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The '90s Bollywood Heroines Are Back!

January 24, 2024 09:27 IST
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Back in the 1990s, a deluge of fresh talent hit silver screen.

Raw, ravishing and raring to go, they slowly but steadily made a place for themselves beyond the realm of song and dance.

For some, marriage or motherhood beckoned and they consciously slowed down.

Things are much better now.

The OTT boom has proved a boon for a lot of hibernating '90s beauties as they rediscover themselves in exciting new avatars.

Sukanya Verma shows us how.


Raveena Tandon
How it started: Patthar Ke Phool
How it's going: Karmma Calling

Film-maker Ravi Tandon's daughter made her big debut opposite Salman Khan under the G P Sippy banner, but success evaded her until Rajiv Rai's action-packed potboiler, Mohra. Once the Mast Mast tag stuck though, there was no looking back.

It was only when Raveena shed her glamorous image for serious, author-backed roles in dramas like Shool, Satta and Daman that a National Award win followed.

Marriage to distributor Anil Thadani and two kids, Rasha and Ranbirvardhan, slowed her down a bit but following her acclaimed portrayal of a hill station cop in Netflix series Aranyak and prime minister in KGF 2, all eyes are on Raveena to dazzle in the Web series Karmma Calling, an official remake of Revenge.


Shilpa Shetty
How it started: Baazigar
How it's going: Indian Police Force

Shilpa's debut Baazigar featured her in one of the most iconic, spine-chilling scenes of Baazigar.

Despite her flair for comedy and dance, the fitness conscious actress wouldn't really make a splash until her win at British reality television series, Celebrity Big Brother.

Soon after, she tied the knot to businessman Raj Kundra and dabbled in judging talent shows along with health and hospitality related ventures.

Yet one wouldn't see much of Shilpa until a central turn as the neglected wife in domestic drama Sukhee and super cop in Rohit Shetty's Indian Police Force gathered eye balls.


How it started: Pehla Pehla Pyar
How it's going: Khufiya

No pauses, no breaks. If there's one actress consistently at it, it's Tabu.

Known as Farah's younger sister and Shabana Azmi's niece when she was starting out as an awkward youngster in an awful Roman Holiday rehash opposite Rishi Kapoor's middle-aged hero, it was only a matter of time before the powerhouse performer would carve a niche for herself through films like Maachis and Virasat.

Juggling mainstream and meaningful like a PRO, Tabu's spate of triumphs -- Maqbool, The Namesake, Haider, Andhadhun, Drishyam, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, A Suitable Boy, Bholaa and, most recently, Khufiya -- speak volumes of her significance.


How it started: Bekhudi
How it's going: The Trial

Shobhana Samarth's granddaughter, Tanuja's daughter and Nutan's niece made her lineage proud from the word go.

Though her first film, Bekhudi was a no show, Kajol's sparkling energy in blockbusters like Baazigar, Yeh Dillagi, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai turned her into a reigning superstar commanding as much if not more attention as the male lead.

Even after she wed her Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha co-star Ajay Devgn and gave birth to Nysa and Yug, Kajol's stardom was far from faded.

If anything, her constant efforts to push the envelope on screen or OTT keeps her relevant and rocking.


Karisma Kapoor
How it started: Prem Qaidi
How it's going: Murder Mubarak

Despite inheriting the Kapoor surname and Raj Kapoor's baby blue eyes, Randhir Kapoor and Babita's teenage daughter's entry into films was not a cakewalk. Defying all scepticism, Prem Qaidi's over-the-top romance did more business than the more prestigious launchpads of that time.

Chasing success over substance, Karisma's pairing with Govinda set the box office registers ringing for the longest time until Dharmesh Darshan's Raja Hindustani insisted there's more to her than a dancing doll. Yash Chopra's Dil To Pagal Hai came quick on the heels leading to a National Award win.

Karisma's hunger for respect was obvious in her riveting deliveries in titular roles of Fiza and Zubeidaa.

On the personal front, she tied the knot to businessman Sunjay Kapoor, became mom to two kids (Samaira, Kiaan Raj) while her kid sister Kareena took Bollywood by storm.

Though her marriage didn't last and her numerous comebacks since lacked bite, Karisma enjoys an active presence in media.

Nevertheless, silver screen has missed Lolo and is waiting to catch her back in action in Homi Adajania's coming thriller Murder Mubarak, co-starring Sara Ali Khan and Vijay Varma.


Manisha Koirala
How it started: Saudagar
How it's going: Heeramandi

One of the most beautiful faces and sensitive performers to grace Indian screen, Manisha's exquisite aura found a versatile voice under a variety of film-makers like Subhash Ghai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Mani Ratnam, Ram Gopal Varma and Dibakar Banerjee.

Despite personal upheavals and health scares, Manisha's rare but compelling presence makes her a treat to behold.

All eyes are on her next gig: Bhansali's musical Heeramandi on Netflix focusing on the courtesan life against the backdrop of Partition.


Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
How it started: Aur Pyar Ho Gaya
How it's going: Ponniyin Selvan

When the most beautiful woman in the world stepped into the world of movies, hype was a foregone conclusion. Although breathtakingly presented, Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya's generic romance was much too slight to spell Aishwarya's magic.

Luckily for her, the likes of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mani Ratnam and Rituparno Ghosh could see beyond her luminous face and give her roles of fire and heft in some of her best known works, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Guru and Raincoat.

Between grand period dramas (Jodhaa Akbar, Chokher Bali) and sensual masala (Dhoom 2, Kajrare in Bunty Aur Babli), Aishwarya's work across different languages and cultures is as noteworthy as her post marriage and motherhood comeback in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil's stunning seduction.

But it's her cunning politics and gilded splendour in Mani Ratnam's two part epic Ponniyin Selvan that shows just how far she's come into her own.


Sushmita Sen
How it started: Dastak
How it's going: Aarya 3

Former Miss Universe-turned-movie star Sushmita Sen's adventurous journey into showbiz is laced in surprises.

After playing the object of a stalker's obsession in Mahesh Bhatt's Dastak, the actor took her own sweet time to get a foothold.

Unconventionality guided her path as her choices reflected her reasons to accept a role stem from substance not length or centrality.

Sushmita refused to let the audience make up their mind about her.

She could be a distraction. She could get tough. She could be vulnerable. She could be a mood. But she was always in command.

Three seasons of her in and as Aarya are testament to that authority.


Rani Mukerji
How it started: Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat
How it's going: Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway

Being of value to a film mattered to Rani Mukerji more than anything else. From her debut Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat to her latest Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, her career is strewn in central roles.

Sounds rosy.

Only it was far from a bed of roses for the actress ridiculed for her husky voice and average frame in an industry obsessed with unrealistic standards of beauty.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Ghulam got things going, but Saathiya proved to be a real game changer followed by Chalte Chalte, Yuva, Hum Tum, Veer Zara, Black, Bunty Aur Babli and Paheli.

Rani, now married to Yash Raj Films honcho Aditya Chopra with whom she has a daughter, Adira, has delivered some solid work under the banner since in films like Hichki and the Mardaani franchise.

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