Starter Kit: 7 Actresses in All 3 Phases of Their Career

I put up a post about the 3 phases of an actress’ career in Hindi film (Starting Out, Established, Married), and then I also put up a post about starter films to get to know actors.  And I was puzzling over how to do a post about actresses, since they really don’t have the same kind of massive career backlog as actors, and I thought “Aha!  I can combine the two posts!”  So that’s what I did, here are some of the top actresses divided into their 3 career eras (or 2, depending).  I could have kept going on and on, but I ran out of energy, so I stopped at 7.  I’m sure I will be back with more.

This isn’t exactly a series to watch in order, although it might be interesting to do it that way.  This is more so you can watch a selection and get an idea of the whole career of an actress.  So you have an idea of what they were like at the beginning and where they landed at the end.  And it is far far from a comprehensive list, just a couple pleasant films from each era.


Deepika Padukone

Dips is the perfect case study for this.  She is on track to do everything perfectly.  Okay, she struggled a bit in her first few movies after the launch, but even that wasn’t bad, gave her time to get some experience so she could surprise us with her talent later.

Launch Film:

Om Shanti Om: Big, fun, she does a great job with what little she has to do (look pretty, smile, wave).  She shows promise, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to watch a whole film with just her based on this one performance.

Starting Out Films:

Bachne Ae Haseeno: One of 3 heroines, with not much of a character to play.  But charming onscreen and with cute chemistry in the love songs.

Desi Boyz: A very very silly movie, two heroes and two heroines.  But good songs, and another hit for Deepika, important to producers looking for evidence that the audience can like her.

Big Change Everything Film:

Cocktail: She plays an alcoholic sad little rich girl who SPOILERS does not get the guy SPOILERS OVER.  A risky role, which she carried off with panache and proved herself once and for all as not just a pretty face, but an Actress.

Established Films:

Chennai Express: Her reunion with her Om Shanti Om costar, now that she had proved she could carry a film with him on her own.  And a true film of equals, her character has as much to do as Shahrukh’s.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: A romance without one of the 3 Khans, and yet it was one of the top earners that year.  The credit split equally between Dips and her co-star Ranbir.

Married (?) Films;

Piku: She didn’t actually get married, but this is the kind of film people usually make after marriage.  Off-beat, odd, possibly driving away the audience but she didn’t even care because the role was so good and she has nothing left to lose or prove.

Big Finale “I’m About to Leave Forever” Film

This is the step before married.  Do a film so big that people will still remember you even after your retirement phase.  If Deepika is looking for a big line in her career, more than just easing into a new phase, this is the film to use.

Padmavati:  A huge release, a huge budget, a huge film in every way.  And Deepika is not just the heroine, but the indelible image of the film, on every poster, being the face of the promotions, and so on and so on.  This is the kind of role it will be hard to top, and the kind of role that will stay in the minds of the audience long after the film releases.

Image result for padmavati poster


Priyanka Chopra

The thing about Priyanka is, when you look at each of her career periods in turn and compare them with other actresses, they just aren’t that impressive.  Her launch was bad, her “Starting Out” films were okay, but there isn’t a real clear line between the so-so movies and roles she was in then and the so-so movies and roles she had as an “Established” actress.  And then her attempts at “Married” type out-there roles didn’t quite work either.  Even her sort-of “Big Finale” film wasn’t that big.

Launch Film

Hero: Love Story of a Spy: Not a great launch!  She is the second half heroine, barely gets one song and then is forgotten, and the success of the film didn’t do much for her, no one really credited it to her, since it was so clearly Sunny Deol’s film.

Starting Out:

Asambhav: One of my favorite so-bad-its-good films!  She plays a peppy nightclub singer in the middle of a complicated international adventure and espionage plot.

Mujshe Shaadi Karoge: The peppy and sweet love interest in a comic triangle with Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan.

