Bhanurekha Ganesan, popularly known as Rekha, is considered one of the greatest Indian actresses of all time. She started her career in 1966 as a child artiste in the Telugu film Rangula Ratnam, although her debut as the lead happened four years later in Sawan Bhadon.
However, she received brickbats for her looks, and hence had to undergo a transformation to go on to become a sex symbol. She was known to do women-centric films and besides commercial cinema, also appeared in several art house films. She has won 3 Filmfare awards for Khubsoorat (1980), Khoon Bhari Maang (1988) and Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996), in addition to the coveted National Film Award for her exceptional portrayal of a courtesan in Umrao Jaan (1981).
Although, she has not acted in many films in the last two decades, she is known to make several public appearances and is still widely regarded as a diva by her contemporaries.
Shree Amma Iyenger, better known as Sridevi, has garnered popularity as one of the better actresses in the Hindi film industry. She started out in the late 1970s in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and a few Kannada films. However, she moved on to the Hindi film industry and took it by storm during the 80s. A slew of hits including Chaalbaaz, Lamhe, Sadma, Chandni followed and Sridevi was one of the artistes to reckon with. Her sensual dance in a sari in Mr. India is still remembered by many. She dabbled in comedy, romance, drama even action, and hence turned out to be one of the few South actresses to have made it big in Bollywood. Sridevi is slated to make a comeback this year with English Vinglish.
Asin Thottumkal or as referred to in the media, Asin, started out her acting career with a Malayalam film Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka (2001), got her first commercial success with the Telugu film Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi in 2003 and also won a Filmfare Best Telugu Actress Award for the film.
Subsequently, in Tamil cinema, she acted in various successes Ghajini (2005), Sivakasi (2005), Pokkiri (2005) and the likes.
She made her Bollywood debut with the Aamir Khan starrer Ghajini (2008), which was the highest grossing Hindi movie at that time. Subsequently, she was seen in Ready and Housefull 2, both of which grossed more than 100 crores at the box-office. Known for her charming acting and beautiful looks, she has made huge inroads into the Hindi film industry.
Waheeda Rehman started her career in Telugu films such as Jayasimha (1955), followed by Rojulu Marayi (1955) and Tamil film Kaalam Maari Pochu (1956). Guru Dutt noticed her at a success party of one of her South films and decided to groom her and make her act in Hindi films. She appeared in many successful films from the 1950s, 60s and 70s such as C.I.D. (1956) and Guru Dutt classics such as Pyaasa (1957), 12 O'Clock (1958), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. Her other notable works include Solva Saal (1958), Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962), Kohra (1964), Guide (1965), Teesri Kasam (1966), Aadmi and Khamoshi (1969).
In her new innings from seventies her successful films, where she played pivotal roles include, Kabhi Kabhie (1976),Trishul (1978), Jwalamukhi(1980), Namkeen and Namak Halaal (1982),Mashaal (1984), Chandni(1989), Rang De Basanti(2006).
She has always been commended for her charming looks and affable personality.
Hema Malini was considered for a Tamil film, when she was 15. However, she got rejected by the director for being too thin for the role. She got an opportunity to act in a short episode as a dancer in Pandava Vanavasam, a Telugu film.
Making her acting debut in Sapno Ka Saudagar (1968), she went on to appear in innumerable Bollywood films, mostly with her future-husband Dharmendra and superstar Rajesh Khanna. She was promoted as Dream Girl and even went on to act in a film of the same name. Having acted in various super-hit films such as Tum Haseen Main Jawan, Naya Zamana, Raja Jaani, Seeta Aur Geeta, Kranti, Naseeb and Satte Pe Satta, Hema established herself as one of Hindi cinema's leading actresses, much acclaimed for her comic and dramatic roles, her beauty and her accomplished classical dancing skills. Of late, she has been seen playing a matriarchal figure in films like Baghban, Baabul and Veer-Zaara. She has been conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honour, by the Government of India. She is also a member of India's Bharatiya Janata Party and was nominated member by the party in Rajya Sabha, the upper House of parliament during 2003–2009.
Shilpa Shetty made her debut in the Shah Rukh Khan starrer Baazigar. Since then, she has appeared in innumerable Bollywood, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films. Her performances have been much appreciated in films like Dhadkan, Rishtey and Phir Milenge. She has also scorched the screen in 'item numbers' such as UP-Bihar Lootne and Shut up and Bounce. Known to possess one of the best figures in Bollywood, the actress was crowned the winner at the British Celebrity Big Brother in 2007. Subsequently, she has acted in only a couple of Hindi films. Of late, the IPL cricket team Rajasthan Royals and her newly born son Viaan keep busy!
Vyjayanthimala, born in a Tamil-speaking family, was signed up for a role in a regional film titled Vazhkai at the age of 15. Subsequently, the film was remade in Hindi and released as Bahaar. Acclaimed for her proficiency in Bharat Natyam as well as her stunning looks, the actress has appeared in classics such as Devdas, Sadhna, Ganga Jamuna and Sangam.
She has been a part of memorable dance numbers such as Hothon Pe Aisi Baat, Man Doley Mera Tan Doley, Chad Gaiyo Paapi Bichua and Main Ka Karu Ram Mujhey Buddha Mil Gaya. She has also appeared in a bikini in Sangam, which raise quite a flutter amongst the audiences. She paved the way for various other South Indian actresses to enter Bollywood.
Jaya Prada is an Indian film actress and politician. She started out in Telugu films, and moved on to Hindi cinema with movies opposite stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Jeetendra. She earned fans, not just with the masses, but also with the great Indian director Satyajit Ray, who has said she was one of the prettiest women in the world. Although, she has acted in Bengali films, she has never worked for Ray. Kamal Haasan has said that he sees the great actress Savitri in Jaya Prada. Her hits include films like Sharaabi, Tohfa, Sanjog and the likes.
Vidya Balan is a force to reckon with in the male-dominated Hindi film industry. With her excellent acting, charming good looks and amazing dancing ability, the actress has taken Bollywood by storm. She started out in television with the show Hum Paanch, went on to do Malayalam and Bengali films. Subsequently, she made her Hindi film debut with Parineeta and went on to do commercial films such as Heyy Babyy and Bhool Bhulaiyaa. Her true calling was found when she started doing performance-oriented roles in movies like Paa, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture and this year's Kahaani. Today, after a flurry of awards, Balan is surely the next big thing in Bollywood.
(A weekly feature by Shivom Oza on the various trends showing up in Bollywood)