I’m continuing to crank through the small time actresses, the ones who only need a few movies to fully understand their careers. Because it’s a lot easier than trying to deal with the male stars and their longer careers, or the handful of super successful actresses (sorry Rani! I’ll get to you someday!) (last small time actress post here)
Soha Ali Khan
Soha has the best of the best heritage, connected to actual royalty plus sports royalty and literary royalty, and of course film royalty through her mother and brother. But somehow, her career never took off. It kind of feels like she just didn’t want it enough. Her movies were few and fall between all along, even when her career was just starting out. Acting always felt like she was just working in the family business, not like it was her passion.
Dil Maange More: On Netflix! And also really fun. Shahid juggles 3 heroines, Soha is just one of them, it’s all kind of silly and superficial and sweet, and then he ends up with the one that you liked best all along (well, at least the one I liked best. I was very happy with this ending).
Starting Out Films
Pyaar Main Twist: See, this is the kind of thing that makes me think she just saw it as the family business. An interesting part to take, the daughter of the heroine, conflicted over her mother finding love again in middle-age. But not a very good decision for someone who is serious about building a career.
Change Everything Film
Rang De Basanti: An ensemble piece, but Soha has some serious emotional notes to play and does them beautifully. And seemingly effortlessly. After this, people were ready to see what came next from her and had high expectations.
Tum Mile: This is about the level she landed at. Heroine in a smaller budget film opposite a smaller budget hero (Emraan Hashmi). Still better than being a second lead in a smaller budget film, but nowhere near where she could have been if she had really dug in and used every possible advantage to get to the top.
(Great songs in both Tum Mile and Rang De, that and Soha is pretty much all they had in common)
Grand Finale Film
Midnight’s Children: Well, kind of a grand finale. It was her big chance to switch to a new industry, get noticed in the West (if she even wanted that). But it failed because it was a terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible terrible movie. So she went back to kind of faffing around with light-weight small budget movies and small roles just to keep busy.
Not applicable. Soha is married now, and just had a baby, but her career doesn’t have to change. In a way, she’s been working like a “married” woman all along, she wasn’t worried about fame or position (her name alone gave her that), and she certainly didn’t need money, she was just working for the fun of it.
A nice modest hardworking career. A model and winner of a talent search, made a not terribly notable debut, and then just kept working steadily, doing small roles and item songs if it would help, and eventually crawling her way up to lead heroine parts in big films. Never noticed for her acting, good or bad, she was mostly just sort of there and acceptable. And nice, it seems like everyone liked her and liked working with her. And then she got married to Abhishek Bachchan’s best friend, producer Goldie Behl, and more or less retired.
Aag: A Govinda comedy, she played his newest pretty heroine to dance around, but she was very pretty and looked nice onscreen, so she got more roles over time.
Starting Out/Established Films (kind of the same for her, she was established as someone always on the cusp of fame but never getting there)
Sarfarosh: A great Sonali Bendre role! She just shows up to tease and flirt and be charming with the hero every 20 minutes or so, and then the real plot starts up again.
Grand Finale film
Kal Ho Na Ho: It ended not with a bang but a whimper. She had slowly been working less and less in leading roles, and now as she was planning her wedding, she did one final little cameo in Karan Johar’s movie, just to make us go “oh, Sonali! I like her” one last time.
Once Upon a Time in Mumbaii Dobara: A bad movie, but that wasn’t her fault. Her scenes with Akshay were the highlight of the film. But the script and directing just wasn’t there. Too bad, if it had done better maybe she would have come back to acting for real.
A model turned actress with an amazing ability to always appear innocent. She is put in all kinds of compromising positions in her movies, live in relationships and campus sex pot and so on, and yet we still just love her and believe in her essential innocence no matter what. She had an odd career, only working in comparatively few films but landing in several important ones. And then retiring and getting married right at the peak of her career.
Taarzan: the Wonder Car: TAAAAAARZAN!!!!! Sorry, now the title song is going through my head. Anyway, it was a good launch for her, small movie with a new star opposite her, but a kind of different plot and good songs.
(And now it’s stuck in your head!)
Starting Out/Established Films (she never really tried to move out of the level where she started)
Wanted: Not nearly as good as Pokkiri, but a huge huge hit in the Hindi market. And Ayesha was the heroine. But it wasn’t a substantially different role than she had back in Taarzan. Stand there, look pretty, smile, be in love with the hero.
Honorable Mention Film
Dor: Ayesha never did anything like this before or since, so it doesn’t really fit in the rest of her career. A serious drama, she plays a young widow in Rajasthan and got all kinds of awards. A remake of a Malayalam film.
She could still make it! Maybe! But with every year/month that passes, that opportunity slips further and further away. And it looks more and more like she will be yet another actress who was cute and fun and had a lot of promise and then somehow just faded away.
Ishaqzaade: One of the all time best launch films in history. Amazing strong different memorable character, opposite an amazing weak different memorable male character played by another new star, Arjun Kapoor. It came out and she (briefly) had India in the palm of her hand.
Starting Out Films
Golmaal Again: this is her most recent film, because she is still in that starting out phase, scrabbling around trying to make a mark and line up the next job. She’s good in it, fills her place in the ensemble well, but it’s not the role that will shoot her up to the top of the list, or even the middle of the top of the list. It will just keep her on the list.
