Sunday, June 3, 2012

My Favourite Actresses of All Time

Ignoring my inner coward, who has been giving me a hard time since I finished this selection of actresses a few nights ago, I have just pushed the publish button, so that you can now see and read the list of my official Favourite Actresses of All Time. For now, of course - the list is probably going to change over time.

It hasn't been easy to put together this selection. Actually, I feel like it was harder than putting together my 100 Favourite Films list, because there are so many actresses that I have loved in some films and not really liked in others. And even more actresses that I've loved so far, but haven't seen enough films of to be able to judge their work properly (especially non-Indian ones). This final selection of actresses includes eight actresses that I have „known“ for a longer time (the „newest“ one being Konkona Sen Sharma) and seen at least more than three films of, but most likely much more than that. These are not the actresses that I consider being the greatest actresses of all time, but the ones that I personally like the most (judging from what I've seen of their work and others' work), and in case you disagree (which is likely), please consider that tastes differ and that the films we've seen may not be the same.
Otherwise, I'm open for criticism, approval and other general thoughts.

Please also note that this selection is in no particular order - selecting my favourite actresses of all time was hard enough, ranking them seems impossible. So I've just chosen to talk about them in alphabetical order.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
(* November 1, 1973 in Mangalore, Karnataka, India)

„I don't believe in proving a point to anybody. Nobody is that important.“

Starting out as one of the many models-trying-their-luck-in-film after winning the Miss World pendant, Aishwarya Rai's acting was called wooden and uninspired at the beginning of her career, despite her debuting in a film of one of India's most acclaimed directors, Mani Ratnam. However, Aishwarya continued working hard and two years after her (south-Indian) debut Iruvar, she had her breakthrough in Bollywood with blockbusters Taal and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Aishwarya has performed in some of the biggest films of modern Hindi cinema, such as Devdas, Dhoom:2, Jodhaa Akbar and others, while there are also many smaller and also some not-so-good films on her filmography. Since the success of the british co-production Bride & Prejudice in 2004, the western world has also recognized the Indian beauty and she has been starring in some smaller western productions (Provoked) and some bigger ones (The Pink Panther 2). While some thought her star was fading in the past years, she has proved her position in Indian cinema when starring in not less than five films in 2010, all of them successful, even though she is on maternity leave right now.
There are still people who find her acting over-the-top and too much, but to me Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is one of the most versatile and talented actresses of Indian cinema, despite her making a few mistakes concerning role choice. Another plus factor is of course her dashing looks, and her amazing skills in both modern and classical Indian dance.

Films I have seen: 
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Josh, Mohabbatein, Devdas, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, Shakthi, Dil Ka Rishta, Chokher Bali, Kuch Naa Kaho, Khakee, Raincoat, Kyun! Ho Gaya Na, Bride and Prejudice, Bunty Aur Babli, The Mistress of Spices, Provoked, Umrao Jaan, Dhoom:2, Guru, The Last Legion, Jodhaa Akbar, Raavanan, Raavan, Endhiran, Action ReplayyGuzaarish

Top 3 performances: 
1. Devdas - 2. Chokher Bali - 3. Raincoat

Cate Blanchett
(* May 14, 1969 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

„I'm one of those strange beasts who really likes a corset.“

Just like Aishwarya Rai, Cate Blanchett started her career as an actress without familiar relations in the film industry, which is more usual outside Bollywood though. She did have a degree in acting though, which helped her getting cast in various Australian theater productions, and later on TV series too. Cate rapidly gained success for her theater performances and started out in film with Paradise Road in 1997. The year after she already had her big overseas breakthrough with her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth, and then continued focussing on work in Hollywood.
I recently wrote a post on what is so special about Cate Blanchett, mentioning five of her films that I want to see before Christmas. But even though I haven't seen too much of Cate Blanchett yet, she is already one of my favourite actresses (ever since I saw The Lord of the Rings I have been fascinated by her), and I would watch anything with her. I am looking forward to exploring more of her work.

