Celebrating the Queen Bees of Bollywood

Karishma Kapoor & Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Karishma Kapoor & Madhuri Dixit in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

I remember growing up watching Sridevi and wanting to be just like her, whether it was copying her double role in “Lamhe” or power-packed performance in “Chandni”. If a role required her to do kathak, one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, well you better believe I was doing it too. You see, she was a queen of the yester-years, and unfortunately, along with her, a lot of other actresses have found themselves taking a backseat now that the new kids on the block are coming around.

It’s great to see new talent, but at the same time it saddens me to see some of the finest female actors remove themselves from the limelight. Personally, I feel as if somewhere inside I’m aging along with them. This is a tribute to thank some of these women for their excellent performances, and for being role models that most of us used to copy when we stood in front of our mirrors, sometimes dancing for hours.

Sridevi in Lamhe (1991)

Sridevi. Also known as “Miss Hawa Hawai“, she’s a classic beauty but even classier when it comes to acting, especially opposite an invisible man. Confused? Let’s not forget the highlight of the late 80′s, “Mr. India”, when an Indian man discovers the formula to invisibility and begins the journey that ends with Mogambo not being so happy after all. After giving many hits like “Chaalbaaz”, “Lamhe”, “Sadma” and “Chandni”, Sridevi went from being a superstar to supermom, which meant putting her career on hold. Words can probably never express the height of success Sridevi has achieved in her career, but if you know Amitabh Bachchan, then you would know that she’s not far from being the female version of him.

Madhuri Dixit in Devdas (2002)

Madhuri Dixit. The dhak dhak girl known for her smile took Bollywood by storm. How can anyone forget the scene from the blockbuster hit “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” in which Salman Khan slings a marigold aiming for Madhuri’s butt, or the popular item song “Mera Piya Ghar Aaya“, which had every young girl dancing to its amazingly choreographed steps? Madhuri is not only known for her acting skills, but also admired by thousands for her jhatkedaar dance moves in songs like “Choli Ke Peeche“. She was mainly seen opposite of Shahrukh Khan, Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff, some of the leading male actors that hold a high status in the fraternity.

Juhi Chawla with Aamir Khan in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

Juhi Chawla. Lest we forget the K-K-K-Kiran role played by bubbly Juhi Chawla in the 1993 movie Darr, who also won the Ms. India title in 1984. One of my favorites was when she played the role of a younger sister with a pair of nerdy glasses in  the movie “Aaina”, where she transforms from nerd to total traditional babe. Juhi was popularly paired with Aamir Khan in her movies, and the chemistry proved to be very successful on screen in movies like “Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke” and “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak”. Later, she would co-found the production company Dreamz Unlimited (now Red Chililes Entertainment) with her other favorite co-star, Shahrukh Khan.

Karishma Kapoor with Rekha in Zubeida (2001)

Karishma Kapoor. I’m sure most of you must remember dancing in front of your mirror (like me) to the song “Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bolein”, in which the sultry Karishma Kapoor goes by her real-life pet name, Lolo. Even though her family was against her working in the film industry, she managed to find a way by working hard and succeeding in the end. The blue-eyed bombshell was mostly seen in light-hearted comedies such as “Chal Mere Bhai”, “Haseena Maan Jayegi”, “Biwi No. 1″ and “Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge”, she also won accolades for traditional and soft roles in “Fiza”, “Zubeida” and “Raja Hindustani”. Karishma gained an extra degree of public attention when she performed to the song “Le Gayi Le Gayi” in a golden, metallic miniskirt in the 1997 release “Dil To Pagal Hai”, a role that earned her a National Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

Kajol. Need I say more? One of the most talented and successful actresses in Bollywood, she started her career wearing a white wedding gown dancing to the hopes of finding the man of her dreams (in this case, Shahrukh Khan) in “Baazigar”. That was just the beginning of her amazing on-screen chemistry with King Khan, as they later made hearts melt in full house movies like “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge”, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, and “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”. One could easily say that there has never been such a pair to act together with such dynamic personalities and acting skills that it would leave audience in awe for days. DDLJ was such a success that you can still find the movie running in some Indian theaters, 16 years later. However, to the perpetuating fan club’s disappointment, Kajol went on a long break to get married and settle down, when her career hit its peak. She eventually returned with great movies, but has seemed very selective of the roles she wants to play.

Rani Mukherjee in "Black" (2005)

Rani Mukherjee. The Bengali tigress started her career quietly with a low-budget movie called “Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat” and, while it didn’t create many waves in the media, it definitely got her noticed, helping her bag greater roles in the future. She was an overnight success when she was seen dancing to the now-iconic “Aati Kya Khandala” in a tiny white dress, opposite Aamir Khan in the movie “Ghulam”. Known thereafter as the Khandala girl, Rani went on to perform with the greatest pair of actors on screen, Kajol and Shahrukh Khan, in the aforementioned “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”. Director Karan Johar jokes about how he asked her to lose weight for the role, in order to fit her image of a popular college girl, and instead Rani came to the shoot even heavier than before! Nonetheless, her acting skills have brought her far in a career that boasts of critically-acclaimed movies such as “Black”, “Saathiya”, “Yuva”, “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” and the recent success, “No One Killed Jessica”. She has truly been an asset to contemporary Indian cinema with her versatility, paving the way for the actresses that followed the Madhuri-Juhi-Kajol era.