Daawat-E-Ishq: A wonderful little gem of a film. That unfortunately made no waves. And years from now it is the kind of thing you might stumble across and go “oh yeah, Parineeti Chopra! She was cute. I wonder what happened to her?”
Aditi Rao Hydari
Funny one here! The kind of name/face recognition you would expect from a kind of lightweight model type actress just starting out. Only, she gained it through kind of off beat interesting films rather than the usual rom-coms. And she has a whole southern career going on in the background where she is even more established. Very hard to categorize, but I will do my best.
Yeh Saali Zindagi: Technically her first Hindi film was Delhi 6, but she barely had a role in that. This film had her as one of the leads. In a thriller stocked with art actors like Irrfan Khan and Chatringda Sinha. I told you she had a different kind of career!
Wazir: Just picking a film at random, all of her Hindi films so far have been sort of like this. An interesting well made film with a strong cast, but her role is very small within it. Someday maybe she will have the opportunity to play the lead in one of these films.
(She did get to be part of this great song, that must have been fun)
A beauty queen! Who didn’t have the biggest career, but I like her. I am beginning to realise that maybe the things I like in beauty queens are the same things that make them wrong for a movie star type position. Anyway, Lara started out strong, had a few surprisingly good performances, then got married and started having a really great time playing character roles.
Andaaz: Love triangle between Lara, Priyanka, and Akshay. Definitely promoted on seeing the two beauty queens together onscreen. But it got people talking, and got them into the theater, and got Lara a “new face” award.
Starting Out/Established Films (Lara kind of started and then just kept going)
Jhoom Barabar Jhoom: I only pick this because I really like this movie, there’s any number of other Lara films that would serve just as well. She does have a great role in this though. Not deep or emotional or anything, but kind of funny with some great lines.
Grand Finale Film
Chalo Dilli: A surprisingly good little comedy, in which Lara plays a legitimate lead, not just a love interest.
Singh is Bling: Not the greatest film! But really interesting seeing Lara dig into the “silly comic relief” part. If this is her new career, I applaud it! Very nice to see a woman starting a second career post marriage.
(Speaking of second careers, can you believe Amy Jackson is on a CW show now?)
My NEMESIS!!!!!!!! One of many (brace yourself for my Nargis Fakhri entry). Sometimes I think “Oh, she isn’t that bad, it’s just that she isn’t fluent in Hindi since she is from the south, that’s why her dialogue sounds like that”. And then other times I think “SHE IS THE FILM-RUINER, THE FUN-SUCKER, THE LIFE-DESTROYER!!!!!” Oh, and she is from the south, her father is Kamal Haasan who is a very big deal, she has worked in languages from all over India, and never moved past “love interest”.
Luck: Twisted thriller with Imraan Khan. Who was also struggling to make an impact. Neither of them succeeded with this film. It slunk in and out of theaters without anyone noticing.
Starting Out (she’s still starting out, and let us all devoutly hope she never gets beyond that)
D-Day: The only time I have found her barely tolerable. Maybe because she has almost no dialogue, and a fake scar on her face so she can’t move it the way she normally does, the way that makes me want to pull my hair out one by one by the roots.
(It really is a coincidence that my favorite song from her shows her being brutally killed. I wouldn’t wish this ending on anyone! but it’s really beautifully filmed)
Now, for some reason, I don’t hate Shraddha the way I hate Shruti! Despite them having similar careers, similar talent levels, and both having gotten their positions through nepotism. Maybe it’s because Shraddha seems a little less self-conscious? Is willing to put in a little more work? Is smarter in delivering lines in a way that isn’t nails-on-a-chalkboard?
Teen Patti: Huh! I didn’t know that! Because, like most people, I never watched this movie. Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley in a remake of a white-washed American film that had been brown-washed back for the Hindi remake. And Shraddha was one of the young cast, and got noticed and appreciated for the small role she did.
ABCD 2: One of many films she has been in since Aashiqui 2, young bright heroine who falls in love and doesn’t have much dialogue. I picked this one because she’s got nice chemistry with Varun Dhawan, and she really worked on her dancing and pulled it off wonderfully.
Change Everything Film?
Haseena Parker: This was supposed to be her Change Everything film. She has built her career sooooooooo carefully, putting in the time and making the connections, and this was the film that could have shown her ability to take a risk and go to a different level. But it didn’t. So she has to go back to the minor leagues for a while until she manages to get another shot.
Aashiqui 2: It was only her third movie, really kind of a re-launch, and it is what she will probably be best known for for the rest of her life/career. Sleeper hit of the kind of romance that teenagers fall in love with and then follow the stars for life. Shraddha, as the heroine, didn’t have that much to do but did it well. Perhaps a tribute to her care in starting out as part of an ensemble, then building through a teen comedy, before finally taking this role.
Finally, someone I actually like! Amazing comic timing. Not much of a career, balancing acting with modeling and so on, and never played a lead role. But consistently steals the scenes in the supporting parts. A supermodel who grew up internationally, Australia and the US as well as Sri Lanka.
Aisha: Anil Kapoor spotted her and cast her as the seemingly sophisticated and unfeeling and modern career woman who is ultimately sympathetic. A small part, but she took it seriously, did acting lessons and everything.
(And she got to be in one of the happiest end credits song of all time!)
Housefull 3: Ensemble comedy, and out of all the women, Lisa makes the most of her comic bits. That’s what she does well, making the best of her little bits, whether it is her small role in Queen, or her even smaller role in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.