Celebrating the Queen Bees of Bollywood
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!