Year 2013: The changing face of Bollywood's leading lady

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2013 at the movies belonged to the ladies who wowed us with style, chutzpah and some fine acting. 2013 at the movies belonged to the ladies who wowed us with style, chutzpah and some fine acting.
Summary2013 at the movies belonged to the ladies who wowed us with style, chutzpah and some fine acting.

Year 2013 at the movies belonged to the ladies who wowed us with style, chutzpah and some fine acting. They dazzled, they danced and trumped and boys.

Raja Sen looks back at the girls he loved.

I stumbled upon the most badass dialogue this year in a tiny indie film called Sulemaani Keeda. A character called Rohini — essentially radio jockey Rohini Ramnathan playing herself — looks derisively at the film’s hero passed out after a party.

She kicks at him a couple of times and suggests that the boy sleep it off on the living room floor. The hostess cautiously asks if he’s “safe,” and Ramnathan deadpans, “Dilli se hai par rape nahin karega”. In that one line — improvised by Rohini, one of the coolest women Bombay can hope to have on its side — she simultaneously acknowledges, skewers and subverts the cliché about Delhi and rapists, while putting the impotently anaesthetised boy in his place.

Chances are the boy, had he heard this jibe/endorsement, wouldn’t have minded. The average Hindi moviegoer might want to be like that Khan who hangs his Aviators behind his neck, but has more in common with the slack-jawed Sushant Singh Rajput of 'Shuddh Desi Romance', a man who — for all his practiced patter — knows when he's licked, and prefers to take orders from his ladies. He’s cool enough to know that they’re cooler. In the film, Parineeti Chopra all but chews Rajput up, seeing through his offers of making tea, dismissing his charms, and even poking fun at his virility by devastatingly calling him bhaiyya.

The other girl in the film, Vaani Kapoor, is ditched at the altar, following which, during an awkward silence, the crowd looks at her, anticipating a breakdown. Instead, she breathes in the situation and wearily demands a cold drink. This is as monumental as it can get for a cinema reared on bangle-breaking biwis and self-pitying Savitris.

In the strikingly poetic Lootera, Sonakshi Sinha may have devolved into just such a self-pitying creature, but her character is sculpted at first with sassy ebullience, and later with restrained dignity. She demands that a rogue in Brando suspenders teach her to paint and, on discovering he doesn’t know how, begins teaching him instead. Much later, when he reappears in her life, she chooses him over reason and rage. Wronged she might have been, but her decisions remain her own.

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