Wednesday, February 22, 2017
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Extra specialSwara Bhaskar

Extra special

Bollywood boasts an array of young actresses endowed with the understated power to light up the screen with their innate talent18 Feb 2017 | 1:54 AM

It is easy to see why journalists are fixated on the likes of Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra. These girls possess undeniable star power. Fair enough. But why do high-calibre actresses, who ride solely on their talent alone, receive comparatively limited play in the media?

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Saibal Chaterjee

It is easy to see why journalists are fixated on the likes of Katrina Kaif, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra. These girls possess undeniable star power. Fair enough. But why do high-calibre actresses, who ride solely on their talent alone, receive comparatively limited play in the media?

Alternative films appear to be thriving in Mumbai, so these off-mainstream actresses have enough work going around. Casting directors rope them in whenever the demand for something more than superficial glamour arises. Nandita Das, for her second film as director (Manto), zeroes in on Rasika Dugal for the role of the wife of the maverick writer who redefined the Urdu short story. Similarly, Chennai-based filmmaker Mani Ratnam picks Aditi Rao Hydari as the female lead of his latest film, the Tamil-language Kaatru Veliyidai. Rasika demonstrated her subtle skills in Anup Singh’s critically acclaimed Qissa — Tale of a Lonely Ghost, while Aditi has consistently come up with the goods as an actress since making her Bollywood debut in Delhi 6 (2008). The latter’s next film: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati. Beauty pageant winner Sobhita Dhulipala, who made her debut last year in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0, is already a busy actress. Her smouldering presence in what was out-and-out a male-dominated film left an indelible impression.

Sayani Gupta is another actress making the right career moves. Cast as the widow of a fake encounter victim in Jolly LLB 2, she has limited footage. But the impact she makes far outweighs the minutes she has on the screen. Sayani was first noticed two years back in Shonali Bose’s Margarita With a Straw, as a feisty blind activist of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent. Since then, she has appeared in films like Fan, Parched and Baar Baar Dekho. Sayani is part of the cast of Anurag Basu’s upcoming Jagga Jasoos. Hindi movie fans, their appetite whetted by her showing in Jolly LLB 2, will be watching out for Sayani, even as talk around the film will understandably hinge on the two leads, Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.  

At least four other actresses — Radhika Apte, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Swara Bhaskar and Shweta Tripathi — have been there, done that — proving their mettle repeatedly with fine performances in small but big-hearted films. Radhika and Tannishtha, seen together in Leena Yadav’s applauded Parched, were outstanding as two women battling deeply entrenched misogyny and patriarchy in rural India.

Separately, the two actresses have, of course, scripted several memorable turns in recent years — Radhika in films like Shor in the City and Phobia, Tannishtha in Chauranga and Angry Indian Goddesses. Swara Bhaskar, who broke into commercial Hindi cinema with Tanu Weds Manu six years ago, had a career-defining break in 2016 in the form of the leading role in Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Nil Battey Sannata. Avinash Das’ Anarkali of Arrah is Swara’s next release, while films like Aditya Kripalani’s Tikli and Laxmi Bomb and Shashanka Ghosh’s Veere Di Wedding, top-lined by Kareena Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, are in the works. Shweta Tripathi’s big screen breakout was in Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan, which got her great critical notices. Her second release Haraamkhor  has proved emphatically that Masaan wasn’t a flash in the pan. Playing the complex role of a conflicted schoolgirl sexually exploited by her married teacher, Shweta captured the character’s bafflement and anguish in a remarkably nuanced manner. Taapsee Pannu was cast in the multiple National Award-winning Tamil film Aadukalam (Arena) before she made her Bollywood foray in the comedy Chashme Baddoor. She then had a starring role in the Neeraj Pandey thriller Baby, but came into her own in last year’s Pink.

In 2017, Taapsee has a trio of releases lined up — Runningshaadi.com, The Ghazi Attack and Naam Shabana, a follow-up to Baby in which she dons the guise of an action heroine. None of these wonderful actresses are in the Bollywood big league. Not as yet at any rate. And that is probably just as well. It allows them the freedom to operate and thrive in a creatively different zone. 

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