Big Change Everything Film:

Fashion: Same director as Kareena’s final film, coming up in a bit.  Very big on complicated dramatic glamorous female lives.  I don’t want to say this film is “good” in the sort of Salim-Javed sense of good.  But it is gloriously drama filled, with a kind of seamy real combined with glitz and glamour style of filming that is unique.  Think Valley of the Dolls. And Priyanka’s performance, as a model with a troubled personal life, put her on the map.

Established Films:

Bluffmaster: Twisted plot, Abhishek and Ritiesh Deshmukh are really the first two leads, not Priyanka, but she is right there after Ritiesh, and does a very good job with what she is given to do.

Don: Definitely the co-lead in this one, makes an impression, creates an indelible character that cannot be replaced or recast.

Married (?) Films:

Mary Kom: Not a movie that really worked, people weren’t interested in seeing Priyanka on her own, and felt like it was a story they already knew.

Dil Dhadakne Do:  Playing an older married woman, in an ensemble cast, definitely a risk.  The film was a qualified success, but that wasn’t necessarily due to Priyanka so much as the Priyanka as part of the rest of the cast.

Big “I’m About to Leave Forever” Finale Film

Bajirao Mastani: And once again, just not as big as it could be.  She had a great role, but was definitely one of two heroines, and it wasn’t quite the centerpiece for her talent that it could have been.

Related image

(Doesn’t really dominate the poster the way Dips is set up to do for Padmavati.  And this isn’t the main poster, that one has Dips and Ranveer on it)


Katrina Kaif

Another interesting case study!  She kind of stalled at “established”, but she seems happy there.

Launch Film:

Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya: Technically Boom was her first movie, but that was barely released, this was the film that really introduced her to the mass audience.  A decent launch, second heroine in a Salman Khan comedy.  But she showed dancing ability, and a bright smile, and the audience liked her.

Starting Out Films:

Humko Deewane Kar Gaye: Romance with Akshay Kumar, she had little to do and part of her dialogue was dubbed, but she was pretty and she and Akshay had good chemistry.

Namastay London: Another Akshay film, with considerably more for Katrina to do.  Akshay still carries the weight of the plot, but Katrina shows some modest comic timing and ability to play a scene with a variety of costars.

Film that Changed Everything:

Tees Mehr Khan: She tried the serious acting track with Raajneeti and New York, but it was her instant classic item song “Sheila Ki Jawaani”, and her bubbly shallow fun persona, in this film, that really struck a chord.  And gave her a definitive place in the industry.

Established Films:

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: The magical free spirit with a grounded core who makes an immediate impression, the role relied on Katrina’s soft sure screen presence and beauty.

Ek Tha Tiger: Katrina’s first romantic role opposite her ex-boyfriend Salman, he gave her a kind of strength she hasn’t had in other films, along with some gentle teasing about their age difference.

Married (?) Films:

Not Applicable.  Katrina is not married, but also doesn’t seem interested in moving into a “married” phase of her career.  Seems happy staying with the same level of pretty heroine with a slightly larger role.


Anushka Sharma

As I said in the original post, Anushka has jumped straight to the “married” point, getting off the fame treadmill right away and looking for a more interesting career option.  But she still had a definite “launch” film, and a “starting out” period.

Launch film;

Rab Ne Bana De Jodi: Like Deepika, she made an immediate impression, but wasn’t quite confident or interesting enough to be a solo lead, not yet.

Band Baaja Baarat: the rare double-launch!!!!  After starting as Shahrukh’s newest heroine, she came back in a smaller budget rom-com opposite a new male star, and it was this performance and film that made people sit up and take notice.

Starting Out Films:

Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola: Working with one of the greatest directors out there, Vishal Bhardwaj.  And two of the greatest living actors, Pankuj Kapoor and Shabana Azmi.  The film ended up flopping, but will worth doing for the experience she gained.

Patiala House: A very small heroine part, much more about the hero’s journey, but it was a biggish budget big film, and she got to work with top names.

