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January 10, 2018

Women For All Seasons: 10 Actresses We Will Watch Closely On Celluloid This Year

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

This year promises to showcase a plethora of cinematic offerings. Track the silver screen for these leading ladies who are poised to grab the limelight in prestigious projects

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

She has been described as ‘a Greek goddess with the soul of an Indian’. One of the most popular and influential celebrities in India – her global appeal cannot be denied either – the erstwhile Miss World continues to rule in several domains. Often called the most beautiful woman in the world, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has won awards for her histrionics in films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and DevdasHer marriage to Abhishek Bachchan and the birth of her daughter Aradhya gave her real-life persona new dimensions – and as the Bachchan bahu, wife and mother, she is as watched as she is in her own right as a power performer. Her red carpet appearances, in particular, are the talk of the fashionable world. Her screen outings the past two years in Jazbaa, Sarabjit and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil were eagerly awaited. Her influence is not limited to the screen alone – she is a staunch supporter of several social causes – the Aishwarya Rai Foundation helps the underprivileged, she was the first goodwill ambassador of Smile Train – and these are but two of the many causes she is associated with.

Watch out for in 2018 – Her 2018 film, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Fanney Khan (the official adaptation of the Oscar-nominated Everybody’s Famous) is due for release in June.

Memorable quote to Verve: “If I am not comfortable doing what I am doing, the camera picks up every little thing, you cannot lie to the camera. I have been fairly radical throughout my career in terms of trying to break out of the predictable journey of a leading lady. Early on, I took up mature roles and started working in regional cinema. It was recognised that I had a dancing prowess and I could have been the next dancing superstar but I chose subjects where the directors wanted to create a slightly different character.”

Alia Bhatt

Pretty, dimpled, and articulate, this tiny powerhouse has shown a remarkable growth in her career from Student of The Year to Highway and Dear Zindagi. An icon for the younger generation, she shows a great deal of comfort in interacting with fawning fans and facing the camera – even on a personal day out. Labelled a fashionista, her edgy dressing sense has caught the eye of those who faithfully follow her. And the favourite on the couch in different seasons of Koffee With Karan took the joke about her general knowledge in her stride and won even more fans by the way she sportingly laughed about it.

Watch out for in 2018 — Raazi: In this movie produced by Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt morphs into a Kashmiri girl under the directorial baton of Meghna Gulzar. The movie is reportedly an adaptation of Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka – that narrates the tale of a Kashmiri spy married to a Pakistani man during the Indo-Pak War of 1971.

Memorable quote to Verve: “I can’t answer questions about what others think about me or what image I am portraying. I prefer not to think about why I am not like the others. Then I will become conscious of it and I will try and be this fabricated version of myself which is not fun, and then you start taking yourself too seriously.”

Anushka Sharma

She ended the year on a veritable high when she tied the knot with ace cricketer and Indian captain Virat Kohli – accompanying him to South Africa for his tour soon after. She has indeed come a long way from her debut in the Yash Raj Films’ production Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. The vivacious, talented actor – who turned producer with NH10 two years agocompletes a successful ten years in films in 2018. Although Jab Harry Met Sejal may not have got the success the pair deserved, Anushka has shown time and again that she is a performer to reckon with – we enjoyed her screen turns in PK, Dil Dhadakne Do, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Sultan, and of course, her second YRF outing, Band Bajaa Baaraat. Any interaction with the star reinforces the fact that she is a grounded, focused and hardworking girl who deserves her success and fan adulation. For she has tried to not let stardom turn her head, and as she once told us, her aim is to be as normal as is possible.

Watch out for in 2018 – The Phillauri girl has not one but three releases to look forward to this year – Rajkumar Hirani’s Sanju is based on the life of Sanjay Dutt. The actor plays the titular role in her home production Pari releasing in March, and towards the end of the year will share screen space with Shah Rukh Khan in Zero. An interesting line-up to watch out for!

