Bollywood never shied away from bringing out stories that revolve around prostitution despite the taboo attached with the profession and many of these movies went on to be huge successes. One of the critical aspects of these movies, however, is how people attached with this profession are portrayed, and while many delivered performances that faded away soon, some Bollywood actresses who played prostitutes were too good to be forgotten.
Here are 11 Bollywood actresses who played prostitutes in movies and did exceptionally well.
1. Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi in ‘Devdas’
Madhuri Dixit played the timeless character of the good-hearted courtesan Chandramukhi in ‘Devdas’, who falls in love with Devdas, played by Shah Rukh Khan. Released in the year 2002, it is remembered as one of the most iconic roles she played and left the audience in awe.
2. Tabu as Mumtaz in ‘Chandni Bar’
In the critically acclaimed film ‘Chandni Bar’ that came out in 2001, Tabu played the role of a bar dancer Mumtaz who gets married to a gangster. The untimely demise of her husband, however, and other circumstances lead her into prostitution. Tabu’s performance in the movie earned her the Best Actress Award in the 2002 National Film Awards.
3. Kareena Kapoor as Chameli and Rosie in ‘Chameli’ and ‘Talaash’
Kareena Kapoor played the roles of prostitutes in two movies and this sets her apart from many others. In ‘Chameli’ that got released in 2004, she played the role of street-smart prostitute Chameli. In 2012’s psychological horror crime thriller ‘Talaash: The Answers Lie Within’, she played the role of an escort Rosie who helps inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat, played by Aamir Khan, in a case.
4. Rani Mukerji as Vibhavari Sahay in ‘Laaga Chunari Mein Daag’
‘Laaga Chunari Mein Daag’ was released in the year 2007 and though the movie didn’t do very well economically, Rani Mukerji’s role as Vibhavari Sahay was critically acclaimed. Rani’s performance in the movie is heart-wrenching. In the film, Rani’s character chooses to become a prostitute to take care of her family after she fails to find employment.
5. Sharmila Tagore as Pushpa and Kajli in ‘Amar Prem’ and ‘Mausam’
Like Kareena Kapoor, her mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore also played the roles of prostitutes in two different films- ‘Amar Prem (1972)’ and ‘Mausam (1975)’. In Amar Prem, she played the role of Pushpa, who is sold to a brothel by her uncle after her husband leaves her. The popular dialogue of Rajesh Khanna ‘Pushpa, I hate tears’ is from this movie. In Mausam, Tagore’s character Kajli finds her way to a brothel after the death of her mother, and being molested by her mother’s brother-in-law.
6. Huma Qureshi as Jhimli in ‘Badlapur’
Varun Dhawan gave one of the best performances of his career in the movie ‘Badlapur’ that was released in the year 2015. The movie also had Huma Qureshi who played the role of Janki “Jhimli” Dagaonkar, a sex worker and the love interest of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The movie received 15 nominations at the Stardust Awards that year, the maximum from one film.
7. Preity Zinta as Madhu in ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’
Preity Zinta played the role of a prostitute named Madhu in ‘Chori Chori Chupke Chupke’ who agrees to give birth to the child of Raj Malhotra (Salman Khan) and Priya (Rani Mukerji) via surrogacy after Priya becomes infertile. The movie went on to become one of the highest grossing movies of 2001 and is considered one of the first Bollywood movies that handled the issue of surrogate childbirth.
8. Sushmita Sen as Basanti in ‘Chingaari’
‘Chingaari’ was the adaptation of Bhupen Hazarika’s novel ‘The Prostitute and the Postman’, and had come out in the year 2006 starring Mithun Chakraborty as Bhuvan Panda, a priest in a village who is a regular customer of a hooker named Basanti played by Sushmita Sen. The film revolves around the issue of abuse of power and how some people bend religion to suit their own selfishness.
9. Bipasha Basu as Bobby in ‘No Entry’
Bipasha Basu played the role of a prostitute named ‘Bobby’ in ‘No Entry’ that was released in the year 2005. The film largely revolves around Bipasha’s character who causes all sorts of confusion in the romantic lives of Kishen (Anil Kapoor) and Shekhar (Fardeen Khan) that lead to hilarious circumstances. The movie was the biggest blockbuster of 2005.
10. Kalki Koechlin as Chanda in ‘Dev.D’
Kalki Koechlin played the contemporary version of Chandramukhi in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Dev.D’, a modern take of the classic novel ‘Devdas’, written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The film was released in 2009. In the movie, Kalki did the role of Leni, who gets into prostitution after an MMS scandal. She adopts the name Chanda working as a prostitute while pursuing her studies. The movie received highly positive reviews due to its slick narrative and experimental music.
11. Rekha as Umrao Jaan and Mansi in ‘Umrao Jaan’ and ‘Aastha’
Rekha is yet another actress who played the roles of prostitutes in more than one movie. She played it twice – once in ‘Aastha (1997)’ and then in ‘Umrao Jaan (1981)’. Though none of the movies did exceptionally well at the box office, they are but highly regarded. For her performance in ‘Umrao Jaan’, Rekha won the 1981’s National Film Award for Best Actress.