The period of 1980-1990 was actually a transition phase for Indian Cinema. No one was able to replace ‘the angry young man’ from the top position. During early 80s his fame grew exponentially. When he was seriously injured in 1982 during the shooting of film “Coolie”, the country came to a standstill. Many film critics claim that 1980s are the lowest point in the Hindi film industry’s history. Western and disco music polluted the melody of Hindi movies and pale imitations of Hollywood movies gradually degraded the quality. Also the roles for women, took a backseat during early 1980s, finally became almost non-existent in mid 80s. Meanwhile, parallel cinema came into picture with young artists like Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Amol Palekar, Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Amrish Puri, Pankaj Kapoor. This new type of Cinema was given the name “Art Films”. During late 70s and early 80s intellectual film makers and story writers became frustrated with mindless dance and song genre of the typical Bollywood movies. To counter this, they created a genre of films (also known as Parallel Cinema) which depicted reality from an artful perspective. Movies like Sparsh, Arth, Ankur, Ardhya Satya, Kalyug, Mandi touched the standard of world class cinema. Indian actresses like Reena Roy, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman, Amrita Singh, Deepti Naval, Jaya Prada, Meenakshi Seshadri, Sridevi became famous in this era. So let’s discuss them one by one.
Reena Roy — She started her film career with B R Ishara’s “Nayi Duniya Naye Log”. This movie gave her some attention in bollywood. In 1975 she gave her first super hit in the form of “KaliCharan”. The success of this film gave birth to three big names in Indian Cinema. They were Subhash Ghai, the director of KaliCharan, Shatrughan Sinha (played the lead role in the movie) and Reena Roy. In 1976 she played the lead role of “female snake with mythological powers” in “Nagin” movie where she avenges the death of her husband(Jitendra) by ruthlessly murdering five men. The film was a big box-office success. Also she received her first Filmfare nomination as Best Actress. The hit triangle of Subhah Ghai, Reena Roy and Shatrughan Sinha delivered another blockbuster thriller “Vishwanath” in 1978. Soon she made a successful pair with another superstar Jitendra and produced three of their greatest classics together Apnapan (1977), Aasha (1980) and Arpan (1983). She became the first choice of superstars like Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, and Vinod Khanna. Top directors like Prakash Mehra, Raj Khosla and Sultan Ahmad grabbed her for quality roles. She started giving tough competition to Hema Malini and Rekha for the No.1 position by the early 1980s. In 1983-at the height of her fame-Reena Roy quitted films to marry Pakistani cricketer, Mohsin Khan.
Shabana Azmi — She is daughter of famous Urdu writer and poet Kaifi Azmi. She completed her graduation from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. She also did action course at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Shyam Benegal’s Ankur was her first movie which made her famous in industry. Her roles in Ankur attracted positive comments both from the reviewers and the audiences. She is the only actress in India who has won National awards five times. She received the national awards consecutively from 1983 to 1985 for her roles in movies, Arth, Khandhar and Paar. She was a real life actress with a variety of roles. She was favorite actress for film makers like Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, Mrinal Sen, Saeed Mirza, Sai Paranjpye. Some of her famous movies are Nishant, Junoon, Antarnaad, Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Khandhar, Genesis, Ek Din Achanak, Albert Pinto Ko Guussa Kyon Aata Hai, Sparsh, Disha, Paar; Picnic, Sati, Arth, City of Joy, Godmother etc. She was also a successful heroine in commercial hindi films. Her superhit hindi films include Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Fakira etc. She was in lead role in Deepa Mehta’s Fire where she performed the character of a lesbian middle class Indian woman. These days she is doing full time social service with her husband Javed Akhtar.
Smita Patil — Besides Shabana, Smita Patil was another big name in parallel hindi cinema. She was working as a television news reader and when Shyam Benegal discovered her dusky beauty and large eyes. She was also a student of Pune Film and Television Institute. She came into limelight in 1977 when she won the National Award for ‘Best Actress’ for her performance in the Hindi film Bhumika. Most of her roles represent an intelligent femininity that stands against the conventional background of male-dominated Indian society with films like Bhumika, Umbartha, and Bazaar. However she also acted in commercial big hits like Namak Halal and Shakti. In 1986 she played the role of a spirited spice-factory worker who stands up against a lecherous petty official in “Mirch Masala”. She fell in love with actor Raj Babbar and later married him. In Dec, 1987 Smita died as a result of childbirth complications. Let me quote her words on parallel cinema
“I remained committed to small cinema for about five years, I refused all commercial offers. Around 1977-78, the small cinema movement started picking up and they needed names. I was unceremoniously dropped from a couple of projects. This was a very subtle thing but it affected me a lot. I told myself that here I am and I have not bothered to make money. I have turned down big, commercial offers because of my commitment to small cinema (art films) and what have I got in return? If they want names I’ll make a name for myself. So I started and took whatever came my way.”
