Stay tuned to our new posts and updates! Click to join us on WhatsApp L&C-Whatsapp & Telegram telegram Channel
ISSN 2231 - 699X | A Publication on Cinema & Allied Art Forms
Support LnC-Silhouette. Great reading for everyone, supported by readers. SUPPORT
L&C-Silhouette Subscribe
The L&C-Silhouette Basket
L&C-Silhouette Basket
A hand-picked basket of cherries from the world of most talked about books and popular posts on creative literature, reviews and interviews, movies and music, critiques and retrospectives ...
to enjoy, ponder, wonder & relish!

Common Threads Between Bollywood’s Queens of Hearts

March 7, 2014 | By

Bollywood’s reigning queens over the decades have always had some thread of distinct commonality between themselves.

Who is the reigning queen of Bollywood today? One camp will say its Deepika Padukone, another will pitch its vote for Kareena Kapoor, some will vouch for Katrina Kaif or Priyanka Chopra. The rat race is on, and is just as hot and fast-paced as it has always been.

One may wonder what is common between them – they are all from different parts of the country and have different cultural backgrounds. That makes one think, there is actually a faint common thread that has run between the reigning queens of Bollywood, through the decades.

Madhubala in Dulaari (1949)

Madhubala in Dulaari (1949)

Take a trip down Bollywood’s memory lane. It has never been planned that way. But it has happened. Bollywood’s reigning queens over the decades have always had some thread of distinct commonality between themselves. In the silent twenties, two Maharashtrian actresses Durga Khote and Lalita Pawar ruled the cine world.

In the thirties, Devika Rani, who hailed from Rabindranath Tagore’s family was the undisputed screen goddess. Devika Rani’s popularity and electrifying screen persona had directors like Himangshu Rai tackling women-oriented issues on socially-relevant subjects such as untouchability in Achchyut Kanya. The formidable Devika Rani organized the first ever seminar on the film industry in 1955, graced by none other than the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Came the forties, and we had Noorjehan, Khurshid and Leela Chitnis using star power to raise national consciousness in the British-ruled India. Leela Chitnis singing “Chal chal re naujawan” in Bandhan and “Door hato aye duniawalon Hindustan hamara hai” – a barely camouflaged warning to the British Raj by Khurshid in Kismet became the anthem in India struggling for independence in the early 40s.

Nalini Jaywant

Nalini Jaywant was a top star in the 1950s. (This rare picture is from Smm Ausaja’s archives)

Even after independence, the patriotic fervor continued with Nalini Jaywant and Ashok Kumar’s Samadhi bringing to life Subhash Chandra Bose and Indian National Army’s heroic battle for independence.

The fifties and sixties belonged to Waheeda Rehman, Meena Kumari and Madhubala – three Muslim actresses who ruled Bollywood like none else before. Their sheer acting talent forced directors to make films that revolved around them.

Can we ever forget Waheeda Rehman’s suppressed emotions in Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool; Madhubala’s open challenge to Akbar as Anarkali in Mughal-e-Azam, or Meena Kumari’s alcoholic melancholia as Chhoti Bahu in Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam?

On the other hand, Nargis became Raj Kapoor’s inseparable screen partner while Maharashtrian talent Nutan walked away with the awards for best actress year after year thanks to Bimal Roy’s films. Mala Sinha was the sole contribution of Bengal while South India was represented by Vyjayanthimala.

Bengal’s queen of hearts Suchitra Sen shot into the national limelight with Bimal Roy’s Devdas but retreated to Kolkata just as quickly unable to adjust to Mumbaiyya filmi duniya. Her brief stint with Bollywood in the black-and-white era included the two films she did with the reigning debonair hero Dev Anand, Bambai Ka Babu and Sarhad, and she create a lasting impact in that very brief space.

In the sixties, Kolkata’s dimpled beauty Sharmila Tagore, a discovery of Satyajit Ray took Bollywood by storm with a stunning debut in Kashmir Ki Kali.

Suchitra Sen

Suchitra Sen (Pic: Smm Ausaja)

But it was only in the early seventies that the Bengal tigresses took over led by the dynamite Jaya Bhaduri who grabbed awards with frightening regularity every year with her single-plaited, sari-clad charm. Abhimaan, Kora Kaagaz, Mili, Koshish, Parichay – in film after film she displayed a new spontaneous acting style, free of mannerisms and theatrics.

The doe-eyed beauty Raakhee was right behind with remarkable performances in films like Jeevan Mrityu, Tapasya, Kabhie Kabhie and Sharmilee while Moushumi Chatterjee established a monopoly over chirpy girl-next-door type of roles. Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi, the two svelte leggie Muslim beauties took care of the uber-modern roles, flaunting their hour-glass figures in bold western attire and electrifying dance sequences.

Alongside South India had started making its presence felt too, spearheaded by the original dream girl Hema Malini and Rekha. From Dream Girl, Sholay and Seeta Aur Geeta to Charas, Rajput and The Burning Train, Hema formed one of the most romantic screen pairs with her husband-to-be Dharmendra while Rekha teamed with Amitabh Bachchan to deliver hits like Do Anjaane, Khoon Pasina, Mr Natwarlal, Suhaag, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Ram Balram.