Films I have seen: 
Hanna - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - I'm Not There. - Babel - The Aviator - The Lord of the Rings 1-3 - Bandits

Top 3 performances: 
1. I'm Not There. - 2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - 3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Kareena Kapoor
(* September 21, 1980 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)

„I am a hell raiser. I do my own thing. And I believe what I do is the right thing.“

Born into one of the largest and oldest film families of Bollywood (see the family tree I created here), Kareena Kapoor didn't plan on making it in the film industry herself. The Kapoor daughters and wives mostly stay in the background and don't steal the show from their male family members. Kareena and her sister Karishma though, both eventually ended up acting and after their parents' divorce dissociated themselves from their father Randhir Kapoor, who had been wanting them to marry two rich guys and not become actresses.
Kareena debuted in the much acclaimed Refugee in 2000, along with another actor's child, Abhishek Bachchan. As is well known, Kareena clearly stole the spotlight from Abhishek, who had to struggle for years to get his foot into Bollywood, while Kareena's star was rapidly rising. In 2001, she starred besides Shahrukh Khan as both his lover (Asoka) and niece (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham), two very different films that stand for her ability to be brilliant in both mainstream and (more or less) independent or parallel cinema. Vicious voices have spread rumours about Kareena having big star allures and being bitchy towards concurring actresses, but whether this is true or not, Kareena has proved to be one of the best Indian actresses of her time by gaining much praise from both critics and audience. In the last years, she has been focussing on the big blockbuster roles, but 2012 promises collaborations with names such as Madhur Bhandarkar, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap, so hopefully Kareena won't forget her fans beyond the Masala-audience (although she is great in anything).
Together with Aishwarya Rai, and probably Preity Zinta too, I think that Kareena is my most controversial choice as she has a lot of haters, but she remains a brilliant actress in my eyes - one who is neither afraid of choosing experimental nor slapsticky projects.

Films I have seen: 
Yaadein… - Asoka - Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - Mujhse Dosti Karoge! - Khushi - Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon - Chameli - Yuva - Fida - 36 China Town - Don - Jab We Met - Om Shanti Om - 3 Idiots - We Are Family

Top 3 performances:
1. Chameli - 2. Asoka - 3. Jab We Met

Kate Winslet
(* October 5, 1975 in Reading, England, UK)

„There's more to life than cheek bones.“

Kate Winslet, who had been starring in various TV series since an early age, scored her first leading role in 1994's Heavenly Creatures, starring in a few more hits until she became a star overnight with Titanic in 1997. After the incredible success of the film, Kate returned to doing more or less independent and unusual films, such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and has since then gained a huge fan community and critical accolade. 
I already called her one of my favourite actresses before seeing some of her most acclaimed films, and my respect for her work and skills has only grown since. Kate Winslet is my idol in many ways: look-wise, live-wise and work-wise, and she truly deserves to be in this list - in any list of the greatest actresses.

Films I have seen:
Heavenly Creatures - Sense and Sensibility - Hamlet - Titanic - Quills - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Finding Neverland - Romance & Cigarettes - Little Children - The Reader - Revolutionary Road - Carnage

Top 3 performances:
1. Titanic - 2. Quills - 3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Konkona Sen Sharma
(* December 3, 1979 in New Delhi, India)

Konkona Sen Sharma is most known for her risky and daring film choices and for winning the National Film Award for Best Actress two times in her short career, but she has also had success starring in more mainstream films such as Aaja Nachle and Wake Up Sid. People call her one of the best actresses in modern and parallel Indian cinema, and I'm the last to not agree. Konkona had me glued to the screen in each one of her films and especially proves to have a great sense of humour, in contrary to many other Indian actresses. 
What's more, she is one of the most naturally beautiful Indian actresses, staying true to her roots and never trying to be someone else. I haven't seen the two movies for which Konkona received the National Film Award (Mr. & Mrs. Iyer and Omkara), which are also her two most acclaimed movies, yet it was out of the question if she was going to be in this list. I can't get enough of her spicy and crisp performances, and I'm extremely happy to hear that she is going to be back after one year's maternity leave.

