This Women’s Day, we feature 10 heroines who besides regaling us with their films, have re-written the rules on a variety of issues. From the perfect XL size, to being the the alfa achiever, fashion diva,business honcho or a sexy single, these women have given conventions a wicked spin
She’s back on the sets, as matterof- factly as she went off it on an extended maternity leave. Recently awarded by Julia Morley (organiser of Miss World) for being the most successful Miss World back home in Mumbai to accomodate her mommy schedule, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan over her decades in show business has proved that nobody walks the talk quite as well as her. Work-life balance has been a constant endeavour and she juggles her duties as wife and mother along with being a beauty queen and India’s rep to the world with great sincerity. According to hubby AbhishekBachchan, she can cook quite a meal too but none of the domestic chores have turned her into adrab and dreary haus frau. Far from it. She’s back to her svelte self, impressing one and all while lending her presence to cinematic causes like the Mumbai Film Festival, among others. On other occasions she is by hubby’s side, cheering his kabaddi team or protectively accompanying daughter Aaradhya. At present she’s shooting away for her forthcoming film Jazbaa. Given how particular she is about her influencer status, it is no surprise that she has opted for a thriller with her playing a tough cookie. And yes, she is the hero in the film with others stepping in to ably support her. Her life, her rules, because she’s worth it.
Humour Dressed Up
Alia Bhatt was just another famous industry kid (Mahesh Bhatt’s youngest) when she appeared in a high-gloss finish Student of the Year directed by Karan Johar. Within a lightning span, she’s gone from ditzy to the It girl. While the youngest Bhatt with an elfin charm has won the hearts of all women who feel extremely protective about the actress, her bigger achievement is that she has shown a humorous side to heroines that we never knew existed. The spunky actress (all of 21 and counting) known for ditzy answers to general awareness questions such as Prithviraj Chavan being the President of India among others, which reinforced the notion of pretty ladies being nothing short of morons, came up with an ingenious counterin the form of a video called Genius of the Year that went viral. Not only did it generate a lot of laughter, it firmly established Bhatt Jr as a girl who did not take herself too seriously and encouraged heroines to develop a sense of humour! Being funny was never as adorable. Move over Tina Fey!
The right cast
Bhumi Pednekar was just another regular girl from Mumbai armed with a degree in B.Com who landed a job in Yash Raj Films as an assistant casting director. A girl whose ‘life is full ofinspiring women’, Pednekar believes that women today are very empowered and gone are the days when they were always dependent on somebody. “The moment a woman feels that she should depend only on herself, she will dosomething with her life,” are Pednekar’s words of wisdom. And sure enough, her plus size certainly did not come in the way of her dreams of becoming an actress, though it came about by accidentwhen Maneesh Sharma the producer of the film spotted that she had all the makings of an actress. When offered the part of Sandhya, an oversize, small town girl in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Pednekar happily put on over 10 kilos for the part. “I was an overweight girl and still am but I am comfortable with my weight,” says the new actor on the block, who didn’tgive a damn that Bollywood heroines are supposed to harbour a size zero figure. She would like to take up roles that make an impact.
In the high-gloss photo-shopped world that the film industry is, Padukone impressed her admirers and detractors alike by speaking out on the most taboo of all topics — clinical depression and visiting a shrink. This, after taking on a leading national daily, for being sexist in their remarks accompanying a cleavage revealing photograph of her, which earned her much support from women. The very fact that Padukone put herselfin the mix and fessed up to anxiety and fear of things going wrong, troubling her earned her a grudging respect from everyone. She admitted to seeing a psychologist to battle the constant anxiety, something that few in India admit to. And yes, although it did generate speculation if her speaking out was linked to an endorsement, the fact that the conversation has led to a wider awareness and openness on the subject, is proof that Padukone, in her small way has helped the cause big time.
A tall order
She may have been given the nickname ‘chirpy Chawla’ because she has the gift of the gab, and to an extent because of the frothy roles she has played in her films, but the actress has proved that she is more than just jovial and cheery. Chawla was gutsy enough to take up the issue of the ill effects of radiation from cell phone towers over a year ago, raising the hackles of cellphone companies in the bargain. But she still continues her protest. And what has her smiling is that her awareness campaign now has the public on her side, as people are opposing the towers coming up in public spaces. “I am also happy about the public taking up the issue of cutting trees at Aarey (a stretch of green land in Mumbai),” said the actress. Not just that, the actress is going all out to better the education system with her family’s educational institute, Arya Kanya Gurukul in Gujarat. “Today, we have distanced ourselves from our culture and education is all about learning information and putting it down during exams. The goal is to make a strong base in children about our culture and combine it with the English language, computers and other modern skills,” said Chawla. Career wise the actress stepped into unfamiliar waters with Gulaab Gang in which she played a negative role for the first time!
