Wednesday, June 1, 2011


For previous installments, please visit the index

You’ve met today’s biggest Heroes but what about the heroines? This week I’m going to run through the ladies I consider the big names today - with an emphasis on currency. As I explained in my piece on
heroines, leading ladies flit through the film industry much more quickly than the men. This is due to a variety of reasons including, but not limited to:

1. Marriage has traditionally ended the careers of actresses and most women still marry fairly young.
2. Both producers and Heroes prefer working with younger actresses.
3. Heroine roles are often that of a wide-eyed innocent and a lady can only play (convincingly) virginal for so long.

It’s a harsh world out there for actresses.


From her auspicious Bollywood debut in the
masala potboiler The Hero: Love Story of a Spy in 2003, Priyanka Chopra (also known as Piggy Chops for mysterious reasons) has risen to become one of the top heroines in the industry. Priyanka, like so many other heroines these days, made her way into acting as a natural evolution of her status as a beauty queen - in Priyanka’s case, she was Miss World in 2000. Priyanka, now almost 30, was the first of a new breed of modern, globalized, Westward-looking heroines. Her lithe pin-thin physique heralded a new standard for Indian heroines. No more hiding in traditional salwaar suits and sarees, actresses now have to squeeze into the unforgiving confines of Western style shorts and skimpy tops popularized by Priyanka. But even as her her success had more buxom women running to the weight loss clinic, Priyanka’s look and the roles she chose also signaled a loosening of the strict definition of what was acceptable behavior for nice girls.

Priyanka debuted in
The Hero: Love Story of a Spy (2003) but her real breakthrough performance was in the Akshay Kumar starrer Andaaz (2003), for which she won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut.* In the film, a soapy romantic fairytale, Priyanka plays the third point of a love triangle centered on khiladi Akshay Kumar and her look in the film, micro-minis and midriff-exposing tops, won her plenty of audience acclaim.

She solidified her status as the pin-up girl in 2004 with two high-profile hits -
Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (Will you marry me?) and Aitraaz (Hatred). In Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, Priyanka plays a skimpily-clothed variation of the basic heroine role, the girl whose sole purpose is to be the object of the hero’s affection. It’s a role any starlet could have filled and if Priyanka had stuck to bland fare, she might have married a wealthy man and faded away soon after but Priyanka is a risk taker. Just a few months after playing the sweetheart in MSK comes Aitraaz, where Priyanka plays a role so devious she won the Filmfare Award for Best Villain.** Aitraaz borrows (somewhat) from the Demi More-starrer Disclosure; Priyanka plays the bored wife of a corporate magnate who stalks hero Akshay Kumar*** and tries to seduce him. Showing the nature of the loosening standards for women’s behavior, or perhaps just a separation of ‘reel’ and ‘real’ life, despite the sexually predatory nature of the role in Aitraaz, Priyanka was still considered a contender for heroine roles.

The next couple of years saw her rise through the ranks from the
Khiladi, whose star was dimming, to young buck Abhishek Bachchan**** in Bluffmaster, to rising superpower Hrithik Roshan in Krrish, to King Khan himself in Don. After the massive success of that last film, Priyanka had her pick of projects - and a permanent spot on the A-list.

What’s unique about Priyanka, the risk taker, is that she didn’t coast on that A-list spot. She’s consistently chosen oddball projects - playing a mythical warrior, an intergalactic superstar, the ‘straight’ woman in a gay bedroom farce,
twelve characters representing the signs of the zodiac... And even when Priyanka does do more mainstream roles, there is still a bit of iconoclast to them, as if she cannot bear to blend into the scenery, even for a big paycheck.

Of course, oddball films don’t always translate into
popular films but despite the flops, Priyanka keeps turning in critically acclaimed performances and she will be around for years to come.

What to watch?

Kaminey (2009) Although she only had a short role in this noir tale, it’s widely regarded as one of her best performances. The film itself is a fun Guy Ritchie-esque romp with only very subtle Bollywood trappings. Priyanka plays the younger sister to a powerful local politician/thug.

Dostana (2008) This gay-themed comedy broke real barriers in Bollywood for it’s matter-of-fact treatment of homosexuality. Don’t be fooled by that description, though - Dostana is a riotous Three’s Company style sex romp about two male frenemies who pretend to be gay in order to rent a room in a superhot babe’s (Priyanka Chopra) house. See, the babe’s auntie doesn’t allow her niece to mix with single men... so what are two horny, young men to do?

Don (2006) It’s always been my opinion that as a remake of the 1978 classic film Don, the 2006 Don fails miserably. As a remake. That said, those fresh to the story will find much to enjoy in this slick Hollywood-style thriller about a mafia kingpin (Shahrukh Khan) so devious that no police can catch him; no prison can hold him; and only one woman can tame his heart - a martial arts expert played by Priyanka Chopra.

* It was a shared award with co-star Lara Dutta, who has since sunk to B-List status.

** She is only the second actress to ever win and one of just a handful who was nominated.

*** Notice a theme? Their chemistry was allegedly so good that Akshay’s wife forbid him from working with Priyanka ever again.
Read the dirt here!

**** Aishwarya’s husband! Remember him from yesterday?!


Sal said...

The Piggy Chops nickname is from the "Right Here, Right Now" song and was coined by Abhishek. Also, Aitraaz was an unofficial remake of Disclosure, starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas. Great writeup, btw; Kaminey is definitely PC's best performance.

Filmi Girl said...

@sal Hee! I knew it was from "Right Here Right Now" but the origins of the name are misty - except that it's just a play on her initials. Thanks for the correction on Aitraaz - as you can tell, I'm not well versed in Hollywood films. :)

The Bolly 'Hood said...

Small correction--Aitraaz means "objection." :)

Rathchakra said...

"Dostana - broke real barriers in Bollywood it’s matter-of-fact treatment of homosexuality" - Seriously? This film was super offensive in its treatment of the subject and was an obnoxious attempt to add fuel to the pre-existing homophobia in the country. The only barriers broken were mainstream actors being OK at "pretending" to be gay while not having to portray actual "gay" characters. The day that would happen, that would be breaking barriers - until then I would stay away from using hyperbole such as "breaking barriers" for trash like Dostana. I totally agree with it being "about two male frenemies who pretend to be gay in order to rent a room in a superhot babe’s house", but breaking barriers - nah!

Jess said...

No matter what the film is, I will go see it if it has Priyanka--you are right, she takes risks. She seems unafraid to take on any role as long as she finds it a challenge. She kind of has Angelina Jolie syndrome, TONS of fabulous performances, but a lot of bad/flop films.

Great site by the way, it's my first time seeing it. And I can't wait for your Katrina Kaif writeup, her whole life story/rise to fame is fascinating.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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