad after the Partition. A great athlete, he began modeling and then stepped into acting. Mostly a character actor, he won the National Film Award for Mirch Masala. He is also known as the father of actor Vivek Oberoi.

 44 Kuvempu

Kuvempu
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 29, 1904
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chikkamagaluru district
Died: November 11, 1994

One of the greatest Kannada literary figures to have ever lived, Jnanpith Award- and Padma Vibhushan-winning author Kuvempu had written the state anthem of Karnataka, Jaya Bharata Jananiya Tanujate. He was also an academic who had served as the Mysore University vice-chancellor and often voiced his concerns on social issues.

 45 Tanikella Bharani

Tanikella Bharani
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 14, 1954
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Secunderabad, Hyderabad State (now Telangana), India

 46 M. T. Vasudevan Nair

M. T. Vasudevan Nair
3
Famous As: Author, Film director, Screenwriter
Birthdate: July 15, 1933
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Palakkad, Kerala, India

Known as MT to his fans, M. T. Vasudevan Nair is a legendary figure of Malayali literature. He gained popularity with works such as Naalukettu and Asuravithu, which mostly reflected the social and cultural aspects of his home state, Kerala. He is also a National Award-winning screenplay writer.

 47 Nandana Sen

Nandana Sen
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 19, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Calcutta, West Bengal, India

Nandana Sen is an Indian actress, children's rights activist, children's author, and screenwriter. Apart from appearing in Indian films, Nandana Sen has also appeared in Italian, Canadian, and American films. She has also been playing an important role in fighting against the crisis of child trafficking. She has also written six children's books, including The Monkey Who Wanted to Fly.

 48 Kalpana

Kalpana
3
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 5, 1965
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Thiruvananthapuram district Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Died: January 25, 2016

 49 Ramanand Sagar

Ramanand Sagar
3
Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Film producer, Writer
Birthdate: December 29, 1917
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Lahore
Died: December 12, 2005

 50 Anita Desai

Anita Desai
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 24, 1937
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mussoorie, India