If last year Kalki Koechlinwrote a strong monologue for a solo performance at a conclave on International Women’s Day, Just Another Rant—a frustrated ode to women everywherechained and bound by traditional patriarchy, this year, she is spreading the word that women need to live a life of equality through her writing. “Basically, I wrote a new poem on issues related to women and performed it live at The Hive, Mumbai. We made a video which will release on social media platforms on March 8,” said Koechlin about this year’s plan for Women’s Day. “Hang in there girls, it’s getting better’ is what I would like to tell all the girls out there,” she says matter-of-factly. Despite her unconventional looks, she has created a niche for herself in the industry with bold, out-of-the-box roles —be it a sex worker in Dev D, or a girl with cerebral palsy in the upcoming Margarita With A Straw, who wants to experience sex. “In today’s world, it is difficult to be yourself because of social constraints. What might be considered bold for some, may not be daring for others. I grew up in a familywhere I was allowed to express myself. Being bold is not the answer. But if something is preventing you from being yourself, you need to find ways to talk about it,” she remarks.
On the right track
If there’s one actor, who despite the odds can turn the tide in her favour, it has to be Kangana Ranaut. Only someone as gutsy as Ranaut could have taken time off during the peak of her career for a screenplay writing course in New York to fine tune her skills as a writer and write the dialogues for Queen. “I wanted to understand the technicalities of the writing process. Being a college dropout, this was a very different experience for me. I have been working non-stop for almost seven – eight years and then, I became a student all over again. It was a refreshing change,” the actress said in an earlier interview to Screen. Despite being a much in demand actress, Ranaut thinks that everyone should have a life beyond the expected. And thus, she has dreams to do more than just acting. “How else can you evolve as a human being? Before settling down at one place, I would like to open a cafe in some city — Mumbai, Switzerland, Manali, Paris or any place. I want to stay in different countries, learn new languages, do different things.Girls should make their own money, sponsor their own holiday, educate themselves further and enjoy their lives. You must explore life in your early 20s. But instead, we see girls getting married at a young age and their life comes to a standstill,” she expressed. Ranaut is also one of the few actors who let go of an endorsement deal for a fairness product as she did not want to set a wrong example. Way to go!
The attractive model-turned-actress, Nimrat Kaur was gutsy enoughto take up the role of a lonely and lackluster housewife in her first film, The Lunchbox. May be, it was the success of the off-beat film worldwide, which charted the path of Kaur’s career. While many actress would have preferred a safe path to glory, Kaur took an adventurous track when she agreed to do the American series, Homeland, something which usually actors experiment with after playing it safe in Bollywood with several films. The actress played the nefarious Tasneem Qureshi, who everyone loved to hate. “It was such a pleasure to be hated,” chuckled Kaur as she spoke about her role. Kaur’s resolute is evident in her take on Women’s Day. “It’s a day that can can be used to give a voice to women who live in suppressed conditions and bring forth issues like domestic violence which are often missed otherwise,” saidthe actress who is inspired by her manager Reshma Shetty and the way she single handedly runs her company.
As an FBI agent in an upcoming ABC drama Quantico on American television, Piggy Chops has certainly been among the ladies who have constantly put their acting chops to test. But even more interesting is that Chopra who quit education early in life (post high-school) to become a beauty queen, has proved that knowledge is not necessarily a preserve of those that attend classes. This powerhouse performer has displayed ample intelligence in her career choices opting for the hatke roles. Now famous as a singer of international repute with the singles In my city and I can’t make you love me, she sure could give lessons on how to manage your career and look like a million bucks while doing it. After a series of bravura performances in films like Barfi! and Mary Kom, she has also turned producer and featured in a video called Girl Rising for the India campaign aimed at increasing awareness about educating girls. And she sure makes for a fine poster girl for the cause!
Fashionista with a twist
Not everybody and certainly not all actresses have as much fun with fashion as Anil Kapoor’s eldest born, Sonam Kapoor. Since her arrival in 2007 with Saawariya, she has mixed films and fashion like no other. That she speaks her mind even at the risk of sounding politically incorrect only makes her more delightful. After the success of two small, heroine centric films namely Khoobsurat and Dolly Ki Doli, Kapoor is emerging quite the dark horse in the space of heroine led content that has just opened up. Light, frothy and fashionable are key to her brand of entertainment. “I would be extremely immodest to talk about my own contribution but I try my very best to be strong, independent and idealistic woman. I think that is the most I can do at this point but there are several women who are contributing in different ways. As for the roles I play I think my choices should speak themselves,” she says. For now, she’s taken her fashion philosophy to the next level, which is launching her very own fashion line in collaboration with sister Rhea who is both her stylist and producer on various projects. Titled RheSon, it is in collaboration with Shoppers Stop, and promises affordable fashion. “Anything you wear with confidence looks nice. There are no rules,” says Kapoor of channeling one’s inner fashionista and flying with it. Fashion as an assertion of one’s unique identity is Kapoor’s contribution.