AWESOME THREESOME: THE GIRLS OF TINSEL TOWN


Jaydip Dutta Gupta traces the paths of a few actors who, apart from their drop-dead-gorgeous looks or acting prowess, have established their own unique identity and made their place in the Bollywood jungle

madhuriIn a nation where cinema is the second religion, film stars often get worshipped as demigods by over a billion Indians. These heavenly avatars hold their myriad followers spell-bound every time they appear in public or on screen. The strong emotional connect that they form with the masses makes these film celebs the most powerful messengers to the world.
The Indian film industry, led by Bollywood, has seen several actresses reach the pinnacle of success over the years. Many of them, who hailed from a middle-class background with no ‘filmy-connections’ whatsoever, have gone on to carve a niche in the most befitting manner.
Born in a Marathi Brahmin family, Madhuri Dixit made her way up to be regarded as one of the best Indian actresses of all times. She made her film debut in Abodh (1984), which although tanking in the box office, earned her critical acclaim. Over the next four years, there were more failures. Finally in 1988, she was cast opposite Anil Kapoor in Tezaab. Anil, a senior in the industry, already had several hits under his belt while she was still a relative newcomer. Tezaab went on to become the highest grosser at the box office that year, running in the theatres for 50 weeks. Overnight, Madhuri was a star. Till date, every young girl would emulate the dance steps of Madhuri from the hit number “Ek do teen.” Her performance also landed her with the first Filmfare nomination for best actress.
There was no looking back for Madhuri after Tezaab. She had already won a million hearts with her dazzling smile, graceful dance and emphatic acting skills. Madhuri was on her way to become one of India’s leading ladies on silver screen. She was a diva in the making.25-pages
Over the next one and a half decade, Madhuri paired up with all the leading men in the industry including Anil Kapoor, Amir Khan, Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Shah Rukh Khan to etch out some of the most sterling performances of her career. A string of hits and super-hits followed, marking the ascent of Madhuri Dixit as the most sought after heroine in Bollywood. During this period, she won four Filmfare awards for best actress for her roles in Dil (1990), Beta (1992), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun..! (1994) and Dil To Pagal Hain (1997). She also won the Filmfare award for best supporting actress for her role in Devdas (2002). In addition to this, she got nine Filmfare nominations during this period.
In the meantime, Madhuri got married in 1999 to Dr Sriram Madhav Nene, a reputed cardio-vascular surgeon settled in the US. She took a sabbatical from her professional engagements for around five years to raise her two sons Arin and Raayan before attempting a big bang return to Bollywood with the musical, Aaja Nachle (2007). The film was not a major box office sushmitasuccess but Madhuri got yet another Filmfare nomination for best actress.
Since the early half of the last decade, Madhuri started getting various offers on television. She came down as guests in popular TV shows like Koffee With Karan, Kaun Banega Crorepati and Nach Baliye, among others. Since 2011, she has also been one of the judges in a popular dance reality show, Jhalak Dikhla Jaa.
Once again in 2014, she returned to big screen with two back-to-back releases, Dedh Ishqiya and Gulaab Gang, winning critical acclaim for her performances.
Madhuri is also a Goodwill Ambassador and a patron for “Emeralds for Elephants” a charity project for the conservation of Asian Elephants. She has also endorsed various social projects like the NDTV Greenathon, a campaign to create awareness about environmental issues.
From being christened as the ‘dhak dhak’ girl (from a song sequence in the movie Beta) to being termed the eternal diva, from being the muse of painter M.F. Hussain to being the inspiration of a movie titled Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, from getting the highest number of Filmfare Awards nomination for best actress to being the recipient of Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in India, Madhuri has walked the distance. She has rekindled a dream in many young women – a dream to put in their best feet forward and not to let failures dampen their spirit.
Unlike Madhuri, Sushmita Sen entered Bollywood as a confident 18 year old, riding high on her success as the first Miss Universe from India. Her feat in 1994 not only made the country proud but also made the world take note of a nation which had just liberalised its economy and opened its doors to globalisation.
Sushmita grew up in Delhi and Hyderabad where her father was posted as an Indian Air Force officer. After completing school, she participated in the Femina Miss India contest which she won and went on to qualify for the Miss Universe finals at Manila, Philippines. In the final round, she was asked, “What is the essence of being a woman?” To this, she answered, “Just being a woman is God’s gift that all of us must appreciate. The origin of a child is a mother and is a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.”
Sushmita has worked in various Bollywood and regional language productions in a film career spanning around 18 years, during which she received a Filmfare best supporting actress Award for her performance in Biwi No. 1 and got nominated twice more. She is currently engaged in various fresh projects out of which 26-pageone is a biopic on Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Ever since her first public appearance as a teenager, basking in the glory of the Miss Universe crown, she has been an epitome of grace, beauty, glamour and confidence. She went on to adopt a baby girl named Renee in 2000 when she herself was just 25. Later, in 2010, she adopted another baby girl, Alisah. The constant scrutiny, that people in the show business are subjected to, did not deter her from becoming a single mother.
In the year 2010, The Times of India group’s Femina Miss India relinquished the licence for the Miss Universe pageant in India. This was when Sushmita ventured into a completely new entrepreneurial avatar to launch I AM She by acquiring the Miss Universe India licence. Over the next three years, between 2010 and 2012, I AM She successfully conducted the pageant under the able guidance of Sushmita.
Sushmita, in an interview to a lifestyle magazine, once said, “I’m fearless as I do not shy away from standing my ground and doing what pleases me as long it kanganadoes not have negative effects on those around, and I love having fun with whatever I do.” That defines Sushmita Sen.
Similar to Sushmita, another Bollywood actress from the current breed of stars, who can also be regarded equally bold is Kangana Ranaut. Ever since her first appearance in the critically acclaimed film, Gangster (2006), for which she won several film awards including the Filmfare Award for best female debut, she has carved a niche for herself as a character artist in the alternative film genre.
Born to a Rajput family in a small town in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Kangana grew up to become a strong, witty and confident lady. After completing her school, she came to Delhi to pursue a career in modelling. During her stay here, the theatre bug bit her. She worked closely with theatre director Arvind Gaur, before leaving for Mumbai to try her luck in Bollywood. After coping with the initial days of struggle in Mumbai, she got her first break through Anurag Basu who cast her in the female lead in Gangster (2006). In the following year, Basu cast Kangana once again in the multi-starrer Life in a…Metro. Her acting was appreciated. Her next big break was in 2008 when she was cast alongside Priyanka Chopra in Fashion. She essayed the role of a supermodel who experiences a downfall and once again, her performance received rave reviews. She went on to win her first National Award along with a Filmfare for best supporting actress. Over the next five years, she did a number of films, but most of them failed miserably in the box office. Tanu weds Manu (2011) and Krrish3 (2013) were the only exceptions. She was getting written off fast and no one realised it better than her.
2014 saw the release of Queen, characterised around Rani, the protagonist, etched out by Kangana. It was an instant box office success from the moment it hit the screens. Queen has made Bollywood sit up again and take notice of the actor who delivered a pitch-perfect performance as a naïve Delhi girl who goes on a journey of self-discovery against the odds and emerges a winner. In a recent interview, Kangana said, “Queen is changing the way my contemporaries perceive me.” She is quite right about this. It is not only her contemporaries but also the leading directors of the industry who are willing to work on scripts keeping Kangana in mind. Eight years since her debut film, Kangana has found her moment in the sun. She has worked for it and has carved her own niche in the alternative genre of Indian cinema.

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