The Best Bollywood Actresses Of 2016 – Part 1
Unlike our leading men, the spotlight is more fickle when it comes to the leading ladies. While the past few years have seen Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra taking the acting laurels, this year (post their focus Stateside) meant that the few, who perhaps unfairly, were sidelined, got their chance to revel in the arc lights and blow us away with their awe inspiring acts.
Unlike last year, there weren’t that many films (or even acts), that stood out for me, but these actresses in particular (listed alphabetically), made it to the pedestal for either carrying films on their slender shoulders, daring to do something different and not getting lost as staple arm candy in male dominated yawn yarns.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil)
‘Main kisi ki zaroorat nahi… khwaish banna chahti hoon…’ – And the khwaish she is of many a ‘dil’ despite having been in the industry for nearly two decades. Many have tried but Ash has always been a director’s actress, and after a few failed attempts (Ash was one of the first choices for Rani’s part in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai), director Karan Johar cast her as the no-nonsense femme fatale Saba in this year’s ADHM, and managed to get the best out of her in a part, that was brazen and bold, yet never vulgar. That she looked like a dream was never in question (setting the screen ablaze in“Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo” in their her first proper encounter with Ayan in a nightclub), but she hit all the right notes too in a restrained performance, that required her to essentially be a catalyst, a bystander in the film’s central plot-line, which she nailed without once getting lost in the crowd.
Alia Bhatt (Udta Punjab/Dear Zindagi)
Shah Rukh Khan probably hit the nail on the head when he proclaimed that Alia was ‘too good, too soon’. Apart from Shaandaar, she hasn’t really hit one false note, and this year too, her diverse turns as an abused Bihari migrant in Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab and as a confused youngster, Kaira, suffering from abandonment issues in Gauri Shinde’s hit and miss Dear Zindagi, it’s becoming apparent that Bhatt possesses an abundance of talent, and its going to become harder and harder to justify her presence in films, purely because we already expect so much off of her.
Anushka Sharma (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil/Sultan)
That Anushka has always had considerable talent, was never under any doubt, but it took a few big films to bring that to the forefront. Despite starring heavyweights like Ranbir and Aishwarya, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was essentially Alizeh’s story – one that revolved around her heartbreak, her confusion and her terminal illness. It could have all easily gone for a toss though, if Anushka hadn’t managed the part with equal measures of spunk, vulnerability and maturity and despite all the whining in the film, it’s only her, that to an extent, manages to keep it all grounded and believable. Diametrically different (but less believable), was her turn as a no-nonsense wrestler, Aarfa, in Sultan, but to make and leave an impression in a Salman Khan starrer is a feat in itself and she managed that with a self assured confidence, where quite a few before her failed miserably.
The Girls Of Dangal
For an Aamir Khan film to rest equally on the shoulders of four girls as they do on Aamir, must bring with it considerable pressure, but the ease with which Fatima Sana Shaikh, Zaira Wasim, Sanya Malhotra and Suhani Bhatnagar take on the challenge is commendable. All four of them bring such grit, such determination and such believability to their parts, that it's difficult to imagine that this is their first starring part and that too in such a major motion picture. Perhaps unfairly, the parts that are portrayed by the older girls may get more prominence, but the film rests as equally on the younger girs (Zaira and Suhani) as their older counterparts – the pain and training that they seem to endure during their scenes seems authentic and here's hoping that they get as much credit for the film's astounding success as much as the adults do.
Sonam Kapoor (Neerja)
There are some stories that need to be told and there are some actors that are born to play certain characters. Sonam Kapoor, despite being a little mawkish in the film's earlier scenes, was born to play Neerja Bhanot, a part that will forever be etched as part of her acting legacy in a film, that is hands down one of the most riveting, nail-biting and inspiring stories of courage to grace the screen, at least in recent times. Till date, that one, career defining part seems to have eluded Sonam, who despite clearly being capable, never got the chance to quite dig herself into, as a result of which her contemporaries seemingly raced ahead. But with Neerja, she throws down her gloves and immerses headfirst into a character, that knocks the core out of your inner being, in a performance that will inevitably go down as her best.
Vidya Balan (Kahaani 2)
Balan was one of the first few actresses to carry a film solely on her shoulders a few years back and her name, more often than not (back then), gave a film a considerable amount of credibility. While she seems to have lost her clout at the box office, her talent remains unquestionable and she proves that this year too in Kahaani 2 (which has little to do with first film apart from its setting), as Vidya Sinha, a middle aged single mother who yearns to treat her paralysed daughter, but all is not as it seems, when an inspector digs into her life and unravels her murky past. Kahaani 2 remains watchable only because of Balan in a performance that smacks full of confidence and one that is less showy and all heart.