Mr Natwarlal

Mr Natwarlal was one of the hits delivered by the Amitabh Bachchan – Rekha pair.

The era of Southern belles truly began with the eighties when the duo of Sridevi and Jayaprada started churning out the typical Madras-masala films with Jeetendra, prancing on top of a million brass pots on Marina beach. Sridevi delivered some of the biggest hits of the decade such as Nagina and Mr. India, while Jayaprada teamed up with the then on-the-decline megastar Amitabh Bachchan for films such as Sharaabi and Aakhri Raasta. The Madras movie mills also produced stars such as Rati Agnihotri.

Dimple Kapadia’s comeback with Saagar brought back the North Indian girls like Poonam Dhillon in the fray but it wasn’t until Juhi Chawla’s stunning hit Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak towards the end of the eighties that Punjabi girls came to dominate tinsel town. The trio of Juhi, Raveena Tandon to be later joined by Karisma Kapoor, figured in the biggest hits of the nineties decade.

The only challenge posed to the Punjabi brigade was the phenomenal talents of two superb actresses Madhuri Dixit and Kajol. The ek-do-teen girl reigned as the Number One actress in the rat race for a long time till Kajol formed a sizzling pair with rising superstar Shah Rukh Khan to shoot ahead of Madhuri in the rat race. Another rising star Urmila Matondkar handled the oomph roles with elan.

Now Kajol, born of a Bengali father and Marathi mother, is one actress on whom both Maharashtra and Bengal can claim rights. Soon her cousin Rani Mukherjee shot into limelight with “aati kya khandala”. Tabu and the rising talent Nandita Das became staple diet for serious cinema.

Once the new millennium arrived, the role of Hindi film heroine underwent a significant change. The former beauty queens, led by Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen and then Priyanka Chopra took the big step into Bollywood from the world of modelling and redefined the space held by the screen goddesses. It became just as necessary to have tall, svelte, hour-glass figures as histrionic talents.

Giving them tough competition were Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif. The common thread among all of them? You will be hard put to find any decade that produced more finely-tuned, workout-conditioned figures.

Bollywood’s queens of hearts have been through many trends and transitions and adapted themselves gracefully to the changing times. And they continue to rule…

More to read in our International Women’s Day Special

7 Powerful Female Characters in Films
The Light-ingles
Indian Women In The New Millennium – The Victories, The Battles
Books You Shouldn’t Miss Reading
Its A Woman’s World! Super Discounts On Women’s Day


Celebrate the Spirit Of Women’s Day with Amazon Store

The Book of Woman
Original Price: Rs 299
Amazon Price: Rs 173
Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead
Original Price: Rs 550
Amazon Price: Rs 415
Creative Writing

Whether you are new or veteran, you are important. Please contribute with your articles on cinema, we are looking forward for an association. Send your writings to

Editor in Chief, Learning and Creativity; Consulting Editor, Silhouette Magazine. A former business journalist, Antara writes extensively on the changing trends of music, direction and filmmaking in cinema. Her articles aim to provide well-researched information on the legends of cinema for the movie and music enthusiast. She is also the Founder-Editor of Blue Pencil, a New Delhi-based publishing house. She edited and published Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman, the biography of SD Burman written by HQ Chowdhury. She has co-authored a chapter on Hemant Kumar's Bengali music in the acclaimed book The Unforgettable Music of Hemant Kumar, written by Manek Premchand. Her articles have also been published in and Antara is Editor-Creative Director of Wisitech InfoSolutions Pvt. Ltd.
All Posts of Antara Nanda Mondal

Hope you enjoyed reading…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting our creative, informative and analytical posts than ever before. And yes, we are firmly set on the path we chose when we started… our twin magazines Learning and Creativity and Silhouette Magazine (LnC-Silhouette) will be accessible to all, across the world.

We are editorially independent, not funded, supported or influenced by investors or agencies. We try to keep our content easily readable in an undisturbed interface, not swamped by advertisements and pop-ups. Our mission is to provide a platform you can call your own creative outlet and everyone from renowned authors and critics to budding bloggers, artists, teen writers and kids love to build their own space here and share with the world.

When readers like you contribute, big or small, it goes directly into funding our initiative. Your support helps us to keep striving towards making our content better. And yes, we need to build on this year after year. Support LnC-Silhouette with a little amount – and it only takes a minute. Thank you

Support LnC-Silhouette

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Silhouette Magazine publishes articles, reviews, critiques and interviews and other cinema-related works, artworks, photographs and other publishable material contributed by writers and critics as a friendly gesture. The opinions shared by the writers and critics are their personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Silhouette Magazine. Images on Silhouette Magazine are posted for the sole purpose of academic interest and to illuminate the text. The images and screen shots are the copyright of their original owners. Silhouette Magazine strives to provide attribution wherever possible. Images used in the posts have been procured from the contributors themselves, public forums, social networking sites, publicity releases, YouTube, Pixabay and Creative Commons. Please inform us if any of the images used here are copyrighted, we will pull those images down.