Films I have seen:
Page 3 - Mixed Doubles - Laaga Chunari Mein Daag - Aaja Nachle - The President Is Coming - Luck by Chance - Wake Up Sid - Mirch - 7 Khoon Maaf

Top 3 performances:
1. Luck by Chance - 2. Page 3 - 3. Mirch

Preity Zinta
(* January 31, 1975 in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India)

„Whenever I came across something that influenced me, I wanted to be that.“

Although she used to be my favourite actress by far for many years, I wasn't sure if I should include Preity Zinta in this list. After discovering her love for botox a few years ago, Preity's star has been slowly descending and she has only acted in very few films since 2006 (none since 2009), most of which I haven't seen. However, they say she has let go of botox and she is going to star in the upcoming Ishkq in Paris. Also, I just couldn't ignore my many favourite films of hers.
Preity started out as a model and journalist but was discovered in 1998 where she had a supporting role in Dil Se.. (my favourite film of all time, just saying) and also starred two other films. From then on everything went well, and it is hard to say just when Preity had her big breakthrough. She also became one of the biggest Indian stars in Germany, as Kal Ho Naa Ho was one of the first films we saw around here (and also the film that made me recognize my love for Bollywood). 
Most of Preity's films belong to the romantic genre, and many of them have been extremely successful, yet she also starred in some off-beat films (that I haven't seen). But even in the least profound films of hers, it was always clear to see that she had talent, which is the reason why she is one of my favourite actresses. I just hope there is more to come from her. 

Films I have seen:
Dil Se.. - Kya Kehna - Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega… - Chori Chori Chupke Chupke - Dil Chahta Hai - Dil Hai Tumhaara - Koi… Mil Gaya - Kal Ho Naa Ho - Lakshya - Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha - Veer-Zaara - Salaam Namaste - Krrish - Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna - Jaan-E-Mann - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Top 3 performances:
1. Kal Ho Naa Ho - 2. Veer-Zaara 3. Kya Kehna

Rani Mukherji
(* March 21, 1978 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India)

In opposition to her cousin Kajol, who was already a big star when Rani made her first appearance on the big screen in 1997, Rani had to struggle for a long time until she got the attention she deserved. She was even dubbed in her first films, because the makers thought her husky voice wouldn't be liked by the audience - today it's one of her biggest trademarks. Anyhow, Rani starred in many films until finally breaking through at the millennium change. After that, she was cast with Shahrukh Khan a couple of times, but only once as his lover (in Chalte Chalte), as the audience still thought Shahrukh and Kajol were the dream couple. 2006 Rani and Shahrukh were reunited as a couple in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna though. 
Rani also attracted the critics' attention through starring in Calcutta Mail, Yuva and Black, among others and quickly became one of the most after-sought actresses in Mumbai. However, since the flopping of Ta Ra Rum Pum in 2007, Rani made a few not-so successful career choices and started being out-dated by younger actresses. But in 2011, Rani proved she is still one of the greatest current Indian actresses with her portrayal of the justice-seeking journalist in No One Killed Jessica and is going to star in the much-awaited Talaash alongside Kareena Kapoor and Aamir Khan.
Rani wasn't my favourite actress to begin with, like many others I preferred Kajol. However, I slowly discovered that she has starred in notably more good films than Kajol, and offers a greater variety of roles - both Masala, rom-com and intense drama. Rani never fails to impress, no matter how bad the film.

Films I have seen: 
Ghulam - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - Mehndi - Mann - Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega… - Chori Chori Chupke Chupke - Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - Mujhse Dost Karoge! - Saathiya - Chalte Chalte - Kal Ho Naa Ho - Yuva - Hum Tum - Veer-Zaara - Black - Bunty Aur Babli - Paheli - The Rising - Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna - Baabul - Ta Ra Rum Pum - Laaga Chunari Mein Daag - Saawariya - Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi - Dil Bole Hadippa! - No One Killed Jessica

Top 3 performances:
1. Black - 2. Yuva - 3. Saawariya

Scarlett Johansson
(* November 22, 1984 in New York City, USA)

