The lines have begun to blur between lead and supporting acts in contemporary films. Anyhow, in 2018, Hindi cinema saw a series of female actors turning in bravura performances in small but significant parts.
Here goes the list, in reverse order:
10. Anita Date (Tumbaad)
Playing more of a catalytic part in Tumbaad, Anita Date aces the physicality of a traditional Marathi woman in the film’s period setting. As the leading men in the film set out on their secretive treasure hunts, Date’s quiet yet effective turn as the only woman in their lives doesn’t go unnoticed.
9. Swara Bhasker & Shikha Talsania (Veere Di Wedding)
Bollywood sees a severe drought of true-blue girl bonding films. In probably what could be a pleasant beginning, director Shashanka Ghosh’s Veere Di Wedding tells the story of four women who – in social media parlance – are BFFs to each other. Delivering the film’s standout performances were Swara Bhasker and Shikha Taslania whose roles sharply contrasted to their erstwhile works in cinema.
While Bhasker’s convincingly enacted masturbation scene drew eyeballs for bizarre reasons, Talsania’s balanced performance as the new-mom is also groundbreaking in its own unique way.
8. Aditi Rao Hydari (Padmaavat)
A massive event film with three Bollywood heavy-weights in the lead and directed by another stalwart, Padmaavat came with multiple reasons to root for. Yet, it is Aditi Rao Hydari’s conscientious Queen Mehrunisa who wins many hearts. Wife to the wicked Allaudin Khilji (Ranveer Singh), Mehrunisa was not new to deceits. The character’s timely act of kindness coupled with Hydari’s intrinsic grace make it one of the most memorable elements in the Bhansali magnum opus.
7. Shahana Goswami (Gali Guleiyan)
Gali Guleiyan made me realize how less often we get to see this fabulous actor with definitive shape-shifting abilities. In a nuanced and finely written character, Shahana Goswami makes clever use of her limited screen space. Her sorrowful eyes and studied body language only adds to the character’s appeal, making us want to watch more of her in films.
6. Richa Chadha (Love Sonia)
In Love Sonia, there are points where you simply see Madhuri (Richa Chadha) in the background. There are times when she expresses anger to Sonia (Mrunal) and there are others where she is kind. We just see her strolling in and out of the main story throughout the film. We eventually get a tiny glimpse of what her story actually is. A well-defined supporting role, the film ensures that her character arc is complete. Performed with supreme flair by Chadha, it is heartbreaking to see her fate in the final reels. Then again, what less can you expect from a film that can prove harrowing even to the cold-hearted?
5. Surekha Sikri (Badhaai Ho)
Come to think of it, Dadi is a safe proposition for someone of Surekha Sikri’s stature. It might as well be the easiest character in the veteran actor’s long career. However, for contemporary Hindi cinema, a lovable yet practical (and motor-mouth) grandmother had gone extinct a while back but 2018 surprised us with a good number of them (Raid, Pataakha being the others)
Sikri is in top form yet again and she gives the one-liners a dash of individuality that is unique to her. More than anything else, it is extremely heartening to see this veteran actor getting big screen space yet again in times of overtly glamourized screen mothers.
4. Yamini Das (Sui Dhaaga – Made in India)
In her debut performance, ‘life-like’ is the only definition that goes with Yamini Das’s portrayal of Amma. She whines from the beginning of the film till the very end. We neither get a respite nor tumultuous changes in her characterization. Amma’s behavior bears the design that is cultivated over decades – much like umpteen rural women who have succumbed to their dubious fates. Das is excellent throughout, and she is one actor who certainly knows how to use her body language and voice texture to great advantage.
3. Masumeh Makhija (3 Storeys)
Arjun Mukerjee’s 3 Storeys chronicles multiples stories of middle-class people living in a Mumbai chawl. Masumeh Makhija’s story is one that had a weaker foundation in terms of the way the screenplay is setup. It doesn’t score brownie points in terms of freshness either as it feels a little familiar in ways more than one. Nevertheless, you got to hand it to a fabulous actor who will make full use of her/his character’s possibilities. Makhija is unbelievable as the battered wife who was once deeply in love with her neighbour’s husband (Sharman Joshi).
The actress emotes magically through her silences and some of her subtle gestures combined with a cautious body language make it certain that we applaud her well-calibrated performance.
2. Gitanjali Rao (October)
When renowned animator and filmmaker Gitanjali Rao decides to make her acting debut as the protagonist’s mother, I was a little baffled. One, Bollywood’s mother characters seldom move out of rule-book characteristics. Two, can Rao set a personal benchmark for herself on the acting front, as she plunges into mainstream Bollywood?
Conventions were bound to break because in a film conceived by the celebrated writer-director duo, Juhi Chaturvedi and Shoojit Sircar, the mother’s role perhaps had finer layers than the leads. Rao’s Vidya Iyer is no weak woman. A professor at IIT, she is resilient through her sufferings. We see deep sorrow and uneasiness reflect through Rao’s gloomy pair of eyes. Complete with a quiver in her voice, she speaks a good number of lines too, but, nothing matches the sorrow that her face quietly echoes.
1. G.V. Sharada (Beyond The Clouds)
Now, now… Veteran actor from Karnataka, G.V. Sharada is no stranger to the film camera. However, in what is her debut in a Hindi language film, Sharada gets no ordinary part to portray. Majid Majidi’s Beyond The Clouds, for a fact, was a complex web of human relationships with Sharada bagging the most difficult parts of all. As the mother of a sexual abuser who seeks shelter at the victim’s home, Sharada’s expressions beautifully convey what the obvious language barrier prevents her from.
In what is the strongest female supporting performance in Hindi films this year, the veteran actor makes a striking comeback to cinema after a decade and half.
Special Mentions: Katrina Kaif (Zero), Manisha Koirala (Sanju), Neena Gupta (Mulk), Sheeba Chaddha (Badhaai Ho), Anuja Sathe (Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran)
Down the years…
Author at Filmy Sasi