2016 has been the year of strong female performances in the Bollywood film industry. This year has seen some strong contenders with the likes of ‘Udta Punjab’, ‘Neerja’ and ‘Sarbjit’ setting new bar when it came to performances of the grittiest kind on the big screen. There have been so many fantastic female led films that it has been hard to choose just the top five performances.
Alia Bhatt in ‘Udta Punjab’, ‘Kapoor and Sons’ & ‘Dear Zindagi’
If there is one actress who has proven her acting caliber, it has to be Alia Bhatt. Despite being one of the youngest actresses on our list, there is no doubting Bhatt’s acting talent and she has been so enjoyable to watch on the big screen. In ‘Udta Punjab’, Bhatt plays an unnamed Bihari migrant, often called Bauria by her co-workers, works on a farm but dreams of playing hockey at a national level. Bhatt’s role as the farmworker was hard hitting and she unrecognizable with barely any make up on her. In stark contrast, Bhatt’s role in ‘Kapoor and Sons’ was incredibly different as Tia Malik. Bhatt was not central to the film’s storyline but she played a love interest for two of the film’s characters and lit up the screen whenever she was present. Her role in ‘Dear Zindagi’ was even more different than in the previous films. In ‘Dear Zindagi’, Bhatt played Kaira, a promising cinematographer who seems to sabotage her relationships due to her underlying mental issues. She heads home to Goa to spend time with her family and bumps into Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) and begins a journey to find herself. Bhatt has proven herself as an actress who is definitely one to watch out for her in her films and this year, she has cemented her status as one to stay.
Anushka Sharma in ‘Sultan’ & ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’
After a bit of a lull in her career, Anushka Sharma is back on top form and this year has been a relaunch of sorts for her. Sharma has starred in two of the biggest blockbusters this year, ‘Sultan’ and ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ and she has ensured that both her roles in the films are ones not to be forgotten. In ‘Sultan’, Sharma starred opposite Salman Khan as Aarfa Hussain, a state level wrestler and daughter of a wrestling coach. Sharma worked hard to make sure that her role as a state level wrestler came across as genuine, even getting some training as a wrestler before shooting in the film. In ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, Sharma played Alizeh, a headstrong girl living in London who meets Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) by chance in a bar and after they both break up with their lovers, they decide they are best friends and spend time together in London. As Alizeh, Sharma was a joy to watch and her ability to switch between emotions and convey them without speaking just shows the extent of her acting talent.
Sonam Kapoor in ‘Neerja’
Just when the Bollywood industry has written off Sonam Kapoor as a masala film actress, she came out with her hard hitting role in ‘Neerja’ and silenced critics. In ‘Neerja’, Kapoor plays Neerja Bhanot, a flight attendant for Pan Am Airways, which gets hijacked by a Libyan- sponsored terrorist group and Neerja ends up sacrificing herself to save the lives of her passengers. The film’s storyline is a true story and being a topic, which is prevalent in the public eye, it is a role that Kapoor took on with great energy. Kapoor was great to watch on screen as the principled young woman who sacrificed herself in the line of duty.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in ‘Sarbjit’ & ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been another actress who has been quiet on the Bollywood front and she came back with a bang this year. In ‘Sarbjit’, Rai Bachchan played Dalbir Kaur, a loving sister to Sarbjit Singh (Randeep Hooda). Dalbir leaves her abusive husband and ends up moving back home to live with her family and supporting them alongside Sarbjit, by working in a textile mill. When Sarbjit accidently crosses over to the Indian border to Pakistan where he is convicted of being a spy, Dalbir is determined to get her brother freed from his wrongful imprisonment. Rai Bachchan was powerful as Dalbir and viewers really felt for her plight. In contrast, in ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, Rai Bachchan played Saba, a poet who meets Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) in Vienna and begins a no-strings-attached relationship on screen. She was sensual to watch on screen and her role worked well in the storyline.
Saiyami Kher in ‘Mirzya’
A newcomer to Bollywood, Saiyami Kher made her debut on screen in Rakesh Mehra’s ‘Mirzya’. In the film, Kher plays a princess called Suchitra who reconnects with Adil (Harshvardhan Kapoor) a horse groomsman after Suchitra becomes betrothed to wealthier Prince Karan (Anuj Choudhry). The film was based on a punjabi folklore and it has passing resemblances to Romeo and Juliet and Kher stood out as her character. She came across as a strong actress who has a lot to give to Bollywood in the future.
Priyanka Chopra has to be given a special mention this year. Chopra has proven herself to be a global superstar, successfully launching herself as a lead in US TV drama ‘Quantico’. In Bollywood, she starred in ‘Jai Gangajaal’, a police officer who takes a hardline against crime despite the circumstances. Chopra has established herself as a powerhouse actress both at home and overseas.
Kareena Kapoor Khan is given a mention for her role as Kia in ‘Ki and Ka’. The film challenged gender stereotypes in the home and at work and Kapoor Khan looked great on screen opposite Arjun Kapoor.
Newcomer Taapsee Panu receives a special for her role in ‘Pink’, an Indian courtroom drama which based around three friends who are career girls and become subject of a court case when one of them attacks a wealthy guy after he forces himself on her.
Lastly Vidya Balan deserves a special mention for ‘Te3n’ and ‘Kahaani 2’. Balan is a fantastic actress and she does well, no matter the role given to her.