In Honor of Sridevi’s Birth Anniversary, Who is Your Favorite Working Actress of a Certain Age?

Sridevi! Was a star from 13 to 54, but I want to focus on the last few years. Generally women of a certain age aren’t given good roles, but she came out with Puli, Mom, and English/Vinglish proving that wrong. In her honor, let’s share our favorite actresses of a certain age who are still working and proving their strength.

Let’s say 50 to 70. So younger than “grand old lady of film”, but older than “can still pull off romantic lead with make-up”.

Here are some of my favorites:

Shefali Shah

Started playing young as the lead of Monsoon Wedding, and then somehow got transitioned to “mother” type roles in no time at all. Stole the screen in Dil Dhadakne Do, and pretty much anything else she has been in.

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Ratna Pathak

Young firecracker on stage with only a few film roles, aged into a wonderful character actress who plays the strongest most delightfully comic and layered older ladies. Complicated and imperfect in Kapoor & Sons, Khoobsurat, and Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na.

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Dimple Kapadia

Started at 15 and became a star right away, then immediate retired. Returned in her late 20s to play the sexy confident mature heroine in movie after movie, before easing into playing “sexy older woman”. Sometimes she does something less sexy like Dabangg or more comic like Luck By Chance, but she is always vibrant and younger feeling than everyone around her.

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(I’m not including Madhuri, because she is beyond age so far as I am concerned)

Anyway, who are your favorites? You don’t even need to know the name (these older actresses are terribly under promoted), just say “the mother/landlady/boss from ____ movie” and we will figure it out!

21 thoughts on “In Honor of Sridevi’s Birth Anniversary, Who is Your Favorite Working Actress of a Certain Age?

  1. Wow. You picked 3 of my favorites. Shefali Shah is the most underrated actress and I feel so bad for her. In one movie she played Akshay Kumar’s mom when she is younger than him. Ratna Pathak Shah has bone one of my favorites since watching the Indian sitcom Sarabhai vs Sarabhai. As for Dimple, I’m so excited to see her in Nolan’s Tenet.

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    • Shefali Shah is so amazing! I remember her in Waqt, she made an impression even in that horribly miss-cast role. And Ratna can do comedy with heart, which is really hard, you laugh at/with her but you also sympathize with her. Dimple of course is Dimple. I’m not even sure I would call her a great actress, she just has such presence onscreen you can’t look away.

      On Thu, Aug 13, 2020 at 12:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I love the ones you mentioned. I will also add Neena Gupta and Farida Jalal (yes she has slowed down but she was in Jawaani Janneman last and she is awesome).

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  3. Juhi, Dimple, Madhuri. I feel like I’m probably missing someone obvious. I never really watched any Tabu movies from when she was young, but I am loving her in A Suitable Boy. The thing about Dimple is she has real magnetism and sex appeal which really has only grown as she has aged, in a way you don’t often see. I don’t even know if I find her attractive per se, and I think she’s a decent actress but not super great, but she has that.

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    • Madhuri of course doesn’t qualify because she is beyond age (so far as I am concerned). But co-sign on Juhi! She doesn’t play young but she plays older characters who are young at heart, which is really rare. She is just as silly and sweet and occasionally funny now as she was when she played the innocent heroine roles. “Innocent”, that’s it, Juhi still plays “innocent” even when she is playing 50 years old.

      Ooo, Tabu is a good one! I would say she is the same as Dimple in that their particular sex appeal got stronger as they aged not weaker. And maybe include Shabana Azmi in that category too, as a young actress she was fine, but once she hit 40 and more she became magnetic.

      On Thu, Aug 13, 2020 at 12:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Shabana is kind of hit or miss for me, sometimes I think she’s great, sometimes she annoys me. But also I would put her in the legendary actresses league by now.

        Tabu is really stately now, much like Dimple is, which I don’t think she was when she was younger.

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  4. I’m new here and first of all – thanks a lot for your blog, it is so informative and thought-provoking. As for actresses – I would add Shabana Azmi (she will be 70 in September so I hope she can be included) especially for an unusual role in Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola. And also Amrita Singh – she was brilliant in Aurangzeb and 2 States

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    • Welcome! So glad to have you!

      Yes Shabana Azmi! I can’t think of a single performance of hers that feels like a normal “mother” kind of role, even when she plays a mother as in Neerja. And yes, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola is one of my favorite roles of hers, so delightfully powerful and evil and a little bit sexy.

      I adore Amrita!!!! Immediately brings energy onscreen as soon as you see her.

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  5. In Telugu film industry Lakshmi and Jayasudha still hold out. Ramya Krishna is nearing 50, can I include her?

    There many other character artists whose age I do not know but I am guessing they are closer to fifty.

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    • Yes, Lakshmi played grandma in Jeans in 90s, and latest in OhbBaby – still has energy.

      I like Rohini (Sivudu’s mother in Bahubali 1) – playing all kinds of characters, not only mother.Also like Radhika for the kind of different roles she picks

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      • Yes, Rohini too. She was really good in Chi La Sow. What do you think about Sudha? I guess she plays the mother role best. I guess she played mother to all the leading male actors?

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        • Sudha is a good actress, but has done one-too many typical Telugu mother role – pamper rogue-idiot hero son and join him and the sister on jokes on his middle class father – which became monotonous after few films. She has not done versatile roles after late 90s.

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  6. Deepti Naval! All I can bring to mind are Lion and the episode of Made in Heaven she was in, but she can just do anything.

    I love Shefali and don’t understand why she got shuffled into Mom roles so fast. She’s so gorgeous and sexy. She was Rahul Bose’s love interest in Kucch Luv Jaisa literally a couple of years before she was his mother in law in DDD. Oh, and she’s younger than him, and not really old enough to be Priyanka’s mother either.

    Dimple was my favorite thing in Finding Fanny. She’s so ridiculous for most of it, and then she sees the painting Pankaj Kapur does of her and realizes his contempt for her and her face just plummets and it changes the way you feel about her entirely. It’s the most real moment in this film where everything including death is supposed to be funny and wacky.

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    • Yes! Deepti Naval. the mother in Bang Bang of course. And other stuff but somehow that is all I can think of at the moment.

      Shafeli is so good at playing mother roles, I don’t mind that she got into them so young. She’s like the female Anupam Kher.

      I had a similar Dimple moment in Dabangg. She is the tired saintly mother most of the film. And then there is a moment in her death scene when her face shifts and she looks so helpless and heartbreaking.

      On Fri, Aug 14, 2020 at 2:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. Dimple stands out to me. I haven’t seen her in that many movies, but in the ones I’ve seen, when she is on the screen, she takes up the screen. The camera loves her. She has star charisma, even in a mother role.

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    • Exactly, I can’t even tell for sure if she is a good or bad actress, I just know I want to watch her.

      On Fri, Aug 14, 2020 at 7:54 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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