Sunday, April 6, 2008

Top five Hindi film heroines (to me).

I set out to do a Top Ten but didn't get far with it, hence a top five instead. Maybe it's because the standard for my favourite Hindi film heroines (as in, characters, not actresses) is quite high. It needs to be a good performance, a memorable character and above all, I feel like the heroine needs to shine brighter than the hero, which is a very difficult thing to achieve in movies that have been male-focused for the past three or four decades. If I brought down my standards, I might have a Top Ten. (Also, quite often the most interesting female roles aren't starring roles at all.)

Screencap from MariaKaefer.
Basanti from Sholay

A huge part of why I love Hema Malini today is her portrayal of Basanti, the chatterbox tongawalli and her mare Dhanno. It was really love at first sight, I had just finished marvelling at the combination of comedy (jailer!) and action (on a train!) of the movie, and then in walks this girl, and Veeru makes a move on her, and Jai acts indifferent, and she just keeps talking. I just loved her. She's just a burst of energy on-screen and always a pleasure to watch. While she has her share of typical damsel-in-distress moments, her spunk in general makes her stand out as one of the best things about the legendary film.

Geet from Jab We Met

The character of Geet owes to Hindi film's previous spunky heroines but the reason she's so great is because, well, she's one of those spunky heroines! They aren't too many, let me remind you. Film scripts sometimes tend to not give heroines any personality but this is not the case with Jab We Met, where the romance and characters are above all well-written, and Geet is absolute brimming with personality and character. She's lively and fun and talkative, with a strong sense of who she is, which is exactly why Shahid's Aditya falls in love with her, and most of the viewers do, too.

Sarika from Ek Hasina Thi

Yeah, I realize it's not a very typical masala feature, this one, so of course it will have a meatier, more interesting heroine role. But there are plenty of movies like that, and the reason I pick Sarika out of all of them is simple: a lot of such movies are good for a watch or two, but not many of such heroines have stayed with me the way Sarika and Urmila Matondkar in the role have. Sarika is many things; she starts out a slightly scared urban woman living alone, but develops into a dangerous lady who is afraid of little, extremely cunning and a little unbalanced, too. I love watching her journey, as awful as it is, over and over again, because she comes out on top, and that's what really counts.

Rhea from Hum Tum

The great thing about Kunal Kohli's two recent films - to be honest, my memories of Mujhe Dosti Karoge are vague - is that he always seems to give his heroines a choice. Rhea is a good example of a heroine whose choices dictate the entire story. She doesn't give the hero a time of the day until he grows up and learns some respect. She has a career, and she marries a guy out of love. She refuses to re-marry despite people pressuring her to do so. Overall, Rhea is a true individual, who thinks and decides for herself, and that's what really makes her awesome.

Geeta from Seeta Aur Geeta

Our second Geeta, who the first one owes a fair amount to. Geeta is the heroine who will raise hell when she sees injustice, and it's really very satisfying to see her do it - verbally, physically, she has the guts and the attitude to deliver in both ways. If Basanti was who made me curious about Hema Malini, the roles of Seeta and Geeta are what sealed the deal of her as a favourite. As most Hema roles are more Seeta than Geeta, I really cherish Geeta and Basanti as performances, not just because they were the first times I saw her in films, but also because they're really special, even considering the whole of her career. And as awesome, spunky heroines go, well worth the hype.

I leave you with an awesome Geeta fanvid to "These Boots Are Made For Walking" that I found on youtube just tonight.

So ..who are yours?


Daddy's Girl said...

I really like your choices... I'm very fond of Geeta and Basanti too, Geeta especially. I also liked another spunky Hema-creation, Asha from 'Naseeb'. Geet from 'Jab We Met' is definitely a fantastic character - it's a testimony to excellent scripting and direction, as well as a great performance by Kareena; that the character is so distinctive, lovable and memorable.
On my list I would probably have one of Madhuri's characters, probably Nisha from 'Hum Aapke Hain Koun', just because she's so lively and feisty and charming and full of heart; passionate about life. And I would also have one of Jaya Badhuri's characters, probably 'Mili' or 'Guddi' from the eponymous films (very different characters, but I love them both). And I also really loved Saira Banu's Rajkumari from 'Junglee', and Nargis' Radha from 'Mother India' (I'm aware of all the metaphor and subtext surrounding the character, but just as an 'everywoman', I loved her strength and resilience, her sort of 'silent hear me roar'). I also loved Nargis' Rita in 'Awaara' and... I think I'd better stop here!
I really enjoyed reading your post, and I think I'd like to try one of my own... may I borrow your idea?

veracious said...

Ooh, I haven't seen Naseeb yet, but will get to it if she plays a spunky character! :D

Go ahead with your own post! You'll have more chance to elaborate your choices and everything there. :)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I am totally down for Urmila in Ek Hasina Thi- I lovvve what she does with that role- its pretty amazing! Hema and rani I'd agree with anywhere- but I still have to get over finding Kareena annoying :)

In no particular order, my own list would have Tabu, in both "Cheeni Kum" and "The Namesake." Shabana in "Arth", "Sparsh" and "Mandi."

Anonymous said...


I might have to do my own list too...we can all do a Sanni-inspired post!

veracious said...

Would love to see your Top heroines posts, guys. :)

And yes, Urmila in EHT is lovely.

Anonymous said...

I've posted mine, Sanni, let me know what you think! Thanks for the inspiration :-)

Pessimisissimo said...

Sanni, I found your post through Memsaab, and a Top Five Heroines list is a great idea. But I too found it difficult to come up with five. Some of the strongest and most interesting female characters are in films that, overall, have some flaws. But here goes:

Even if I wouldn't watch Beta from start to finish again, I'd re-watch every moment featuring Madhuri Dixit. And while the messages of Kya Kehna are pretty mixed (and while the length of Saif's hair changes from shot to shot), Preity Zinta's character stands up for her own choices in defiance of immense pressure. If Mughal-e-Azam tends to be about Madhubala's suffering, she also proves stronger than every other character in the film. And for me, Rani Mukherjee tends to become the center of interest of any film she's in; Chori Chori is one where her character is especially free-spirited.

No excuses need to be made for Fire, and Shabana Azmi's powerful performance as its heroine--except that it's not a Hindi film.

Anyway, much food for thought!

veracious said...

Memsaab - Fantastic! :)

Pessimisissimo - It's a difficult task but not impossible. You always have a select few quiet strong women or independent, brave young ladies or something else really cool/interesting.

Sunny Singh said...

Fab blog btw and a great list. A couple of additions to the list of Hindi film heroines (keeping in mind your criteria): Neetu Singh/Shabana Azmi in Parvarish, Zeenat Aman in Pukaar, Meenakshi Sheshadhri in Damini, Madhuri Dixit in Mrityudand and Raveena Tandon in Satta, and of course Rekha in Khubsoorat. Just some more of the Hindi film women who "kick ass." And do look up more of Manmohan Desai - the single most underrated filmmaker in the world. Recommend reading Connie Haham's book on him - one of my Desai favourites is the Raj Kapoor and Nutan starrer Chhalia.

veracious said...

Sunny Singh - I've seen Parvarish (loved it!) but thank you for the other recommendations, I'll put them on my list. I had no idea there was a book on Manmohan Desai, I'll look it up for sure - would love to find out more about this unique film maker. :)

Anonymous said...

You will love Hema Malini in "Kudrat" - btw Vinod Khanna is also one of the heroes. Gulzar's "Khusboo" is another movie where Hema has done well in a serious role and looks beautiful as always. "Mehbooba" is another enjoyable Hema movie.

happy viewing!