An industry that has been ruled by men over the decades with the Amitabhs and the Rajesh Khannas and the Jeetendras creating magic in bell bottoms to the Shah Rukhs and the Salmans in the DKNY threads and the Gen-X superstars of tomorrow Ranbir, Ranveer, Imran and others, Bollywood has been clichéd to a corner, given the monotonous patriarchy existing in the fraternity since times immemorial. But with strongly portrayed characters and well written fleshed out roles, some women have twisted the game around for the men, time and over.
On the special account of Women’s Day today, we raise a toast to Bollywood’s Strongest women characters essayed by few of the most evergreen, and talented divas that the industry has stood a witness of. Let the Wo-mania roll.
Nargis as Radha
Mother India stands as the efficient trendsetter of sorts, with Radha being the archetypal Indian mother, devoting herself to sacrifice, one that meant to kill her son for her rich moral and cultural values. Nargis as the strongest Hindu woman then, put a full stop to the chivalrous run of male centric films in Bollywood and sparked a new Era altogether.
Meena Kumari as Sahibjaan
Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah might have taken fourteen long years to hit the screens but when it did, tawaif Meena Kumari’s Sahibjaan stood out as the ultimate Pakeezah of those times. True that!
Jaya Bhaduri as Mili
A career defining of sorts, Mili catapulted the actress in Jaya Bhaduri to supershot fame and glory in no time. She as the transitory, happy go lucky Mili won hearts but it was the angst that touched a million hearts all over.
Rekha as Umraao Jaan and Arti
One actress who has oozed oomph from all segments of her body, one actress who carved a thin line between the sensuous and the vulgar, Rekha’s take as the courtesan in Umraao Jaan left us awe-spread, while her vindictive Aarti-dolled-up-Jyoti act in Khoon Bhari Maang made the rebellious woman a warrior of good times. As we put it clearly, un ankho ki masti ke, mastane hazaro the, mastane hazareein hai!
Shabana Azmi as Pooja Inder Malhotra
Azmi’s Pooja in Arth was one of its kind independent women, who crossed all hurdles, meted all boundaries and walked on lives’ cross roads to give up on her personal desires, the dream of having a family to help someone else live theirs. Delivering a top notch performance, the consort of a battleship Shabana Azmi, still reigns strong in the list of influential Indian actresses.
Sridevi as Reshmi, Chandni, Anju-Manju and (yes, you guessed it right) Shashi Godbole
The finest among the finest of actors, Sridevi has made her name doing both commercial and offbeat films, rather definitive movies. Be it her excellent and unmatched aplomb in nailing down Reshmi in Sadma to the North pole-South pole twin sisters Anju-Manju in Chalbaaz and the always in love Chandni, Sridevi has portrayed variant wavelengths of the performance in her acting spectra. And how can we forget the eventful comeback where she pulled off the no-English to English Vinglish ride with sheer purity and tenacity.
Madhuri Dixit as Saraswati, Ketki and Pooja
From underplaying the traditional Indian bahu to enacting the new age modern girl, this dancing diva did it all to make the nation move to her beats. Not only did she raised the oomph by gyrating to the dhak-dhak song of the millennium, but her powerful performance as the protective and shielding wife got her applauds. Ditto for her superlative performance in a rather bombed Mrityudand! But it was Dil Toh Paagal Hai’s Pooja that gave Madhuri Dixit the wings to fly off to different radar!
Karisma Kapoor as Fiza
On an enthralling quest to find her lost brother, Karisma Kapoor delivered an unmatchable performance as the tensed and nerve-wrecked yet calm in composure sister to Hrithik Roshan in Fiza. And the climax just epitomizes the strength that makes up such a strong headed woman!
Raveena Tandon as Durga and Neeta
A National Award winner, Raveena ravished in all her avatar when she took over to essay the role of Durga, a housewife shocked and panicked by everyday domestic marital violence in Daman. While her Durga created an immense stir in filmdom, Raveena Tandon proved her mettle with back to back spectacular performances, coupling her Durga with her spooky and stylish Neeta act from Aks!
Kajol as Isha, Anjali and Zooni
While most actresses enthralled us with their positive sides, Kajol shunned away from the clichéd tracks to deliver what you call the best villainous act of the decade in Gupt. The most versatile and immensely talented Kajol did not just become a family name but she stood as an epitome of grit, determination, love, jealousy and vengeance as she took over her tomboy-turned-mature-woman Anjali Sharma’s role in KJo’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and the superbly crafted Zooni Ali Baig in Fanna, demolishing the clichés created by her contemporaries at bay!
Rani Mukerji as Michhelle, Rhea and Meera Gaity
Another top notch performer, Rani Mukerji scorched and sizzled in the B-town arena from the early 2000s to the late 2000s like no other. Creating buzz with each and every film, playing diversified roles, and having her kitty full of meaty women centric roles, Rani accomplished a feat, thought to be unattainable by most Bolly stalwarts: playing the role of a deaf and vision impaired Michhele McNally with eased comfort. She followed it up with a terrific path breaking role of Rhea Prakash and a viciously spunky and enigmatic Meera Gaiti reaching out to cross border nations.
Kareena Kapoor as Chameli and Geet
Kareena Kapoor charmed us with her rain-dripping-red-sari number form Chameli, encoding the realities behind the lives of a prostitute with so much of conviction that we all fell in love with her. But it was her bamboozling Geet, the metamorphosis from the bubbly to the mature that spoke volumes of her acting credibility and took her off to new levels of filmy stardom, being tagged as B-town’s number 1 Heroine in no time!
Priyanka Chopra as Meghna Mathur, Sussana Annie Maria Johannes and Jhilmil Chatterjee
Breaking the myth that models cannot act, Priyanka Chopra marveled in some brilliant performances when she was bestowed with the ability to pull off a high on attitude and pomp supermodel Meghna Mathur with flare and living the life of a woman-ditched-by-life-and-love with assumed perfection. 7 Khoon Maaf was bearable, thanks to this one woman show but it was definitely her latest and the cutest Jhilmil Chatterjee, the autistic girl child that created the mass euphoria that envelops her today. Daady’s lil girl is soon turning as B-Town’s Wonder girl too, without a do!
Vidya Balan as Lolita, Vidya, Sabrina, Silk and Krishnaji
Be it the strikingly traditional and gharelu docile Lolita or the manipulative femme fatale Krishnaji, Vidya Balan is the warrior in this game. Delivering back to back superhits with career driven fleshed out roles, Vidya Balan, Bollywood’s new big thing is here to stay. We loved her The Dirty Picture and marched for her when she fought against the Indian judiciary. Not just that, we could feel her agony when she lost a kid as special as Auro. All in all, B-Town has its new Big B, the Big Balan!
Parineeti Chopra in Ishaaqzaade
The freshest face of them all, has proven her versatility in her two film career, playing two completely opposite characters with equal finesse. But when the vivaciously adorable Dimple Chadha switched on the feisty Zoya mode in Ishaqzaade, we could not help but be Pareshaan about this magical transformation. Parineeti Chopra, the woman won hearts and swept away accolades like cake and cheese!