Bollywood's MOST SUCCESSFUL nautch girls
Kangna Ranaut is all set to follow up her super successful turn in Krrish 3 with an entirely new avatar in her next film.
Making her debut as a nautch girl with Rajjo this Friday, November 15, Kangna follows in the footsteps of several mainstream heroines who've portrayed the character with varying degrees of success over the years.
While comparisons with erstwhile nautch girls of the silver screen are inevitable, it'll be interesting to see how Rajjo fares at the box office.
Meanwhile, here's a look at the most notable nautch girls we've seen onscreen and how they performed at the box office.
Note: Box Office collections of some of the older films may seem measly today (thanks to consistently high inflation) but anything over Rs 1 crore was then considered a huge amount of money.
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Image: Kangana Ranaut in Rajjo
Madhubala in Mughal-E-Azam (1960)
Earned Rs 5.5 crore -- Blockbuster
Suraiya was director K Asi's first choice for the role of the ill-fated courtesan Anarkali but it eventually went to Madhubala.
She worked in the film -- which was in the making for close to a decade -- despite being gravely ill.
Fortunately for the film, memorable compositions like Pyar kiya toh darna kya, Mohabbat ki jhooti and, most importantly, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala sizzling chemistry worked wonders for the film.
Image: Madhubala in Mughal-E-Azam
Hema Malini in Sharafat (1970)
Earned Rs 1.5 crore -- Average
Dream Girl Hema Malini had played a tawaif in many films.
Her most notable turn remains in Sharafat.
This was one of Hema Malini's earlier films with Dharmendra, though it did average business at the box office.
Image: Hema Malini in Sharafat
Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (1972)
Earned Rs 3 crore -- Superhit
Think of a nautch girl and the first name that comes to mind is Meena Kumari.
The kind of pathos that she brought on screen is unparalleled even today and songs like Chalte chalte, Inhi logon ne and Thare rahiyo are stuff classics are made of.
Ironically, the film was a flop in the first few weeks of its release but went on to be a big hit after Meena Kumari's demise.
Image: Meena Kumari in Pakeezah
Rekha in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)
Earned Rs 8.5 crore -- Blockbuster
In one of her most memorable roles from the 1970s, Rekha's performance as the lovelorn Zohra in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar stood out while her chemistry with Amitabh Bachchan and the hit Salaam-E-Ishq number were high points of the film.
Image: Rekha in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar
Rekha in Umrao Jaan (1981)
Earned Rs 2 crore -- Average
From the commercial world of Prakash Mehra (Muqaddar Ka Sikandar), Rekha graduated to Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan, where, by her own admission, she sleepwalked through the part.
That self-effacing statement notwithstanding, critics and the audience found her performance nuanced and one of her finest.
She went on to win a Best Actress National Award for her performance.
Image: Rekha in Umrao Jaan
Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985)
Earned Rs 9.5 crore -- Blockbuster
Mandakini's Lolita-esque act in the waterfall in Ram Teri Ganga Maili worked in the film's favour.
Another highlight was the title song, also featuring the then debutante in a red sari. The film turned out to be a blockbuster.
Image: Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili
Rati Agnihotri in Tawaif (1985)
Earned Rs 2 crore -- Average
Rati Agnihotri starrer Tawaif coincidentally released in the same year as Ram Teri Ganga Maili but instead of relying on titillation, director BR Chopra chose to address a social issue with much finesse.
While Rishi Kapoor was the most notable star in the film, it was Rati Agnihotri who won the audience over with her performance.
Image: Rati Agnihotri in Tawaif
Tabu in Jeet (1996)
Earned Rs 17.25 crore -- Hit
Tabu's power-packed performance added much weight to this otherwise one-dimensional Salman Khan and Sunny Deol starrer.
Her confrontation scenes with Ashish Vidyarthi -- who played a cop in the film -- are still remembered for their applause-worthy impact in theatres.
Image: Tabu in Jeet
Madhuri Dixit in Devdas (2002)
Earned Rs 32.5 crore -- Hit
The last actress to leave an everlasting impression as a courtesan was Madhuri Dixit.
As Chandramukhi in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's version of Devdas, she added grace to the dignified character.
The film went on to become a hit at the box office.
Image: Madhuri Dixit in Devdas
Aishwarya Rai in Umrao Jaan (2006)
Earned Rs 8 crore -- Disaster
It almost amounted to sacrilege to attempt a remake of Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan.
But JP Dutta got adventurous and tried recreating the magic with Aishwarya Rai.
Unfortunately, the burden of expectations was so high that right from the release of the music, it was a downhill journey for the film.
Image: Aishwarya Rai in Umrao Jaan