Memorable quote to Verve:  “If you get sucked into this you end up thinking that everything begins and ends with you. There are people around you who will make you feel that way and not make you feel that way when you are not successful. I have a sense of reality and that is maintained only if I get out of my comfort zone. I don’t think that just because I am an actor, I should be travelling only in a car or that I should look beautiful all the time or talk in a certain way. I don’t think today’s actors are like that. We are quite real. Nobody is trying to follow any norm.”

Deepika Padukone

The tall girl who made her debut opposite King Khan in Om Shanti Om has, in the intervening years, following much-applauded performances, grown in stature to become one of the highest paid actresses in the country. The daughter of badminton player Prakash Padukone often features in listings of the nation’s most popular and powerful personalities. We loved her acts in Cocktail, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Piku – and of course, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opuses Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani, where she held her own opposite Ranveer Singh and in the presence of Priyanka Chopra in the latter. Her first Hollywood project xXx: Return of Xander Cage hit the screen early last year and one hopes that in whatever she does next internationally, it is a role worth her calibre and stature. It is commendable how the actress has spoken out about her bouts of depression and how she overcame them. Also commendable is her dignified conduct in the light of the controversy that surrounded the third SLB saga where she shares screen space with Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

Watch out for in 2018 — Padmavat: It can be said with all honesty that this movie is one that is being waited for with bated breath. In the titular role, Deepika will prove her acting stirrups yet again opposite both Kapoor and Singh.

Memorable quote to Verve: “I ended up doing non-conventional roles. I am proud that my directors think I am versatile enough to be able to carry off a variety of characters and each film made me grow as an actor. My focus is on my work. I want to be selective and enjoy every moment of what I am doing. With this comes confidence.”

Huma Qureshi

Interestingly, acting was not part of her original plan. Striking items of her list of things she could do, Huma landed in Mumbai from New Delhi – and soon found her calling. Two performances which she says are very close to her heart are her roles in Gangs Of Wasseypur (GOW) and Badlapur. We also watched her in Dedh Ishqiya and Jolly LLB 2. Last year, she was seen in Gurinder Chadha’s  production Viceroy’s House (dubbed in Hindi as Partition: 1947). As a person, we have found her extremely punctual, polite and easy to interact with.

Watch out for in 2018 — Kaala: Huma will be seen opposite Rajinikanth in a film headlined by the South icon.

Memorable quote to Verve: “I think everyone should just be their own person – right or wrong, only time will tell. More often than not, that’s a function of success. If you’re successful, you’re right, and if you’re not, you’re not right. But, beyond success and failure what you should strive for is excellence, both as an artiste and as a person. There’s no diehard formula for expressing your individuality; it is something that happens as you go along.”

Kangana Ranaut

The Bhambla-born actor has, in her own way, set her stamp on celluloid and made news, both on and off screen. She raised her voice against nepotism in the industry and was called out for it – and is known for always questioning stereotypes. She is known to often take a stand on issues that matter to her with an outspokenness that has come to be associated with her. The actor. who has bagged two consecutive National Film Awards (Queen and Tanu Weds Manu Returns) is badass, both on screen and off it too. We loved her in both these cinematic offerings – and also applauded her rendition of the model in Fashion. And as Julia in Rangoon, she was supremely natural cracking the whip! Her acting chops apart, Kangana is known for her fashion sense and often features on many Best Dressed lists – often for her quirky way of dressing.

Watch out for in 2018 — Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi:  The epic biographical film on Rani Laxmibai features Kangana in the titular role. Recently, a few pictures were seen on social media – where she sported an off-white embroidered dress with a gold turban. The antique jewellery and dagger gave her look a distinctly royal vibe. We are waiting to see what the film unveils.

Memorable quote to Verve: “In the kind of day and age that we live in, power is all about having power or control over yourself – your goals, your decisions, your own life. I think that is a lot more difficult than having power over others.”

