Karisma! An actress who can play a powerhouse dramatic lead, or a light comic star, or just a fun silly heroine, whatever is needed.
Sapna Saajan Ke
Have to admit, I haven’t seen this myself. But it looks like a fair example of Karisma’s early career. She made an unbelievable number of films per year, must have been running from set to set, and she didn’t really make an impression on the audience. Because she wasn’t given a chance to make an impression, she got stuck in roles where she was charming and pretty and sweet but there was nothing for her to do beyond that. Anyway, here she is trapped in a love triangle between Jackie Shroff and Rahul Roy.
Andaz Apna Apna
Finally she was given something to do in comedy films! Comedy movies can be remarkably good for actresses. At least if you have the right director who gives you room to improvise. David Dhawan “discovered” her as a comic actress, but Rajkumar Santoshi gave her her greatest role, as the tough secretary/bodyguard in Andaz Apna Apna.
3 years of trash roles, 2 years of comic roles, and FINALLY Karisma is given something real, to play the troubled romantic lead in a solid major hit film, with a whole character arc and everything. Aamir’s innocent taxi driver is fun, but Karisma’s troubled little rich girl is equally important.
Dil To Pagal Hai
Karisma versus Madhuri! Karisma was the struggler who worked her way up, Madhuri burst on the scene a major star. No one thought there was a chance Karisma could make an impression opposite her, but she did! Karisma’s lonely heartbroken friend neatly won the hearts of the audience over Madhuri’s magical beautiful dream girl.
Biwi No. 1
Karisma and Salman had been paired from her second year, coming up together as he scrambled post his spectacular debut to find his footing, and now they were coming together as equals, both big names, in a comedy tailor made for them. Karisma calls the shots in this movie, she is the smart one playing the game while Salman is left to be the befuddled love interest. It is delightful!
Dulhan Hum Le Jayange
Another Salman-Karisma starrer! And this time, Karisma is even more in the lead. She is the lonely orphan who goes on a European trip, she is the one who drags home a new husband, and she is the one with the wacky uncles who need to be won over. Salman has a good role too, but this is way more Karisma’s movie than his.
Karisma worked her way up in worthless parts, finally got a chance in comedies, moved on to co-lead parts in popular movies, and now almost ten years into her career she gets to be the real Hero. In a serious role, dealing with serious issues. No love story even, she plays a woman looking for her brother who went missing during the Bombay riots.
An even better leading role! There’s a lot of movies where it feels like the big name actress wanted a bigger role and so the film was crafted around her. That’s not this movie. This is a movie that could stand on it’s own, a personal story for the filmmaker that he made beautifully. And then on top of that, you’ve got Karisma giving a pitch perfect performance. Not because it was written for her, but because she is just that good, she can inhabit the character.
Okay, not that great of a movie. But that’s kind of the point. Karisma’s talent and name draw was so big by now, she didn’t really fit in anywhere. She was beyond heroine parts, but roles like Fiza and Zubeidaa don’t come to actresses that often, so she was left in odd southern remakes. This wasn’t even supposed to be her movie, it was intended for her fellow “too big for regular heroine roles” actress Sridevi. But Karisma struggled and mostly made it work.
Finally, another worthy project! Karisma went small to go big, left movies behind and retreated to streaming serieses where she found a project made for her, space for comedy and drama and even a smidgen of romance. And she gets to play her age! A 40-something married mother of 2 who is still insecure sometimes, and still learning how to live, but carries with her a wealth of life experience.
Okay, there’s 10! All of them available to watch if you are curious, or you can just sit here and be fascinated by that odd career progression.