Big Change Everything Film:

NH10: Great role for her, she is the lead and the hero.  But more importantly, she was the lead and the hero offscreen as well.  She produced this film on her own and made it a (qualified) success.  It was a box office blockbuster, but it made back its money and then sum and got definite buzz both from the critics and the people within the industry looking at the business side of things rather than the artistic.

Image result for NH10 poster

Established Films

Sultan: Strong heroine role in one of the biggest films of the year.  A definite winning role for her.

Dil Dhadakne Do: While Priyanka took the slightly riskier role in this film, Anushka plays the standard young heroine.  Yes, she is Muslim and has sex, two not-so-popular things for the audience.  But she is still playing young and attractive, not old and sad.

Married (?) Films

(Anushka isn’t married, but she is mixing in these risky kind of roles already, along with her standard “established” kind of roles)

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil:  Difficult, unlikeable, misguided and emotional and sometimes downright mean.  Not the kind of heroine who is going to become India’s sweetheart.  And a heroine who disappears for a good 3rd of the film.  Not a role you would think a young ambitious actress would risk taking.  But she did!

Phillauri: A ghost who gives wisdom to our young hero, and occasionally flashes back to her life before as a strong intelligent village woman.  Not the sort of role you would expect an actress to take, at least not under the age of 30.  Oh, and she produced it herself again.

Big Finale “I’m About To Leave Forever” Film

Not applicable.  Anushka may opt to never do this kind of film, the one that is so big there is nothing she can possibly do as a follow up, and prefer to keep doing good smaller films.


Madhuri Dixit

Queen Madhuri!!!!!  The last truly big actress of Indian film, no one has come close to her fame since she retired.

Launch Film:

Tezaab: Not technically her first film, she was in some half-forgotten thing before this.  But this is the big film, the one that got her noticed.

Starting Out Films:

Dayavan: Came out right around the same time as Tezaab, but was not a Madhuri lead film.  She played the wife/girlfriend of the hero who dies halfway through the film.

Ram-Lakhan: She was already shining bigger than the other stars even in this, but they were still throwing her into the mix as just one of two heroines, both taking a backseat to the two heroes.  A mistake that would not be made in a few years.

Big Change Everything Film

Beta: You could make a decent argument for any of Madhuri’s hits, going all the way back to Tezaab, as the “change everything” movie.  But I’m going with Beta.  From then on, she was the acknowledged Queen of the sexy song, and everyone knew she carried that movie on her back, people weren’t coming in for boring weak little Anil Kapoor as the hero, they were coming for Madhuri.

Established Films

Hit after hit!  Really hard to limit this part of the list.

Hum Aapke Hain Koun: Gorgeous, a role written just for her, which she made into an all time classic.

Dil to Pagal Hai: Another role just for her, a perfect amazing dream girl described before she appears, and only Madhuri could live up to that description.

Big Finale “I’m about to leave forever” Film

Devdas: Chandramukhi, a female character like no other in Indian film, previously played by classic actresses, and classic dancers.  Madhuri ruled this film, and made her last impression one that would last until her return.  The best way to do it.

Married Films

Dedh Ishqiya: A desirable widow, and possibly a lesbian, who wins over the hearts of every man who sees her, but uses them to her own ends.

Gulab Gang: A strong unmarried female activist who beats all who disagree with her and has her own private army.



Doesn’t really fit the pattern, since she came up from the South and then entered the Hindi industry.  But she is also so big, I can’t ignore her.

Launch film

Himmatwala: A star from the beginning!  Not a very deep movie, but Sridevi’s dances were the highlight, and made the Hindi audience fall in love with her.  Technically her first movie was Sadma, a remake of her Tamil hit with the same cast, but it barely made an impact on the Hindi audience, this is how they got to know her for real.

Starting Out Films

Jaani Dost: A two hero film, Sridevi cast opposite her regular co-star Jeetendra, along with an older hero Dharmendra and an older heroine Parveen Babi.

