There are a lot of things wrong with being born a woman in a phallocentric country like India. Statements like “Pravesh keval mahilaayein va viklaang” on public transport vehicles (old DTC buses, to be exact) become a commonplace thing. Nobody bats an eye at the fact that being born a woman is being declared a “handicap”. Publicly at that. Ah well!
In a country so limited in its thinking, one would turn to the creative arts for relief, however temporary. Alas, that doesn’t help either. In a field that mandates creativity, our script writers are still getting away with churning out the same old tired material, where it’s all about the men, and the women are just arm candy or hapless victims – depending on whether they want to show the mushy, romantic side of hero bhaiya or the macho, unkillable side.
While freakshows like Katrina Kaif and that other woman (who, by the by, also can’t bloody speak Hindi – that Nargis Fakhri), keep getting roles, some truly fantastic actresses get overlooked, or worse, get cast into aunty/mother/grandmother roles far too soon. And all the while, 50 year-old men are still romancing 20/30-something girls like aforementioned freakshows.
Here’s a list of some of the most brilliant Indian actresses who never really got the kind of roles that would truly tap in to their genius. Not enough, anyway!
1. Shabana Azmi
‘Mandi’, ‘Masoom’, ‘Arth’, ‘Sparsh’, and relatively recently, ‘Rice Plate’. Need I say more?
2. Ratna Pathak Shah
Spellbound, I watched her narrate a Chughtai story on stage a couple years ago. You’ve probably seen her in ‘Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai’. What you need to do is watch ‘Mandi’ and ‘Mirch Masala’. Or catch her performing on stage. She outshines Naseer, and that is saying something!
3. Supriya Pathak
In ‘Bazaar’, she played the mischievous girl-next-door who is married off to a Dubai businessman for money; and she did a great job of it. You probably know her as the idiotic wife (who doesn’t know what anything means unless her even-more-idiotic husband explains it to her) from ‘Khichdi’ – the dumbest show ever made.
4. Deepti Naval
Perhaps best known for her role as Miss Chamko in ‘Chashme Buddoor’, she is one of the reasons why movies like ‘Mirch Masala’, ‘Junoon’, and ‘Katha’ are considered the classics they are.
5. Smita Patil
She did movies like ‘Bazaar’, ‘Mandi’ and ‘Arth’. She then ended up playing Mithun’s sister in that ridiculous movie, ‘Dance Dance’ – the one with the ‘Halwa wala aa gaya’ song. I rest my case about great actresses and shitty scripts.
6. Mita Vashisht
I loved her as the unapologetic, hardened terrorist in ‘Dil Se’, and as the truck driving badass in Shubha Mudgal’s ‘Mann ke Manjeere’. Bollywood seems incapable of creating characters the likes of her would do justice to, so she’s stuck playing the wicked Aunt and such like. Pity!
‘Maachis’, ‘Viraasat’, ‘Hu Tu Tu’, ‘Maqbool’, and ‘Haider’. Tabu is brilliant in every last one of these. Here’s hoping Vishal Bhardwaj isn’t the only one who remembers that.
8. Pallavi Joshi
She made many-a-heart bleed as the coma patient who gets raped in ‘Alpaviram’. For many of us, she will forever be the face of Doordarshan of the 80s and 90s. A TV actor for the most part, she also did movies like ‘Woh Chokri’ and ‘Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda’.
9. Surekha Sikri
You may (or may not) have seen her as the ruthless matriarch in ‘Balika Vadhu’, but you haven’t seen how brilliant she really is till you see ‘Mammo’ and ‘Parinati’.
10. Kirron Kher
I know she’s (gasp!) Right Wing and all that, but she’s bloody brilliant in ‘Sardari Begum’ and ‘Khamosh Pani’.
11. Divya Dutta
She was the only good thing about that travesty of a movie, ‘Veer-Zaara’ and quite a few other movies. But for some reason, she’s always stuck playing the friend/sister/friendly neighbor.
12. Neena Gupta
From the young, tantrum-throwing prostitute in ‘Mandi’ to the Rampuri wielding badass in ‘Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda’, Neena Gupta has done it all. She went on to direct (and act in) ‘Saans’, a TV series about a middle class woman dealing with her family coming undone.
13. Soni Razdan
In ‘Mandi’, she played the bitchy, cold-hearted prostitute to a tee, and looked fabulous doing it. ’36 Chowringhee Lane’, ‘Saaransh’ and ‘Buniyaad’ are some other noteworthy names on her repertoire.
14. Nandita Das
She blazed onto the mainstream Bollywood scene with Deepa Mehta’s ‘Fire’ and totally sulgaaoed them RSS ass holes. (Wink wink!) Said ass holes then went about setting theaters on fire, perhaps simply by parking ass. So much for Anupam Kher’s claims of there being no intolerance in India. Ha! Anyway, Nandita Das went on to make phenomenal movies like ‘Bawandar’ and ‘Firaaq’.
15. Deepa Sahi
She began her career with groundbreaking movies like ‘Aghaat’ and ‘Tamas’. And then ended up playing Govinda’s bhabhi in ‘Hum’.
16. Chitrangada Singh
Three words – Hazaaron. Khwaishein. Aisi. ‘Nuff said!