Scarlett Johansson is the youngest actress in this list, and also the one I've seen fewest films with. It was a close match between her and Keira Knightley, but until now I think Scarlett is the more versatile actress of both. I recently saw one of her first movies, The Horse Whisperer and was star-struck by the talent she had already then. Scarlett is a natural, and her filmography proves this. After the mentioned Horse Whisperer, she became the star of tomorrow (at age 14!) and continued down the road to stardom with Ghost World, Girl With the Pearl Earring and many other films.
I first really recognized her in Match Point, my first Woody Allen movie and The Other Boleyn Girl confirmed her status of being one of my favourite actresses (that's how quick it can go). I even enjoyed watching The Nanny Diaries and Eight Legged Freaks just because of her!
Currently I'm looking forward to finally watching Lost in Translation (it's on my DVD-shelf already) and The Avengers. No doubt, Scarlett has a bright future ahead, and a bright past for me to explore behind.

Films I have seen:
The Horse Whisperer - Eight Legged Freaks - Girl with a Pearl Earring - Match Point - The Nanny Diaries - The Other Boleyn Girl - Vicky Christina Barcelona

Top 3 performances:
1. Match Point - 2. The Other Boleyn Girl - 3. The Horse Whisperer


  1. Interesting list. I like most of these choices, though Blanchett, Winslet and maybe Sharma would be the only one making my list. I absolutely loathe Aishwarya Rai.
    My favourite Bollywood actress is Kajol, though Vidya Balan's acting talent cannot be denied.
    For Hollywood, I love Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst.

    1. Thanks, Nikhat.
      A lot of people loathe Aishwarya, well, tastes differ.
      Kajol, Vidya, Streep, Dunst and all the others you mentioned are great actresses, but for most of them I haven't seen enough movies to dare call them favourite actresses.

  2. You should really watch Ghost World, one of Johannson's best performances imo. And, of course, Lost in Translation - after those two, I think you'll probably reevaluate your favourite ScarJo performances!

    Definitely going to check out all the Indian actresses you've listed, though!

    1. Yes, a lot of Indian actresses seem to have made it in my list :). It's probably because in India there are fewer "big" actors and actresses, and I used to watch a lot of films from certain actors and actresses only, so I just know a lot of their work.
      I think you mentioned Ghost World earlier, as it's already on my watchlist.

  3. I love your unabashed choices! :) I love Rani (though I do love Kajol in a completely different way) and Aishwarya (no matter what folks say about her, I always go back to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Provoked and Umrao Jaan) and especially Konkona Sen Sharma.

    1. Thanks, Mighty Mango. I was trying to completely honest with myself, although I almost decided not to publish the list ;). There are so many films I haven't seen, so many actresses to discover...
      Wow, another one who liked Umrao Jaan (or at least Aishwarya in it).

  4. Ooh, this is a brave undertaking. I struggle with these lists - though Kate Winslet would be a certainty if I were to make one. Meryl Streep would be another, and probably Winona Ryder apropos of her early stuff.

    I really like Rani Mukherjee but I've only watched 3 of her films - Kuch kuch hota hain, Ghulam and Chalte chalte. Not sure Kal Ho Naa Ho counts - she was only in it for like 5 seconds or something, if I remember correctly. If I had to pick a Hindi actress, it would probably be Kajol though.

    1. I don't remember a single film with Winona Ryder that I've seen, but it seems she was big in her time. Oh, wait, she was in Black Swan, wasn't she? I definitely need to see some of her films. Meryl Streep is amazing, maybe when I've seen more of her films I'll include her in my list. I especially need to see some of her older films.

      If you like Rani, you should see her in some more challenging roles - KKHH was a tiny role, Ghulam I don't remember (but she was dubbed in it) and Chalte Chalte is just pretty ordinary. You should see her in the three films I listed as her top performances.
      Kajol is great too, but I would like to see her in something else for a change, I feel she's doing much of the same thing very often (though I like her doing it).

  5. I've been meaning to make such a list, too.

    I know Winslet, Blanchett and Jo only, which is understandable. And they are great!

    1. Do it! It takes some guts, but it's really fun and rewarding.
      Thanks for reading, Lesya.


Let the discussion begin!