Preity Zinta with Saif Ali Khan in Salaam Namaste (2005)

Preity Zinta. The dimpled girl earned her image of being the bubbly girl-next-door when she began her career in Bollywood and was believed to be good friends with Rani Mukherjee after acting in numerous movies together (see “Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega”, “Chori Chori Chupke Chupke”, “Veer Zaara” and “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna”). But Preity tried shedding some of her goody two-shoes image with her roles in movies like “Dil Se” and “Kya Kehna”. By the time she acted in “Salaam Namaste” and “Kal Ho Naa Ho”, she had completely transformed into the hot chick every guy wanted to date. More importantly, she has continued to take on controversial roles, playing everything from a girl impregnated out of wedlock (twice, both incidentally by Saif Ali Khan) to a hooker surrogate mom.

These ladies have made such an impact on Bollywood and viewers that it would be hard to imagine the screen without their presence. Though it is a bittersweet feeling of parting, we can always be assured that we’ve had true legends who have given us roles that are both diverse and well-received by the audience. Be it commercially or critically successful, you can always find these leading ladies in a three-hour movie which will leave you speechless, wanting more and missing the days when it was less about the looks and more about the craft.

Which actress do you miss the most? Tell us below or via Twitter @divanee!

  • http://weddings.divanee.com/members/sksiddiqui/ Sabrina Siddiqui

    I miss them all! Juhi Chawla was my personal favorite. Honestly, any of these ladies would blow the current actresses out of the water. Even Preity Zinta, whose acting I was never a huge fan of. The movie titles and pictures made me so nostalgic.

    • SAJEE

      thank you. my favorite actress also juhi. i miss her soo much

  • Nadia Siddiqui

    Great article! The actresses of today don’t hold a candle to any of these ladies above.

  • Miral

    Kajol, all the way.

  • Janine

    Kajol is today ”the undisputed empress of indian” : Stardust Icon Magazin

    • Jasmin

      Kajol is the undisputed empress of indian cinema !!!

  • http://ultimatebollywooddivas.blogspot.com/ Zed Hache

    I miss them all. That’s why I dedicate a large part of my blog to the divas of the 90s. Check it out.

  • http://na Harish

    Where is Aishwarya Rai Bachcan,she is more popular and the biggest QUEEN OF BOLLYWOOD!!

  • http://raniraja.mihanblog.com rani

    Beauty Queen just Divya Bharti ….. Most Beautuful actress in Bollywood ever Divya Bharti

  • Gulshan

    Oh Puhleaaaze these arent anyone’s role models !! They made better movies then than they make now and some of these actresses like Madhuri and Sri looked so good and acted so well they could keep you up for 3 hrs but thats that…come home or go to work and these women fade from memory – such women can never be anyone’s role models. Dont patronise so blindly – looks bad. You must have zero self esteem. Sridevi lives as a second fiddle to a burly stalky man and has an illegal marriage. Juhi looks old and fugly now, Kajol overacts to show she is happy with Ajay when in reality she curbed herself to be with him, Rani is still in disbelief what wrong she committed in breaking Aditya’s bana banaya ghar and marriage from the doted Payal, Bebo sad and desolate in marriage and life and Preity Zinta hores around with multiple partners still waiting to bag some super rich guy. All low life hores in one degree or another. Legends? These women? You must be some cokehead like some of them to smoke such sh*t

  • Bijalsid

    You forgot Ash – the beauty queen! And Its funny you have put Madhuri and Sridevi in the same bracket as Rani, Kajol, Karishma and Preity. No comparison. Mads and Sri were a class apart and truly legends. Among the rest Rani still holds some chance but rest hold no chance at all. You have just gone and added everyone there was and called them legends and leading ladies and that is not right..I mean who is remaining from your list? Karishma could never act one bit. Kajol always overacted and it got same and boring. Rani was a bore after some movies, no novelty and Preity again just overacting and loud in the face attitude. Juhi was okay. Badly written incorrect untrue article

  • mj

    I miss Juhiiiiii :( ((
    not to be crotical honey. loooved the article. but there were some errors here n there. Priety Zinta played a role of a hooker in Chori Chori …… and tat was opposite Salman not Saif. And she n Rani aren’t really friends, they just acted in a lot of films as friends. And Rani got noticed first in KKHH. that was released before Ghulam.there were more bt, just sayi cs if not for those minor minor errors this article is better than an article from a popular Btown magazine!!

  • Kanchan

    false article queens of bollywood- hema,rekha,sridevi and maduri and aishwarya r best …crap kajol and rani are not even superstars let alone queens ..kajol only successful movies with srk..this one person’s idea the blogger..crap

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