Kareena Kapoor Khan

The girl with acting in her blood has more than lived up to her legacy. Watched intently for her screen appeal as well as her style quotient, Kareena is a true diva in the perfect sense of the word. Her book The Style Diary of a Bollywood Diva offered insights into her lifestyle. Married to the dapper Saif Ali Khan and mother to tiny tot Taimur, her off-screen life sparks as much curiosity as her screen appearances. Bebo – as she is fondly called – as Poo in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… raised the swag quotient to another high. We loved her then, even as we loved her in her turn as a sex worker in Chameli. It was in Omkara that she stunned us again with her interpretation of Desdemona, Shakespeare’s frail heroine. And the box office was testimony to the popularity of her movies like Jab We Met and 3 Idiots. She is, we say, a pleasure to watch – whether on screen, the small screen in talk shows, or on the red carpet.

Watch out for in 2018 — Veere Di Wedding: She co-stars with Sonam Kapoor in Shashanka Ghosh’s directorial offering – it would be fun to see her shine in the girl gang that forms the core of the movie.

Memorable quote to Verve: “I have learned more from failure that I have from success. Failure is a part of life. What counts is how you deal with failure.”

Rani Mukerji

She has always preferred to stay out of the media glare for anything beyond her work. Though from a filmi family, she has made it on her own terms – and in her own right. For us, her standout performance was in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black – where she learnt sign language to endow her role with credibility. She had once told us “I am Rani, but I have no throne!” But, she has, in her own way, ruled supreme on the silver screen with projects like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Yuva, Saathiya, Hey Ram and Bunty Aur Babli. Her husky voice and tiny frame giving her a distinctive presence, Rani has carved her own place in the filmi firmament.

Watch out for in 2018 — Hichki: Next month, Rani returns to the silver screen after a hiatus, post motherhood – to showcase her histrionics in Hichki. She slips under the skin of a physically challenged character and fans who remember intensity in Black will wait for yet another emotionally charged performance from the ‘Queen’.

Memorable quote to Verve:  “Even if there has been a misunderstanding or a story about me, I really do not get the time to sort it out. I am lazy by nature. You are trying to clarify what is in someone’s imagination and I do not like to explain myself to anyone.”

Sonam Kapoor

She recently shared the stage with women leaders from different fields at ‘We the Women’ by Barkha Dutt and spoke eloquently on whether ambition is still a bad word and on gender pay disparity in Bollywood. Her poise on stage and confident utterances proved yet again that the actor who is an acknowledged style icon can voice her opinions where they matter. Apart from other concerns, she has openly lent her support to causes like LGBT and breast cancer awareness. Her performance in the titular role of Neerja garnered her not just popular and critical acclaim, but also netted her a Special Jury Award at the National Film Awards  – proving that given the right role, she can walk tall on celluloid too.

Watch out for in 2018 — Padman and Veere Di Wedding – the first one is inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu. The latter is a girl gang movie, directed by Shashanka Ghosh.

Memorable quote to Verve: “For me, celebration is anything to do with life. It could be something small…or something big. In fact, small moments in life are worth celebrating much more.”

Tabu

This National Film Award-winning actress is known to wow her audience with her celluloid characters. Having straddled both the worlds of commercial and indie cinema, Tabu is a sensitive talented performer who gets to the essence of her reel persona to bring it out effectively in her own way. We cannot forget her edgy turn in Haider as well as her role of the grief-stricken mother in Drishyam. And lest we forget, we also enjoyed watching her in Cheeni Kum, Maachis, Maqbool and of course Chandni Bar, to name but a few of her outstanding projects.

Watch out for in 2018 — Shoot the Piano Player: Sriram Raghavan’s thriller brings Tabu in the same screen space as Ayushmann Khurrana for the first time.

Memorable quote to Verve: “I do not like watching my movies in theatres. I watch them when I am alone, sometimes much later at home. I cannot watch my films with so many opinions fluttering around me.”

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