Ranking. That was quite a task when it came to compiling the list of 2017’s finest female actors. With each one of them putting their best feet forward in films that demanded them to be anything but pretty wallflowers, the year also saw the stereotype of the classic Bollywood heroine fade. Now, so many of their films didn’t fare too well at the box office. Who cares, as long as these ladies continue to push their boundaries? Read on…
10. Padmapriya Janakiraman (Chef)
Small role, terrific impact. This seasoned South Indian actor is blessed with truckloads of grace that makes it impossible to look at anyone else if she is on screen. It only helped that Padmapriya’s part of a Malayali classical dancer and a single mother fit her like a glove.
9. Manisha Koirala (Dear Maya)
There’s a reason why Manisha Koirala is considered one of the finest dramatic female actors of Indian cinema. Critics and film lovers of the ‘90s hailed her as the Meena Kumari of the generation. In the last reel of Dear Maya, Manisha simply melts your heart with some sort of an unexplainable poignancy. Plus, the actor’s remarkable attention to detail is hard to go unnoticed.
8. Parvathy Thiruvoth (Qarib Qarib Singlle)
A celebrated actor in Southern film industries, Parvathy’s foray into Bollywood was not forced. Playing a Malayali widow who is in her early 30s, this spirited actor embraces the loneliness and listlessness of Jaya with great maturity. Her constant squabbles with co-actor Irrfan worked in favour of the film, as did her realistic styling and makeup.
7. Kangana Ranaut (Rangoon)
2017 was a disappointing year for Kangana Ranaut with her powerhouse performances getting wasted in films that didn’t match her lustre. I will pick Rangoon over Simran as it didn’t come across as a chip off her old and famous block – Queen. Miss Julia in Rangoon is an author-backed part and Ranaut makes sure to give her flesh and blood to it. Just that we wonder what remains in the famous deleted footage from the film which the actors (mysteriously) vouch for.
6. Parineeti Chopra (Meri Pyaari Bindu)
Oh, it is hard being Bindu. A bigger task is to empathize with her in order to develop some sort of an affection as a viewer. The ball, forever, is in her co-star Ayushmann Khurrana’s court and rightfully so. Perhaps Parineeti Chopra knew that Bindu is for real. So much so that the mystique and the unabashedness that Chopra lends her character is something that most of her contemporaries would have shied away from. And should we need to mention her deadly looks and the newly showcased avatar as a songstress?
5. Bhumi Pednekar (Shubh Mangal Saavdhan)
The go-to actor for small-town girl characters, Bhumi Pednekar might not have strained hard to bring Sugandha to life. Then you observe the unique ordeal that Pednekar’s Sugandha is faced with and the countless emotional sequences that she handles with a veteran’s agility. The best? The heartbreaking moment in the park where she makes a helpless attempt to seduce Mudit (Ayushmann Khurrana). Ouch, that did hurt!
4. Sridevi (Mom)
There’s no bias when I say that when Sridevi is on screen, there is an air of assuredness. She is a safety net – for the makers and also for the viewers who are out there in a cinema hall with soft drinks, popcorn and snacks. As the distraught step-mother Devki, the actor pitches in a mind-boggling performance and delivers the worth of every single penny spent in watching Mom – despite the film’s screenplay not paying much heed to her immense mettle. The finale, in particular, is of the kinds that would send severe shivers down your spine.
3. Zaira Wasim (Secret Superstar)
How common is it to spot child/adolescent actors who do not take the camera seriously? Well, Zaira Wasim is a revelation out there, in case you already aren’t aware of. On a different note, she seems to be more alert than several of her adult contemporaries. Not only does she carry the film on her firm shoulders but also delivers a bravura performance that broke a handful of stereotypes and will also (hopefully) open doors for youngsters of her age to pursue their passion for acting.
2. Vidya Balan (Tumhari Sulu)
Well, it’s always a pleasure to see Vidya Balan find her groove back after her occasional hiccups. When she isn’t engulfed by concept-heavy films and over-optimistic makers, Balan delivers absolute charmers like Suresh Triveni’s Tumhari Sulu – the kind of stuff that is tailor-made for the bundle of energy that she is. A lively prism of middle-class couple dynamics, the film comes with tremendous repeat value and Balan makes sure that you shed a tear or two while you are at it. Here’s one performance that makes us forgive her for all the ordinary films that she chose to do of late. To err is Balan, right?
1. Swara Bhasker (Anaarkali of Aarah)
Anaarkali is not Swara Bhasker. We see no trace of the actor whom we have seen and loved in films like Nil Battey Sannata, Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhana, Listen Amaya and others. Anaarkali of Aarah is an untold story, set in a universe that is very much prevalent in a (possibly) neglected corner of India. At the film’s pivot is Bhasker’s ferocious nautanki performer, who takes on a powerful man who challenges her modesty. This is a film that boldly underlines the need for a woman’s consent and it does so without an iota of preaching. To Bhasker’s credit, she internalizes Anaarkali as if she was born to play her. Be it her hunger to perform, or her coquettish ways with the men she chooses to be with or when she fiercely retaliates upon being wronged, Swara Bhasker is a treat for Hindi film lovers.
Now, given her openness to stand up bravely for things other than cinema, you may not witness her winning awards that she otherwise richly deserves. To hell with them, because we know what this gem of an actor is worthy of. Here’s looking out for you in 2018, Swara.