Tohfa: Once again Sridevi is sharing the screen.  This time with Jaya Prada, a co-heroine.  She was already beloved by the audience at this point, but she hadn’t quite reached the peak.

Big Change Everything Film

Nagina: An all time hit and an all time classic.  The greatest of the snake movies.  Sridevi somehow manages to make a snake woman not just real, but sympathetic and complex.

Established Films

Mr. India: Produced by her future husband Boney Kapoor and starring her future brother-in-law Anil Kapoor.  A wonderful movie all around, but Sridevi is absolutely a second heroine in one of the all time great movies in Indian film history, no longer stuck as the bright spot in forgettable hero movies.

Chandni: A high quality expensive classy film, completely based on Sridevi’s character, and she pulls it off in a way no other actress has come close to.

Lamhe: I can’t pick just one!  Chandni and Lamhe go together, both of them amazing films totally based on Sridevi, the heroes are just there for window dressing.

Big Finale “I’m About to Leave Forever” Film

Judaai: Well, this is a mistake!  Maybe it was Sridevi’s failure to do this right that made the other actresses a bit more careful.  It’s a good movie, but it is no more memorable than any of her other pictures.  And it came after a string of semi-forgettable films.  After she left, it took a while to forget the last 3 years of her career and remember the good parts.

Married Films

English/Vinglish: Sridevi may have failed in making her farewell film impactful, but boy did she manage the comeback well!  Completely disappeared for several years, then slowly started making appearances at awards shows and on TV shows, and finally picked a film that would showcase her in this new reality, still vibrant and gorgeous, but no longer the naive heroine type.


Kareena Kapoor

She does everything right, always has.  I think Kareena might be the most industry savvy actor working now.  And she follows this pattern to a T.

Launch Film;

Refugee: A good role for her, with no actor who can overshadow her in the film, but plenty of sympathetic support (Om Puri, Sunil Shetty, etc. etc.).  She successfully proved she could be in a movie, not just skate on her name, but no more than that.  Not too much too soon.

Starting Out Films

Khushi: Fun light little film.  She starred, and played the title role, but it was never going to be anything really big for her.  Not with Fardeen Khan opposite.

Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon: A truly terrible movie.  But Kareena got to work with Pankuj Kapoor and Abhishek again, and Hrithik again.  And stretch her acting style by working with director Sooraj Barjatya.

Big Change Everything Film

Chameli: Kareena plays a happy fragile strong prostitute.  Brilliant performance, risky role, once and for all broke her out of the “just a ditzy eye-candy” position.

Established Films

There are so many!  Kareena really had a great run, 2004-2010.

Hulchul: Fun little rom-com, Kareena has a great strong character to play and almost overshadows the hero.

Jab We Met: Her biggest hit and greatest role, not the usual rom-com heroine at all.  And not the usual Kareena role at all either.

Big Finale “I’m About to Leave Forever” Film

Heroine: A movie that ended up not doing well, but everyone acknowledged it was the most difficult and boundary breaking role that Kareena had ever taken.  A sad bad glad type of character, an actress who finds misery in her personal life as she finds fame onscreen.

Married Films

Talaash: The secret heart of the film.  A prostitute, a streetwalker, but still a good woman.

Udta Punjab: One of a large cast, but a character who required a sort of maturity and confidence that only an actress at the “married” level could bring.


37 thoughts on “Starter Kit: 7 Actresses in All 3 Phases of Their Career

      • For your next Starter Kit post, you should do an intro to the younger actors. Maybe list like one or two movies and talk about how you feel about them. You could do everyone like Ranbir, Ranveer, Varun, Alia, Parineeti, Arjun, Rajkummar Rao, Sushant, Shraddha, Tiger, Kriti, Ayushmann, Bhumi. I think there’s more people that I may be forgetting.


