Show stealers: Finest actresses of 2017

Some actresses stood out this year because of their brave choices and ability to elevate the characters that they played

Kunal Purandare
Published: 30, Dec 2017

A journalist for over a decade, I am also the author of Vinod Kambli: The Lost Hero, a biography of the former India cricketer. Apart from my love for news and writing, I am passionate about cricket, movies and music

The year saw some fabulous performances by female leads in the Hindi film industry, but some artistes stood out because of their brave choices and ability to elevate the characters that they played. Here’s a selection (not in any order):

dlkh-bhumi-pednekar_bg

Bhumi Pednekar
She dismissed any notions anyone could have had of her being a one-film wonder. There was a lull after her impressive debut in Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), but Bhumi Pednekar proved in 2017 that she’s a powerhouse performer to reckon with. She featured in two highly appreciated films, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Shubh Mangal Savdhan, and took on roles that a relative newcomer would have probably shied away from. In the former, she played an opinionated, small-town girl and managed to hold her own against a seasoned actor like Akshay Kumar. While Dum Laga Ke Haisha addressed the issue of body shaming, Toilet: Ek Katha brought up issues about open defecation and women’s dignity. In Shubh Mangal Savdhan, Pednekar played a compassionate lover to her to-be-husband who suffers from erectile dysfunctioning. It was another bold choice from an actor who is ready to experiment with unusual roles.

Swara Bhaskar in Anaarkali of Aarah
Swara Bhaskar in Anaarkali of Aarah

Swara Bhaskar If she could get noticed despite having small roles in films like Raanjhanaa (2013) and Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (2015), playing the lead would automatically mean garnering more accolades for her acting prowess. And that’s what she did, both in 2016 and 2017. While she beautifully essayed the role of a maid-cum-single mother in Nil Battey Sannata in 2016, in 2017, she made her presence felt with a feisty performance in Anaarkali of Aarah. She played an erotic dancer from a small hamlet in Bihar and beautifully conveyed the trials and tribulations faced by such performers. She was equally comfortable with the garish dresses and crude dialogues as she was playing Kangana Ranaut’s friend in the two Tanu Weds Manu films previously. There would be few who would dispute that Bhaskar’s was one of the best performances of 2017.

Zaira Wasim in Dangal
Zaira Wasim in Dangal

Zaira Wasim
The promise that she showed in her debut film Dangal (2016) was on display yet again in Secret Superstar (2017). The confidence with which the teenager played a schoolgirl with dreams of becoming a singer despite belonging to a conservative household was impossible to ignore. She displayed a wide range of emotions convincingly, making everyone sing her praises. The film went on to become a commercial success and was appreciated for its solid content as well. Aamir Khan, who has featured in both the films with Wasim, has been quoted as saying that she is the finest actor in the Hindi film industry. Given how young she is, hers is the most enviable film bio at present, with a National Award to her credit too.

Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut in Rangoon
Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut in Rangoon

Kangana Ranaut
She starred in two films in 2017, Rangoon and Simran, and both failed to live up to expectations. However, she was exceptionally good in them… so much so that she managed to salvage weak scripts and give them respectability with her performances. In the former, she played a yesteryear actor and a sensitive lover with aplomb while in the latter, she gave a masterclass in acting. Her understanding of the various layers of her character–a Gujarati girl-turned-bank robber after being addicted to gambling–and her flawless depiction of the same made it one of the best performances of 2017. Having proved her worth as an actor with several memorable performances over the years, one does not expect anything else from Ranaut. But she continues to up her game and surprise the audiences each time.

vidya-balan_bgVidya Balan
With Tumhari Sulu (2017), Vidya Balan finally had a hit to her name after a string of flops over the last few years. She began the year with Begum Jaan which was also rejected by the audiences. There was never any question mark over Balan’s ability as an actor, but Tumhari Sulu just reconfirmed what everyone already knows: That she can pull off a film on her own. She was real and believable as a middle-class housewife-turned-radio jockey caught between her family responsibilities and her own ambitions. Aided by an able supporting cast, she put up a performance that is bound to be mentioned when one looks back at the films of 2017.

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