Review of 2009: Part Two – Bollywood Heroines

Who is Heroine Number One? Does Heroine Number One even exist anymore? Gone are the days when one super actress ruled the roost and the others fell into line, taking vamp/oomph/sister roles and whatever other leftovers the number one heroine had left behind. It seems slowly but surely, we are moving away from the numbers game and into the era of the league table, where heroines no longer compete for one spot but instead, much like Premier League Football, fight to stay in the top end of the league, using not only films but extra curricular activities such as brand endorsements, charity work and public appearances to keep that profile in the spotlight and to succeed, even if their films don’t. Here are the ladies who I think have done very well in 2009:

Priyanka Chopra – 2008 was her year. After four flops in a row, Priyanka turned it around with Fashion and Dostana and went from zero to hero in a short space of time. 2009 has similarly been a good year for Priyanka on the acting front – after a cameo in Billu (where she looked phenomenal), her role in Kaminey received a great deal of critical acclaim and showed she had an untapped talent that has only just started to show itself. Then we got What’s Your Rashee? which saw Priyanka on top form, playing no less than 12 roles in the film. The film may not have done well at the box office but Priyanka was praised by critics and audiences alike and it was clear here was an actress willing to take a risk and try something different and boy, has that risk has paid off handsomely. 2009 definitely hasn’t done Priyanaka any harm and next up for Priyanka is Pyaar Impossible which sees Piggy Chops teaming up with Yashraj for the first time, as well as Anjaana Anjaani with hero du jour Ranbir Kapoor. Let’s see 2010 will also work out well for her – if past form is anything, we know it will…

Kareena Kapoor – Now, if anyone is to win the mixed fortunes of the year, it is Kareena. With the frenzy surrounding her steady relationship with Saif Ali Khan under control, on paper, 2009 had good prospects for Kareena – films opposite four of the top 5 heroes all releasing in the same year (sadly, no film with Hrithik – will these two ever work together again?), brand endorsements galore and still the top choice for all major projects. And things didn’t go too badly- Kambakkht Ishq scored at the box office (though not with the critics), her item number in Billu opposite Shah Rukh was very popular (almost eclipsing Priyanka, Deepika and Lara), Main Aurr Mrs Khanna failed on all counts (but Kareena emerged unscathed), Kurbaan saw one of the best performances of her career (though it did poorly at the box office) and finally, 3 Idiots has seen a  career best performance AND amazing box office figures AND an ambition fulfilled starring opposite Aamir Khan. Phew! With the remake of Stepmom opposite Kajol in production and Agent Vinod opposite beau Saif, Kareena’s challenge seems to be consistency – can she achieve critical acclaim and box office success on her own? I think so…

Katrina Kaif – Being called a lucky charm by the industry has certainly been erm, lucky for Kat – as Yuvraaj faltered in 2008, it seemed Katrina’s luck had  run out. But not one to be knocked out so easily, Katrina has pushed things up a gear in 2009, with all her films doing well at the box office this year but surprisingly, showing growth as an actress too. New York saw her take a risk and not quite make it but receive thumbs up for trying. There was a dreadful cameo in Blue but the lucky girl emerged without too much damage.Then came Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and shock horror, the pretty girl who couldn’t speak Hindi was now giving a career best performance and giving another huge hit at the box office. Even in De Dana Dan, (which inexplicably did well at the box office) Katrina was one of the most watchable things about the film. Now it looks like Katrina may be turning a corner if the trailer of Raajneeti is anything to go by – pitted against some heavy acting talent like Ajay Devgn, Naseerudin Shah, Nana Patekar as well as favourite co-star Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina is in place to turn that lucky mascot label into something more substansial. I wouldn’t be surprised if we are all singing her praises at the end of 2010…

Deepika Padukone – Like Kareena, with Deepika, a lot of attention had been focused on Deepika’s relationship with Ranbir Kapoor – after all, her first two films had done well so it was natural the press would look for something else to speculate upon. The year started on a bum note with a dismal performance in Chandni Chowk To China opposite Akshay. She recovered some ground with her item number in Billu opposite Shah Rukh Khan and then really surprised us with a good performance in Love Aaj Kal opposite Saif Ali Khan. More than holding her own in the film, like Katrina, we saw the beginnings of a good actress ready to emerge. A cameo in Main Aurr Mrs Khanna did her no harm at all, and though Deepika is in the early stages of her career, there is certainly potential waiting to be showcased. With Karthik Calling Karthik opposite Farhan Akhtar and Housefull with Akshay in 2010, Deepika may be the dark horse of the premier league who has the potential to totally turn things around. Watch this space…

Vidya Balan – 2008 wasn’t a great year for her. Despite Kismat Konnection doing well at the box office, whilst Shahid benefited from the success and plaudits, poor Vidya was slated for her poor wardrobe and looking too old opposite Kapoor. But 2009 undid that with a career best performance opposite one of the best actors in the world – in Paa, after Amitabh Bachchan’s legendary performance, it was Vidya matching him and turning out a strong performance as Auro’s mother. Not since Parineeta has Vidya demonstrated such versatility and whether it was comedy or emotional scenes, Vidya proved she could more than conquer the challenge. Furthermore, her detractors were silenced as her amazing wardrobe was praised in the film. An actress who lets her work speak for her, Vidya shows she is not one to be written off and with Ishqiya opposite Naseruddin Shah and Arshad Wasi and Chenab Gandhi teaming her up again with Amitabh Bachchan, 2010 looks set to cement Vidya’s position as an actress of substance.

Lara Dutta – Here is another actress who seems immune to box office failures – her films may not do well but she certainly continues to. First there was the role in Billu which saw an attempt to do something different but ironically, Lara was criticised for being too glamorous as a village belle. Then came Do Knot Disturb which saw her wasted (as was Sushmita Sen) in a done to death foxy babe role. Similarly, Blue failed to give Lara anything to write home about in terms of showing her acting abilities. It is a foregone conclusion that Lara is absolutely gorgeous and can do the glamorous roles with her eyes closed. But I would really like to see Lara the actress, that we saw in Bardaasht. The reason she makes this list is she is another dark horse that has the potential to go really far in the space of a few films – for her, it’s all about finding that breakthrough role…

Kirron Kher – Surprised? You shouldn’t be – Kirron Kher is a damn fine actress and despite being assigned variations on the same role of a mother in every other film, each time Kirron Kher reinvents herself for each role and makes it all look so darn easy that we forget that there is some serious acting going on there. Whilst 2008 saw her take her portrayal of an overbearing Punjabi mother to new heights in Dostana in 2008, it was her chilling turn as the iron lady matriarch in Kurbaan that puts her on this list – not only does she handle her Urdu dialogue and Afghan look with gutso but her spirited performance was more scary than Om Puri’s mastermind terrorist and stole the show from Kareena and Saif at many points. No doubt Kirron will be cast as a mother in many more films but this is one actress who is always worth a watch and an underrated one at that. Let’s hope 2010 has some more challenging roles in store for her…

Other Actresses to watch out for:

Asin – Ok, so London Dreams may not have been well received but Asin is still hot property – and 2010 will see her going strength to strength.

Kangana Ranut  – After an amazing performance in Fashion alongside Priyanka in 2008 , Kangana scored in 2009 with Raaz – The Mystery Continues, though Vaada Raha saw her wasted. But with Kites with Hrithik Roshan and Once Upon A Time In Mumbai with Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi, Kangana looks set to continue her steady conquest to conquer Bollywood.

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