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The 'other women' of Bollywood

Koral Dasgupta @KoralDasgupta

Updated: June 29, 2015, 4:05 PM IST
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These are not the girls from 100 crore clubs. They are often not the size zero category! They are not the typical front-runners of Bollywood. Their slip-of-tongues don’t necessarily become controversies; even if they do they are not prolonged limitlessly. You don’t snatch the magazines from others if it reports on the possible link ups of these women with their co-stars or someone else. And still these women are very much a part of the Indian film industry and have very crucial contributions when it comes to some meaningful cinema that leaves long lasting impressions with the audience. Not necessarily they are the heroines or the vamps. Neither can you categorise them as simple supporting casts! These girls flirt with showbiz with simultaneous attachment and detachment, where they seem to make cautious and conscious choices of what they are available for and yet, their salability has an exclusive tag attached to it!

In the yester-years, meaningful cinema (or art films) meant a strong disconnect from commercial components in the content of the films. Often they were dark, sarcastic, humourless and spoke about some kind of materialistic or philosophical deprivation. Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi had been the consistent faces for such kind of cinema, occasionally supportedby Dipti Naval, Supriya Pathak and others. But as we moved closer to the millennium, the entertainment industry found itself in a mood to negotiate the boundaries. Those typical characteristic differences between the “commercial films” and “art films” were fast disappearing, and the industry geared up to experiment with uncanny inputs from both worlds so that even a dry, serious content came loaded with commercial potentials due to which budgets never failed, scopes of marketing associations were ample and the messages of the films got conveyed under more delightful packages!

The millennium most certainly brought in a flood of opportunities, and it was not just the corporate employees and business honchos to benefit in their human resource department. Bollywood responded to the changing socio-economic momentum with general and categorical impact in content and characterization of films, along with exponential growth in technic and technology that went into the film making process. Also the people involved in film making and film presenting, starting from actors and directors to the technicians and distributors, experienced a thorough upgradation in skills for survival into an industry which was now open for global competition. The journey that may have started with projects like Ajay Devgan’sZakhm or Aamir Khan’s Earth, both 1998 releases, have today reached the stage of RajkumarHirani’sMunnabhai series, or even the more recent PK! Also, with VidyaBalan, KareenaKapoor and Priyanka Chopra rising as the power women of ever-evolving Indian cinema, film makers are more open and confident to experiment on women-centric themes. Our recent past has seen a bunch of films thriving on women protagonists and that probably welcomes further talents to explore themselves in an otherwise volatile environment!

And hence entered these ladies with unconventional skills, roles and attitude, who can snap off your expectations of excellence in fashion sense, physicality or so-called stardom, but will return extreme perfection with the characters they portray on screen and they are practically indispensible in the place they have created for themselves on the heart of Bollywood.

Huma Qureshi, the most significant name among the “other women” opened her cards playing a very rooted Indian girl whose dreams and sensibilities are absolutely relatable. But soon she emerged as a power house performer with versatility written all across her biodata. Film makers have compared her with the effervescent SmitaPatil and critics applauded her for being “refreshingly natural”. Huma’s strength though lies in a certain X-factor that allows her to hold audience attention even when she is representing a smaller character with lesser scene-time, and her screen presence often dominates even through a high profile ensemble cast just because of the raw and intense sophistication she adds to her celluloid characters. Whether she chooses to play it right or wrong, mysterious or sensuous, emotional or practical – Huma convinces with conviction that if characters like those existed, they would have her face and display her mannerisms!

In contrast with Qureshi’s subtle oomphy image, SwaraBhaskar has agreed to be the naughty, mischievous girl-next-door! Her large eyes house a sea of emotions, and her on screen roles are a statement by themselves because they usually collide, not very directly though, with the philosophies of the protagonists. Her characters thus manage to provide the necessary dimension and conflict, without which the hero or heroine would not stand apart.

Though not conventionally pretty, RichaChadda has power embedded in her being! She is feisty and a fire band who would do something unbelievable to seize your attention if you neglect her presence at the first look! Her choice of films usually has seen a bias towards characters where she gets to portray a psychological greyness, and she enjoys playing the tug of war between two ideological extremes of good and bad! Critics always have lavish praises for Richa and audience too doesn’t expect her to attempt something too predictable.

Kalki Kochlein is probably a sweeter version of Richa Chadda. She has the same thrust in her screen presence, but maybe she doesn’t come across to be as unapologetic and secure of her uncustomary means as Chadda is! Rather,Kalki seems to be vulnerable, sweet and happy-go-lucky but she secretly nurtures an intense vein that takes center-stage when a role demands her to communicate some emotions that are basic and personal. Known for extraordinary talent and versatility with which she can mould herself to suit any character she chooses to personify, Kalki has been the choice of directors with widely different sensibilities, ranging from the much grounded Dibakar Banerjee and passionate Anurag Kashyap to the very massy Ayan Mukherjee or glamourously urban ZoyaAkhtar! The young lady effortlessly adapts herself according to the scope of the script and rearranges her personality as per the mood of the moment.

Aditi Rao Hydari is the perennial beauty of Bollywood with a very virgin face. She looks graceful and howsoever efforts she might make to look and sound hot & raunchy, the innocence of her face brings her back to the “good girl” image. This is probably the conflict that never allowed Hydari to rise above some passing roles that doesn’t occupy much screen time and even if they do, they fail to create the desired impact with the audience.

The senior-most in this list of “other women”, and versatility written all across her career graph, there is hardly a kind of role that Divya Dutta haven’t tried! She is brave with her portrayals and the honesty she puts in personifying a character makes her a non-negotiable definition of that character for the audience! There is hardly a genre that she hasn’t been a part of. With each of her films, she has managed to get her critics wave the green flag with a smile. The only failure in her career probably is that she attempted roles of the leading lady way back in ‘90’s, to which the cine-lovers didn’t respond kindly. But instead of putting an end to her innings there, Dutta fiercely took over the next best categories and her huge list of awards bear testimony to the extraordinary talent that she hides behind the otherwiseaverage looks!

The last in the list of “other women” is someone who defies all the definitions that I had offered at the beginning of this column, and yet, she is one hell of the “other woman” in her adventures with the camera and characteristic sex appeal that make people across ages go weak on their knees. She refused to be a heroine and is known as Bollywood’s favourite dancer, probably a modern day adaptation of Helen! This is none other but the very beautiful and attractive MalaikaArora Khan. The model and VJ turned actor was pretty clear that she never wanted to be a full-fledged running-around-the-trees heroine and she focused rather on building herself as the most high profile dancer of contemporary Bollywood. The diva has recently turned producer too, but Indian Cinema will remember her as the woman who had all potentials to be an A-lister heroine, but chose to play the game differently! And she played it like a champion, creating a space for herself that no one could ever challenge.

First Published: June 29, 2015, 4:05 PM IST
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