Twinkle to Tabu: 10 Women Making Bollywood Look Good

  | February 20, 2015 14:07 IST (New Delhi)
Twinkle Khanna

The image on left was posted on Twitter by Twinkle Khanna

This is not the story of Bollywood's heroes but of its heroines

God knows that Bollywood, with its casual sexism and perpetuating of stereotype, badly needs all the PR help it can get. The Khans are too busy. One is otherwise occupied in 'scolding' colleagues who annoyed him by participating in a public spectacle that skewered Bollywood stars, without having first asked him if they could or if he approved. The remaining Khans are employed in making slightly glitzier versions of the boy-meets-girl/boy-saves-world potboilers they've built their careers and fortunes on for about 25 years or so. Yet, no thanks to them, this is the smartest, savviest and most interesting version of Bollywood we've seen.

In this Bollywood, Varun Dhawan, former loverboy, takes a chance with a dark revenge thriller like Badlapur; Shahid Kapoor, also an ex-loverboy, acquits himself with honours in a role as complex and daunting as Hamlet; almost no film of note is made without either Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui; and a collective of filmmakers with no dynasty clout form Phantom Films, challenger to the mighty Yash Raj Films.

However, this is not the story of Bollywood's heroes but of its heroines, who are no longer voiceless nor confined to the maiden/mother/crone roles both on-screen and off it, that they were once scripted into. Here are 10 of the many Bollywood women who are currently scripting their own destiny.

Twinkle Khanna: This former actress has recently become what Aamir Khan has not - a celebrity voice that tells the world when it's out of control but with so much wit and self-deprecating humour that the world is happy to hear what she has to say . As Aamir preaches his gospel to a rapidly shrinking congregation, the faithful are switching channels to Twinkle's columns and Twitter, in which she addresses everything from censorship to her family's opinion of her jokes.

Kangana Ranaut: Small town girl. No English. No famous last name. For many with celluloid dreams, these would be crippling disadvantages and Kangana is the first to admit that it hasn't been easy. But very quietly, almost without anybody noticing, she's transformed herself from perceived behenji to a one-woman blockbuster. She's also proved that being articulate has nothing to do with accent. When Kangana speaks, the world listens.

Deepika Padukone: This former supermodel's career was travelling a well-worn path in the wake of other pretty faces, talent optional, until she turned in three back-to-back performances that had critics blinking in surprise. She then proceeded to break a few rules by publicly telling off a national daily for publishing a photo that focused on her cleavage and writing about battling depression and seeking medical help. Deepika's resume might still contain the odd Happy New Year or two but she need no longer worry about being reduced to movie star Barbie - if she ever did worry - because we already know she isn't.

Kalki Koechlin: The adorable Kalki has limitless options on-screen, playing roles as diverse as the bleak Girl in Yellow Boots to supporting characters in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani to the wheelchair-bound protagonist of Margarita With a Straw. She performs feminist pieces on stage, has appeared in a satirical short film about sexual violence and is vocal about women's issues. Everyone loves her to distraction.

Huma Qureshi: Gangs of Wasseypur's Mohsina, Dedh Ishqiya's Muniya and now Badlapur's Jhimli. Huma is no underfed Bollywood waif and doesn't feel the need to be, much like Sonakshi Sinha. Unlike Sonakshi, however, she doesn't make that the centerpiece of her performances.

Tabu: Oh, Tabu. She broke our collective heart in Maqbool. She did it again in Haider. Tabu doesn't pretend to be anything that she's not. She's an actress, a hugely talented one, and she lets her film performances speak for her. They speak volumes.

Dimple Kapadia: Twinkle's mother started life as a teen idol, the object of a nation's affections in her bikini and miniskirts in Bobby. She restarted 10 years later, with two children and a failed marriage behind her, as a crystal-eyed bombshell in Saagar. Anybody wanting proof of life after heroine-hood in Bollywood should look to Dimple and her performances as a hilariously acerbic not-quite-a-widow in last year's Finding Fanny; an unfaithful Parsi wife in Being Cyrus; an alcoholic older woman drinking herself to death in Dil Chahta Hai; and a Rajasthani 'professional mourner in Rudaali, a role she took just a decade after she began life as a leading lady again.

Anvita Dutt: The Queen lyricist is the Kangana of a new breed of Bollywood writers. With fellow writers Kausar Munir and Rashmi Singh, Anvita occupies an important corner in an almost entirely male-dominated world within a world. This year's Filmfare Best Lyricist nominees featured both Kausar and Rashmi, who won.

Sneha Khanwalkar: Gangs of Wasseypur's music director Sneha's 2013 nomination for Filmfare Best Music Director came nearly 30 years after the only other female composer to have been nominated - Usha Khanna in 1984, for her work in Souten. This year Sneha scores Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! , one of 2015's most-anticipated films.

Juhi Chaturvedi: The Vicky Donor writer won the Filmfare Best Story Award in 2013, joining 1961 winner Ruby Sen and Honey Irani, winner in 1992 and 2001. Juhi writes this year's Piku, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone.