You know the drill. Every year BollySpice looks back at the year gone by, highlighting the best (and the worst) of the year. We often associate the term ‘actress’ in Hindi cinema with a woman who can successfully bat her eyelashes, dance and cry well. Well, times are a changin’. Each year that goes by we find actresses and performances that challenge and redefine the role of the conventional Hindi film heroine. I think I can safely say that there is no longer a “recipe for success” when it comes to actresses. The following list of the top actresses of 2009 will show you why–each actress on the list is unique, with her own strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, each possesses a quality that makes them deserving of a spot on this year’s countdown.
10. Mahi Gill
There’s always an actress or two that catches you off guard as a breath of fresh air. In 2009, it was the Dev.D girls. Mahi Gill, who reprised the role of Paro in Anurag Kashyap’s modern-day take on the classic Devdas, was a complete natural. With her disheveled hair and big eyes that speak volumes, there was no artifice to her performance which is such a relief in an industry that sometimes prides itself on being artificial. It’s difficult to bring something new to such a classic role, but Mahi re-invented Paro but kept her passion alive.
9. Kalki Koechlin
Like her co-star Mahi Gill, Kalki Koechlin caught everyone by surprised with a sensitive performance as Chanda. She conveyed the painful transition from a school girl to a prostitute perfectly. Although her character matures throughout the film, Kalki maintained Chanda’s innocence through her eyes. We haven’t heard of her signing any film for 2010, but let’s hope that filmmakers don’t let this promising actress go to waste.
8. Kangana Ranaut
This may be the fifth time Kangana has played a crazy person, but you gotta love her. By this point she has mastered the role, as demonstrated by her work in Raaz — The Mystery Continues. Although we wish she would try something different, there’s no denying that nobody plays a crazy person like Kangana! With only one significant release this year (we are not counting Vaada Raha, a waste of time!), Kangana makes our list for her sheer intensity and ability to do variations of the same role several times and still be convincing.
7. Deepika Padukone
Although Chandni Chowk to China is widely regarded as one of the worst films of 2009, we got the chance to see Deepika kick some serious butt in the film. Although the film didn’t work, it gave her the opportunity to prove that she can be versatile. Of course, her most important performance came later in the year in Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, which proved that with enough scope, Deepika can pull off a performance that wins our hearts. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but she gave a very natural dimension to her character, Meera. If she wants to consolidate her status as a leading actress in the industry, she needs to continue working on better performances. She’s certainly getting there!
6. Rani Mukerji
Watching Rani Mukerji on-screen in Dil Bole Hadippa was a fantastic moment in the past year of Hindi cinema. I’m sure I speak for others when I say that it made me realize how much I had missed her. Regardless of how the film fared, Rani’s charm is undeniable and she is easily one of the most talented actresses in the business. Few actresses could have pulled off her role in DBH so convincingly. As much as she is criticized for not taking risks, her role as Veer(a) was very risky and could easily have had people laughing at her rather than with her. It was a welcome change to see Rani smiling rather than crying, reminding audiences of what makes her so special.
5. Katrina Kaif
After a few years, Katrina Kaif finally finds a respectable place on this list. By taking on roles that give her scope to actually act, in 2009 Katrina was able to justify her status as one of the biggest stars in the country. She’s no longer just a lucky charm–in most of her films this year, her performance has played a large part in the film’s success. Earlier this year, she showed vast improvement from 2008 in the film New York, but it was Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani that garnered her both critical and commercial appreciation. Of course, Katrina’s year wouldn’t be complete without a useless role in De Dana Dan, but we can overlook that because of her other two performances. She may not be the most talented actress in the industry, but she’s certainly improving and is slowly silencing her critics. Love her or hate her–Katrina’s here to stay.
4. Vidya Balan
With only one performance this year, Vidya Balan’s role in Paa fit her like a glove — no other actress could have done it better. Watching her in Paa proves that audiences don’t need to see Vidya in a Kismat Konnection or Heyy Babyy. We love her just the way she is! Her work in Paa is easily amongst the best in her career, joining the ranks of Parineeta and Bhool Bhulaiyya. We’re glad Vidya has finally carved her own niche and hope she sticks to it. Her trademark charming smile and expressive eyes are hard to resist!
3. Kareena Kapoor
These days, Kareena Kapoor is spoilt for choice. In 2009, she worked with all the top Khans–Saif (Kurbaan), Aamir (3 Idiots), Shahrukh (‘Mar Jaani’ from Billu) and Salman (Main aur Mrs Khanna). Not to mention a lavish masala flick with Akshay Kumar (Kambakkht Ishq). Kareena’s achieved a state in her career that most actresses would die for. She can move back and forth between commercial and ‘unconventional’ cinema with ease, delivering solid performances in all genres. Her best work this year was in Kurbaan, where her sensitive and nuanced performance was a treat for all viewers. Even with less screen time in 3 Idiots, she was spot on. If there’s any actress who has mastered the art of pleasing both audiences and critics, it’s Kareena.
2. Konkona Sen Sharma
After a dull 2008, we’re so glad to have Koko back on the list. Konkona is so brilliant in every single film that it’s hardly shocking anymore. The best part is that Konkona makes each of her performances look so damn easy that you can’t even tell that she’s acting. Whether it was Wake Up Sid or Luck By Chance, she always takes control of the screen and infuses great energy into her work. Earlier in 2009 she was equally brilliant in a smaller but much-appreciated film, The President is Coming. Is there anything she can’t do? In our books, Konkona can really do no wrong.
1. Priyanka Chopra
For the second year in a row, Priyanka Chopra lands the numero uno spot on BollySpice’s annual list. With thirteen outstanding performances, Piggy Chops deserves this spot like no other. Both her films this past year are a testament to her sheer versatility. To be able to nail twelve performances in What’s Your Raashee? so brilliantly is no easy feat. Top it off with her endearing role in Kaminey and there’s no stopping her. After excellent work in Dostana and Fashion, her lucky streak seems to have reached a climax this year. Versatility is ‘in’ and no other actress in 2009 perfected it like Priyanka.
Kirron Kher‘s work in Kurbaan simply cannot be ignored–she was fantastic and there’s just no other way to describe it.
In Tum Mile, Dhoondte Reh Jaaoge and 99, Soha Ali Khan was a complete natural.
Preity Zinta gave a stellar performance in Deepa Mehta’s Heaven on Earth, a Canadian film. She’s omitted from the list simply because the film is not an Indian production.
Looking back at a year always makes you slightly nostalgic. The year gone by leaves a trail of several memorable performances, with many actresses improving, surprising and coming into their own. Now I dare you: define a Hindi film actress.