        • There are definitely more people! That was my main problem with this post. With the actors post, that was easy, there’s no one like the Khans and Amitabh. but once I got into heroines, there’s just dozens and dozens of people to swim through. I had to randomly stop at 7 because i just ran out of energy.

          Liked by 1 person

          • But for the younger actors you could limit the number of movies that you could talk about because most of them only have made about 10 movies.


          • that would help. I just know I would still leave someone out though, and then they will stumble on my blog, and feel bad, and think “why did Rajkummar Rao get an entry and I didn’t? Why does Margaret hate me?”

            I’m already worried about poor Rani finding this post!


  1. I’m looking forward to the comments on this post. For about half of your listings, I’m saying to myself, “no, no, no — THAT wasn’t her “big change” film (or whatever), THIS one was.”


  2. Would you consider doing this for Bipasha and Kangana too?

    Bipasha doesn’t get much coverage on this blog. But I think Bipasha actually stole Priyankas thunder. Both dusky and sexy, both blurring the lines between heroine and vamp, I’m guessing that without Bipasha on the scene, Priyanka would have landed those glamorous mainstream roles in Dhoom 2, Race, and Omkara. IMO Bips career is one of the hallmarks of Bollywood 2000s decade, as the dusky and sexy actress becoming the heroine in commercial Bollywood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure! Like I said, I just kept going with the random first people to come to mind until I ran out of energy.

      I find Bips fascinating. If she had managed to nail John Abraham down and married him back in 2009 instead of breaking up, she could have gone out with a successful respectable career behind her and a permanent position. But instead they didn’t marry, and she kept working, and dropped down to B-level movies and B-level real life romances. But she is so good at them! Not the romances so much (her husband sounds worthless), but being the unapologetic scream queen, that’s a direction that’s really interesting for her career to take, and one I don’t think would have been offered to her if she had been a respectable married woman with a respectable husband.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bips revived the serious horror genre almost singlehandedly. I don’t remember a top grade actress doing a genuine horror flick like ever.

        At the time, I watched Raaz with family on a small color tv in the middle of the day and we were all spooked a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Kareena has her priorities set. After marriage, she did the item numbers (fevicol se, Mary), the light hearted films( Gori Tere Pyar Mein) and the hero oriented films where she had nothing much to do(Singham 2, Bhajrangi Bhaijan). She doesn’t want to work that hard, and she mints enough money with these films and the other endorsements. She’s not aiming for anything right now. I remember her on Koffee with Karan where she said she isn’t interested in awards, she’s in for only the rewards. And also when asked whether she would consider moving to Hollywood, she said that it would be too much work. She also rejected Dil Dhadakne Do because she didn’t want to be on a cruise for a long time. She’s enjoying herself, spending time with her family and friends, and also making good money. I envy her 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Game changer for Priyanka: Fashion (I think she got the National Award for this) and Barfi – very big success of the year.

    Deepika – why isn’t she signing any more movies? Don’t think there is enough space in the west for her and Priyanka to coexist and Priyanka’s already gotten a head start.


    • My guess is that Padmavati is her big finale role. Rather next step is marrying Ranveer, or moving to Hollywood, or just announcing her retirement for no particular reason. It’s certainly a huge role to go out on.

      On Sun, Nov 19, 2017 at 11:16 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. For Kat, the game changer was Namaste London. It was effectively her first full role. Her best role to date is Mere Brother ki Dulhan.

    Priyanka did a Darr with Aitraz. Anyone venturing into Bollywood and exploring the industry today should begin their PC journey with videos of her pageant wins. In that light, her film persona has stayed pretty consistent. She’s still the beauty queen in every interview she does. Marykom also needs to be in her list and I suppose Barfi too.

    Kareena’s had an extended Pooh phase and anyone that’s watched that film can skip a few of her early films. Her first really serious film-Omkara and Hulchul also needs to a part of her list.

