Leading ladies in Bollywood are arguably more prominent in the industry now than ever before and are calling for more opportunities and recognition. We're separating 10 of the staggering and stupendous from the merely excellent.
Utterly real and absolutely irresistible in her role as Sulu, the housewife turned late night RJ, the film showcases Vidya’s ability to delve deep under the skin of her character. As one reviewer pointed out, “Balan delivers the belly-shaking laughs and heart-wringing tears with equal deftness.” Her career’s best and the entire year’s best as well, we might as well add.
“I think Zaira doesn’t act, she internalises a character and delivers... Every emotion that we see on-screen is genuine. She is still emotionally pure, and not like a regular actor who knows how to project a certain emotion,” raved her director. He got it bang on. The feeling with which this 17-year-old pulls off this multi-layered journey of a talented teenaged Muslim female singer marks her out as a new kind of actor – combining entertainment with wholesomeness.
In both her back to back releases, Bhumi essays characters who are progressive even though based in a traditional set-up up. In Toilet: Ek Prem Katha she demands that a toilet be built in her in-laws’ house before she comes back, while in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan she fights her own family to stand by her fiance who suffers from erectile dysfunction. The unselfconscious ease Bhumi brought to both roles is refreshing, while her unexpected comic timing is a definite bonus.
As the middle-aged Buaji, whose steely exterior barely reflects her sexually deprived existence, Ratna Pathak Shah delivers on her character’s closeted desires with restraint and admirable uncertainty. The film, which explores India's paternity-driven relationship with intercourse, presents Pathak-Shah in fine fettle in a role that might easily have been caricatured by a lesser artiste or director.
Sridevi injects pulse and life into her performance as the mother out to avenge the gang-rape of her step-daughter. As Devki, a schoolteacher turned avenging angel, her screen presence, personality, projection and facial expressions are superlative. The film might have been accused of being melodramatic but all Sridevi won was praise and then some.
Essaying a strong role once again in this spy thriller, Taapsee Pannu impresses as the grim, unsmiling Shabana, who becomes a secret agent as a result of her dark past. Whether performing stunts adeptly or keeping her emotions under check, she delivers a solid performance. The scenes in which she breaks down are especially impressive, as the Pink actress does complete justice to her part.
Playing opposite the phenomenal Irrfan Khan, Qamar grabbed eyeballs nonetheless as the ambitious mother who wants her daughter to live the life that she couldn’t. In a meaty part with a nice arc, Saba layered her dramatic character with over-the-top touches and did a great job of her onscreen debut. To be called a “sheer delight onscreen,” by critics is no mean feat is it!
As the ambitious, career-oriented Vaidehi who is nursing a broken heart, Alia Bhatt impresses as a confident woman who chooses respect over love. In this entertainer which also questions social evils and meaningless traditions, she doesn’t mince words and drives home the lesson - Love is nothing without respect. Her portrayal of her character’s personal and professional journey is a delight to watch.
As the stunt queen Miss Julia, Kangana pulls off a first-rate performance that demands daunting versatility. She brings fierce energy to her role of the ingenue learning to break free from emotional entrapment, aided by Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), a young soldier whose sights are set on a larger picture. Delivering a seemingly effortless, mercurial performance as a child-woman who is both fragile and tough, this is one of Ranaut’s finest so far.
Kriti charms as Bitti Mishra, the sharp-tongued, usually-agitated Bareilly girl whose break dance is the highlight at local weddings. Delivering arguably the best performance of her career, Kriti admirably fits the bill as the girl next door, as she gets everything right from the accent to the styling. In her author-backed role, as the girl who is fed up of society’s misogyny and who pursues the writer of a novel whose central character is just like herself, she shines.