VIDYA BALAN IN KAHAANI
What do you say about a woman who weaves a quagmire of intrigue that baffles the seemingly powerful men around her and keeps the audience guessing her walk and talk till the very end? Vidya Balan followed up her dare-bare act in The Dirty Picture with the role of a pregnant woman who assumes the garb of an unthreatening presence to avenge the system and bring down those who run it. In a performance that automatically sets her up for the top awards this year, Vidya made her Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi a delicate balance of vulnerability but quiet strength, haplessness but innate determination. Those eyes spoke a thousand words as director Sujoy Ghosh made his protagonist walk fearlessly through the streets of Calcutta, zero in on the man who had wronged her and take him down, using and re-using the people around her and the situations she found herself in, to her advantage. That all-powerful and all-consuming final stare at her adversary — in red-bordered white sari on Dashami — proved that this was a rare power woman ruling Bollywood. Ekla cholo, Your Majesty Bidya Madam, we say!
PAOLI DAM IN HATE STORY
Tolly hottie Paoli Dam in her Bolly debut Hate Story went where no other leading lady in a mainstream Bollywood film had gone before. Sexual overture, uninhibited titillation, dirty talk and a lot of action between the sheets summed up the dusky actress’s Kavya — a woman wronged who uses her sexuality as her passport to money, power and revenge. With the power to titillate her men to the point of submission, a bare-backed Paoli made her Kavya a woman who could go to any extent to get what she wanted.
DEEPIKA PADUKONE IN COCKTAIL
She downs a drink too many. She parties the night away. She enjoys casual sex with a friend — and also raves about how good he is in bed. Deepika Padukone’s Veronica uncrossed (and later crossed!) her legs to kick out many Bollywood clichés in Cocktail, giving us a spirited and free-thinking woman, who, fortunately, wasn’t relegated to the vamp’s role. The model-turned-actress, not particularly lauded for her acting skills, embraced Veronica like second skin, coming up with a performance that was so real. That Deepika looked smouldering — smoky make-up, those never-ending-legs and a ‘Come on baby light my fire’ look in her eyes — made her Veronica the sexiest babe on the Bolly screen this year.
KAREENA KAPOOR IN HEROINE AND EK MAIN AUR EKK TU
Kareena Kapoor breathed life into the role of an actress on a perpetual see-saw of success and failure, fame and ignominy. While Heroine the film disappointed, Kareena the heroine triumphed, affording the viewer a peek into the insecurity and vulnerability of the girl behind the glam and gloss.
If Heroine’s Mahi epitomised the slo-mo decline of a powerful star, Kareena’s turn as the effervescent Riana in February film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu was refreshing. A woman of the world who didn’t need a man to walk with her on her life’s journey, Riana was the heartbeat of this un-Bolly rom com.
KATRINA KAIF IN EK THA TIGER
As the ethereal beauty who brings tears to Tiger’s eyes or the hard-as-nails secret agent who matches him blow for blow, Katrina Kaif’s Zoya in Ek Tha Tiger was a delight to watch. Leaving behind the traditional Bolly mould of a whimpering and simpering heroine, Katrina called the shots in the Kabir Khan-directed box-office biggie. While she looked like a dream in the romantic bits, her action scenes in Havana were jaw-dropping. Parkour to hand-to-hand combat to good ol’ Bolly dhishum dhishum — Kat did it all. No wonder she is the box-office darling.
SRIDEVI IN ENGLISH VINGLISH
She returned to the silver screen after 15 years and made it her own. Sridevi turned in a winning act in English Vinglish, bringing to life the role of a woman struggling to break free and gain some respect from her family. Sridevi’s Shashi, grappling with under-confidence at her inability to speak English, told the story of the woman that resides in each of us — vulnerable and inhibited, yet selfless and strong.
RANI MUKERJI IN AIYYAA
Steamy fantasies had remained the man’s prerogative in Bollywood, but Aiyyaa broke new ground with its female protagonist sexually fantasising about the scent of a man. Rani Mukerji’s Meenakshi was an uninhibited woman of today, unafraid to pursue the man she wanted and win him over. Bold talk or bold pelvic thrusts, Rani went all-out as a woman in heat, pulling off both simpleton and seductress with ease.
THE GANG OF GIRLS IN GANGS OF WASSEYPUR
Anurag Kashyap may have made his Wasseypur a man’s world, but it is the ‘womaniya’ who gave this blood-bandook-brawn film a whole new spin. Whether it was Reemma Sen’s smouldering Bangalan Durga, Richa Chadda’s feisty Najma or Huma Qureshi as Mohsina who shone more in Part II, it was the women who ruled.
PARINEETI CHOPRA IN ISHAQZAADE
As the chatty and over-the-top Dimple in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, Parineeti Chopra was the best thing about her Bolly debut. So her convincing turn as the gun-toting, no-nonsense Zoya in Habib Faisal’s Romeo and Juliet romance set in the Uttar Pradesh heartland came as no surprise. In Ishaqzaade, the effortless Parineeti towered over co-star Arjun Kapoor, imbuing her feisty Zoya with verve and chutzpah. Unafraid to pull a gun on her lover, hawking her gold earrings for a pistol or taking on her family chin up, Zoya was a perfect blend of blatant bravado and childlike enthusiasm.
PRIYANKA CHOPRA IN BARFI!
If Parineeti makes it to this list, how can her Mimi Didi be far behind? Priyanka, who made an impact even in her disappointing women-centric films like 7 Khoon Maaf and What’s Your Raashee?, held her own in a film named after the male protagonist. As the autistic Jhilmil in Anurag Basu’s Barfi!, Priyanka the glam Bolly heroine was swept aside to give way to a child-woman who brought a smile to our faces and tugged at our tear ducts, but never resorted to manipulative melodrama.