A Koimoi.com reader explains how the role of the Bollywood actresses has evolved over the decades. Read on…


Bollywood is pretty much a male-dominated industry, where heroines don’t get much to do. In the 90s it was usually believed that the heroines are only utilised to add a dash of glamour, some dance moves and skin show in the films. The scenario started changing in early first decade of the 21st century as many directors started conceiving actresses meaningful, content-driven roles. Of course, the heroine still adds glamour to the product. A look at how the role of heroines has evolved in Bollywood…

90s: Glamour & Great Moves

Madhuri Dixit In 'Ek Do Teen' Song, Sreedevi In Nagina
Madhuri Dixit in 'Ek Do Teen' Song, Sreedevi in Nagina

Actresses in the 90s made songs sexier. In fact, some actresses became hugely popular in a large measure due to their trademark dance moves.

Madhuri Dixit, who still remains one of the best dancers in Bollywood, was called the Dhak Dhak and Ek Do Teen girl. However, there were films which provided actresses with more potent roles like Gupt (1997) in which Kajol played the female villain and gave her one of the best performances.

Early 2000s: Sex & Performance

Bipasha Basu In Jism, Mallika Sherawat In Murder
Bipasha Basu in Jism, Mallika Sherawat in Murder

The approach towards the Bollywood actress changed in the early 2000s as we saw some memorable films that had women playing sexy roles which had a scope for acting. A few notable instances:

Jism (2003), where Bipasha Basu let go of her inhibitions, turned her into a name to reckon with.

Murder (2004), a super-hit, relied a lot on the overt sexuality of Mallika Sherawat.

Julie (2004) had a lot of adult content but it also did have a good performance by Neha Dhupia.

In Chameli (2004) Kareena Kapoor gave one of the best performances as a cheeky and formidable prostitute.

Late 2000s: Woman-Centric Roles & Item Girls

Over the past few years, the scenario has evolved and heroines are starting to get as much attention as our heroes. Some films where the heroines stole the show:

Aishwarya Rai in Dhoom 2
Aishwarya Rai in Dhoom 2

In Dhoom 2 (2006), Aishwarya Rai’s role was equally prominent as the hero’s (Hrithik Roshan).

Fashion(2008) created a flutter for its daring look at the fashion industry. The film took Priyanka Chopra and Kangna Ranaut’s careers to new heights.

The Dirty Picture Movie Poster
The Dirty Picture Movie Poster

Last, but not the least, is the latest blockbuster, The Dirty Picture (2011). The film, which combined sexuality with a powerful performance, made Vidya Balan a star overnight. 2011 also saw No One Killed Jessica, where Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji  played strong and competent roles.

Katrina Kaif In Chikni Chameli Song
Katrina Kaif in Chikni Chameli Song

Apart from woman-centric roles, Bollywood actresses also did dozens of immensely popular item songs. Who can forget Sheila, Munni and the latest Chikni Chameli.

One hopes that good work comes pouring into for Bollywood heroines. The audience, of course, is more than willing to lap it up!

The writer is a student in Cambridge International School, Dubai.

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  1. In 90s Madhuri Dixit became the biggest female superstar ever by outshining heroes in her films. Dil, Beta, Raja, Anjaam, Saajan ect. many were performance oriented roles and some of them turned to be the biggest hit of the year. Please do not write anything without proper research.


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