Sukanya Verma in Mumbai
Bollywood's beautiful characters, who deserve a standing ovation.
On accepting her Best Actress trophy for Blue Jasmine at the Oscars, Cate Blanchett chided Hollywood for 'foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are *niche* experiences.'
While things might not be so revolutionary back home yet, our leading ladies often outshine the hero at the scene stealing game.
Remember the time when everyone raved about Madhuri Dixit’s fire in Beta and Karisma Kapoor’s transformation in Raja Hindustani, and suggested how renaming these super-hits to Beti and Rani Hindustani would be more fitting?
Bollywood is undergoing a welcoming transition. It’s not just storytelling that has become more varied and audacious but even the scripts are writing complex, meaty roles for our actresses to sink their teeth into.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we put our hands together for some of the most mesmerising portrayals of women in recent times.
Kareena Kapoor, Jab We Met
The hugely talented Kareena Kapoor livens up a role of a lifetime by giving her all to Geet Dhillon -- the chatty, vivacious, happy-go-lucky madcap heartbeat of Jab We Met.
She’s the complete opposite of her mild-mannered leading man (Shahid Kapoor) but instead of the cuteness overload associated with such roles, Kareena lends it joie de vivre, which makes her collapse into melancholy in the latter half all the more distinct and believable.
Priyanka Chopra, Barfi!
Shunning her trademark glamour, Priyanka Chopra embodies the childlike Jhilmil without manipulation or melodrama in Anurag Basu’s Barfi!.
While most actors tackle “special” with unmistakable emphasis, PC’s lack of inhibition and a sense of self worth towards Jhilmil refreshingly suggest that none of what she does is merely for effect.
Deepika Padukone, Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram Leela
Even when she wasn’t recognised as a great actress, Deepika Padukone hasn’t done too many superfluous roles.
Padukone hits an intense note as the unrestrained woman in love in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s colourful version of Romeo & Juliet easily overpowering her co-star Ranveer Singh with her grace, grit and gorgeousness.
Sonakshi Sinha, Lootera
A sublime, poetic Sonakshi Sinha conveys the stifling limitations and dogged dreams of a girl in 1950s India.
She’s a complicated mix of naivete and spirit but the Lootera lady expresses her character’s inane belief and fey melancholy without resorting to theatrics.
The upshot is a career best delivery from an actress known to work exclusively in claptrap fare.
Alia Bhatt, Highway
After forming a fan base of young kids post-Student of the Year, Alia Bhatt aims to impress the older lot with her work in Highway.
The young actress amazes both -- critics and audience -- through her second film, exuding a rare vulnerability relating a traumatic history of abuse and denial to explain her reckless decision, which changes a kidnapping into a road trip.
Kangna Ranaut, Tanu Weds Manu
Kangna Ranaut and R Madhavan team up to enact the opposites attract prototype in the whimsical Tanu Weds Manu.
But more than Madhavan’s Mr Nice Guy routine, it’s Ranaut’s quirky representation of a wild, unpredictable spirit charting her own rules, enriched by an unintentionally hilarious accent and impromptu humour that lingers on.
Parineeti Chopra, Hasee Toh Phasee
She’s not your regular oddball but an errant child woman with daddy issues and drug dependency.
In any other hands, Parineeti Chopra’s slightly “off” Meeta in Hasee Toh Phasee would have appeared daft. But Parineeti makes her fun, foolhardy and worth rooting for in this rom-com with a difference.
Vidya Balan, Kahaani
Right from Parineeta, Vidya Balan proved talent speaks better than any marketing genius or glossy cover girl promotion. And that irresistible prowess single-handedly carried movies like The Dirty Picture and Kahaani on her reliable shoulder.
Unlike TDP’s erotic quotient, Kahaani is purely concerned with storytelling. Balan’s more-than-meets-the-eye fervour and insight as a pregnant woman in search of her husband makes it work to produce memorable results.
Nimrat Kaur, The Lunchbox
A neglected housewife corresponds with a stranger over a lunchbox wrongly delivered without a trace of maudlin melodrama.
A terrific Nimrat Kaur captures this unexplained attraction and world of loneliness through her remarkable range of pensive expressions as she soaks in every word of the letter addressed to her or closely communicates with the neighbour we never see; it’s a performance worth savouring as wholeheartedly as the creations of her dabba.
Sridevi, English Vinglish
Silver screen has witnessed many a comeback vehicles but nothing as reassuring and magical as Sridevi’s return in English Vinglish.
Always to understand the significance of nuances and discipline in front of the camera, Sridevi is scarily accurate in conveying a shy housewife’s devotion, despair and discovery as she takes a break from routine and travels across seven seas to realise a facet of her personality unknown even to her.
Sonam Kapoor, Raanjhanaa
Bollywood is so preoccupied with the black and white of emotion; it seldom delves on the grey.
And so it’s promising to see the extent Sonam Kapoor endorses this state of mind as Zoya in the high-strung Raanjhanaa.
Her transformation from smitten to sour is open to judgement yet it’s this very uncompromising tone of her hostility that makes Zoya so intriguing.