7 female Indian actors who made unconventional choices in 2018
Choices that paid off
It’s been a good year at the movies, especially for Bollywood’s leading ladies. This year, mainstream Bollywood movies and streaming services showcased women of substance, those who led lives on their own terms and went after what they wanted. From Anushka Sharma’s role as the protagonist in a horror movie, to Kubbra Sait’s endearing performance as a transgender bar dancer in Sacred Games, we were treated to characters that had agency and complex layers. Here’s who made a mark:
All things sexuality, especially female sexuality, are taboo in our society. So, the sight of Kiara Advani's character, Megha, using a vibrator and climaxing in front of her in-laws is striking. A landmark moment for the Indian entertainment industry, we found ourselves rooting for Advani who is not apologetic or even remorseful about the incident (even though it leads to divorce) firmly asserting that women's sexual needs and desires are completely normal. An awakening is definitely underway.
Anushka Sharma continues to push the envelope, by picking and playing unconventional characters. Rukhsana was no different; the protagonist of Pari (the third production by Sharma's Clean Slate Films), shone light on archaic, inhumane practices, female abuse and the power of love. Fully committed to the character, Anushka enlisted the help of British make-up artist Clover Wootton to help bring Rukhsana to life.
Neena Gupta's Priyamvada, a middle-aged mother and home-maker who gets pregnant, was a departure from the typical roles that women over a certain age are relegated to in Bollywood. Her pregnancy leads to much awkwardness and hilarity, while also turning the spotlight on female sexuality at an older age.
With this movie, Rani called attention to Tourette Syndrome and those that live with it; her sensitive portrayal of a teacher determined to give life a chance, despite the condition, won her critical acclaim.
Kubbra Sait's portrayal of Kuckoo, a transgender bar dancer, in Netflix's Sacred Games was so convincing that viewers had to Google the actor's gender identity in real life. "That according to me is their appreciation. I am a woman who likes men, yet, I have managed to convince the world that I have a willy," she said. The role was pioneering in many ways; it demanded a frontal nudity scene which Kubra navigated with ease.
Watch out for her in Zoya Akhtar's upcoming film, Gully Boy.
In this female-centric film, four friends travel, lament about the men in their lives, get drunk, smoke, and swear, without it being a big deal. They are uninhibited when it comes to exploring their sexuality and getting what they want in bed. Swara's character Sakshi has a masturbation scene in the movie that, unfortunately, also led to her being trolled on social media, but the actor was prepared for it and handled it like a total boss.
Alia's penchant for offbeat roles that allow her to showcase her acting chops continued with Raazi. She played a young Indian college student who marries into a Pakistani family of military officers so she can relay information back to India. Though she receives training to carry out her work as a spy, she is still an ordinary woman pushed into extraordinary circumstances and Alia depicted the character's vulnerability and strength with finesse.
Radhika Apte is no stranger to unconventional roles; this year, she picked the part of Nida Rahim, a courageous army officer who is so loyal to the ruling regime that she turns in her own father for harbouring anti-government sentiments, in Netflix's horror mini-series Ghoul. She is then up against a ghoul who plays tricks on her mind as she fights fear, guilt and the weight of past secrets in this riveting series.