    For Sri Devi, Sadma is a must. Also Chalbaaz. Her 90s housewife roles look very similar to Karisma and Shilpa’s roles. I love the impact she had on society with Nagin. That’s effectively our vampire genre you know! 😂

    It’s a shame that Jaya Bhaduri doesn’t get on this list but Katrina does. Also missing on this list are Shabana Azmi and Deepti Naval. Those ladies are so real. Anyone that’s interested in knowing and understanding the moms of todays leading ladies HAS GOT TO watch these ladies at the peak of their careers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Also missing, Hema Malini and Rani Mukherjee. it’s definitely not a complete list. Oh, and Alia!

      I had Hulchul on the list!!! and then I swapped it out because I wasn’t sure if it was actually the best choice, or just my favorite of her films.

      On Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 7:43 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

        • Seeta Aur Geeta, off the top of my head. But I know there are plenty of others.

          On Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 8:15 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • Razia Sultan! She had a lot of middle east inspired costume roles too.

            Now that I think about it, you missed Rekha too 😂

            Makes me wonder if THAT was the golden age for Indian leading ladies


          • I’m going with, “the 2000s were the worst era for actresses and we are finally pulling out of it”. The 90s weren’t bad, the 80s were Amitabh-dominated, but the actresses still got to do their interesting things in other films, but int he 2000s there was ridiculous stuff like Fashion, and otherwise they were kind of boring love interest types. And now, FINALLY, we are getting normal again, with strong heroines in most films and the occasional heroine lead film.

            On Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 8:29 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


            Liked by 1 person

          • Are you suggesting Neil and Nikki was empowering for men? 😂

            I agree. The 2000s were bad like cheesy bad because everyone thought short skirts and high-on-energy drink acting is what the audience liked.


  6. I’m feeling worried for Deepika with the kerfuffle over Padmavati, and now this whole category/phase/timeline thing. I just find her so charismatic,and constantly growing as an actor–I’d hate to see her take a significant break from films.

    Also, is it possible to symbolically move into the married category without actually getting married? I say this because based on interviews it seems like Ranveer is kind of a big man-child, and NO woman needs that for a life partner. 🙂

    Finally–where would you classify JHMS for Anushka?

    Looking forward to more posts like this, either on more actresses (yay, Rani!) or younger actors, male and female.


    • I think she already has to take a significant break, because she doesn’t have anything signed right now. Shahid and Ranveer have already moved on to preparing for their next roles, but even if Dips signs something tomorrow, there is at least a few months of prep work, and then shooting, so she won’t have anything coming out for at least 10 months, if not more. Although she is apparently doing at least a friendly appearance in Shahrukh’s next film, so her face will be out there.

      I am kind of excited about her taking a moment to step back. I’d rather see her do more Pikus than go back to doing Bachna Ae Haseenos. Or even the equivalent of Anushka’s role in Sultan, or Kareena’s in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. If she wants to switch to more of an “art actress who very rarely takes a part in a big production if it is worthy of her” kind of career, that would be fine with me.

      I think you can definitely more into “married” without actually getting married. Bips kind of did it by following a string of flops with a decision to switch to starring roles in horror movies. Dia Mirza stopped acting more or less and switched to producing. Preity Zinta left to go back to school and get plastic surgery (which we aren’t supposed to say, but come on, she did!). An actual marriage is the simplest clearest way to do it, but I would love to see Dips announce that she is taking 6 months off to travel or something, and then come back with a new attitude and a new look and sign a bunch of smaller movies like Finding Fanny.

      I would definitely put JHMS as an “established” movie for Anushka. A very big role of the type she wouldn’t have gotten when she was starting out. But not quite the weird boundary breaking thing she could do if she were officially “married”.

      If I get warn out on making a kitchen card on Thursday, maybe I will take a break and throw up another post like this. Or else get started on my Xmas gifts, which I am suddenly panicking about. I keep counting relatives on my fingers and freaking out about how many of them there are. The temptation to just give “donation in your name” is enormous.

      On Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 10:51 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

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