ONE Championship atomweight contender Ritu Phogat is one of the most prolific martial arts stars to come out of India. Nicknamed “The Indian Tigress,” Phogat is an Indian wrestling icon, and at just 26-years old, she has already accomplished more than most twice her age.
Of course, being born into a famed wrestling lineage certainly helps.
The 2016 biographical sports drama film, Dangal, was loosely based on the life of pehlwani amateur wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, the patriarch of the Phogat family and Ritu’s father. To this day, it is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time.
Suffice to say, Bollywood is a global phenomenon. Analysts peg Indian cinema to be a near $5 billion industry. Though it doesn’t come close to the $50 billion dollar per year film industry of the United States, Bollywood still enjoys immense popularity for its unique song and dance, hilarious action sequences, and distinct dramatic delivery.
Artistic talent remains the backbone of Bollywood, though, with actors and actresses sharing their various talents. On the other side of the spectrum, martial arts has also played a key role in the industry. Many Bollywood actresses, in particular, are well-versed in martial arts, just like Phogat.
Phogat would certainly be proud of the females on this list. Most of these women took up martial arts for movie roles, but later on continued training for the love of it. Here are 10 Bollywood actresses who know and practice martial arts.
1) Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Miss World 1994 winner, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, learned karate from Ramesh, a noted stunt master who ran a Japanese Shito-Ryu Karate School in India for over three decades. He taught Rai martial arts for a movie role, and she fell in love with it instantly.
2) Asin Thottumkal
Known as “Queen of Kollywood,” Asin Thottumkal is trained in the ancient Indian martial art of Kalaripayattu. She learned the discipline directly from the masters in Kerala. Like Rai, Asin took up martial arts for a movie role.
3) Deepika Padukone
One of the highest-paid actresses in India, Deepika Padukone took up Jiu-Jitsu for the film, Chandni Chowk To China, where she starred in dual roles of Indian-Chinese twin sisters. Her trainers co-starred with her in the film, including award-winning actor Akshay Kumar.
4) Genelia D’Souza
Actress and model Genelia D’Souza was also trained in ancient Indian martial arts. In the 2011 film Urumi, she portrayed the Muslim warrior princess Arackal Ayesha, a role which required her to learn horseback riding and how to use a sword, a short stick, and the fighting movements of Kalaripayattu.
5) Jacqueline Fernandez
2006 Miss Universe Sri Lanka pageant winner Jacqueline Fernandez is an actress, model, and dancer. Like Asin and D’Souza, she also trained in Kalaripayattu for a movie role. Given she’s also a known fitness junkie, it doesn’t come as a surprise that she would pick up martial arts at one point in her career.
6) Kangana Ranaut
After landing a starring role in the film, Krrish 2, actress and filmmaker Kangana Ranaut began training in martial arts, particularly in kickboxing.
7) Nargis Fakhri
American born Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri is famous for films like Madras Cafe, Main Tera Hero, and the Hollywood production, Spy. She was previously nominated for a Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut for her role in Rockstar. She currently trains in Muay Thai.
8) Priyanka Chopra
Internationally acclaimed actress Priyanka Chopra is one of the most gorgeous women alive. For her role in the film, Drona, Chopra studied Gatka, a style of stick fighting developed by the Sikhs of the Punjab region.
9) Shilpa Shetty
Businesswoman, model, and Indian actress Shilpa Shetty has been a longtime advocate of Yoga. But she is probably the most talented martial artist on this list. Shetty holds a black belt in Karate. She’s even passed on her passion for martial arts to her son Viaan, who recently won his first gold medal in the sport.
10) Madhuri Dixit
Actress, television personality, and musician Madhuri Dixit, is well-versed in martial arts, having trained in Shaolin Kung Fu, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, and Shaolin Chin Na for the movie Gulaab Gang.