Parveen Babi — She was one of the most successful Bollywood actresses in late 1970s and early 80s. In her movies she portrayed the character of iconoclastic women who did not care about the conventional rules of society. She was the first Indian actress to have been featured on TIME magazine’s cover, in 1975. She formed successful on screen pair with Amitabh Bachchan in blockbusters like Deewaar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Shaan, Kaalia, and Khud-daar. Her other hit films were Kranti, Mahaan, Yeh Nazdeekiyan,Majboor, Suhaag, Do aur Do Panch, Ashanti etc. Parveen Babi suffered from schizophrenia as a result developed a persecution complex and withdrew from society and films. She never got married but shared intimate relationships with married men: director Mahesh Bhatt, actors Kabir Bedi, and Danny Denzongpa. She accused many foreign dignitaries and stars like Amitabh Bachchan, of conspiring to kill her but her petition in court was dismissed for lack of evidence. In 2006, she was found dead in her apartment due to complications of her untreated diabetes.
Zeenat Aman — She became sex symbol of Hindi Cinema with R. D. Burman’s song “Dum Maro Dum” in “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”. For this she won Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award. The famous Dev-Zeenat pairing was seen in half a dozen films like Heera Panna, Ishq Ishq Ishq, Prem Shastra, Warrant, Darling Darling and Kalabaaz. She crossed all her limits in Raj Kapoor’s “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” which was based on the theme that the soul is more attractive than the body. She was highly criticized for her over-exposure. She almost showed her naked breasts in wet Saree. After the failure of Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Shalimar, her film career was in danger but it was Don that came to the rescue and set her career soaring again. Her role of a westernized revenge-seeking action heroine contributed to the film’s huge success. Later she also gave super-hits like Dharam Veer and Dostana. She also lived the role of a rape victim seeking justice in B. R. Chopra’s Insaaf Ka Tarazu. Her sex appeal became more prominent in the love triangle “Qurbani”.
Sridevi — She became star in her second movie, Himmatwala, which was a big box-office success and established her status as a top actress in Bollywood. It was followed by the critically acclaimed drama Sadma, which was declared by the film critics as the most definitive child-woman performance in hindi movies. Throughout the 1980s, she hold the position of number one actress with box office hits, like Tohfa, Nagina, Mr. India, Chandni, Chaalbaaz etc. After success of Chandini Director Yash Chopra gave her lead role in modern day classic Lamhe where her sensitive and intense double-role immortalized her forever in Hindi Cinema. It also won her, her second Filmfare Best Actress Award after Chaalbaaz. She followed it with acclaimed performances in films like Khuda Gawah, Gumrah and Laadla. She is one of the few Bollywood actresses who dictated terms and for whom exclusive roles were written. After 1997 movie “Judaai” she left the industry and got married to filmmaker Boney Kapoor.
Amrita Singh — She made her debut in hindi films 1983 with Betaab. It was successful film where she paired with another debutant Sunny Deol. Her other successful films like Sunny, Mard, Saaheb, Chameli Ki Shaadi, Naam, Khudgarz made her one of the most popular Indian actresses of this era. Amrita made a successful pair with other super-stars like Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan. She also played negative roles in films such as Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and Aaina. Then she gave up acting and married with actor Saif Ali Khan but in 2004 she took divorce now lives with her two children. She returned to acting in 2002 with the film “23rd March 1931: Shaheed” where she played the mother of Bhagat Singh. She also appeared on the television serials like Kavyanjali.
Deepti Naval — She started her career with “Ek Baar Phir” in 1980. She is a very sensitive and successful actress of art films and light films of the 80’s. Saath Saath , Chashme Buddoor, Katha, Mohan Joshi Hazir ho, and Mirch Masala are some of her famous films. She formed successful pair with Farooq Shaikh. She was always considered as talented as Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil but she failed to achieve the same stature in terms of awards or memorable casts. She directed Thodasa Aasmaan, a TV serial based on women problems, and produced a travel show called The Path Less Traveled. A selection of poems in Hindi, Lamha-Lamha was published in 1983 and more recently, MapinLit brought out a new collection called Black Wind and Other Poems. She is also a painter and photographer with several exhibitions to her credit and enjoys trekking in the remote mountains of Himachal and Ladakh.
Dimple Kapadia — Her career started with the most sensational and hit movie of its time, Bobby. It was a teenegers love story. She was only sixteen at the time. After this historical success of Bobby she got married to Rajesh Khanna and left the film industry. After a divorce, she returned to the film industry in 1985, in the film Saagar, where her topless scene became big controversy of that era. She never hesitated to give bold and sexy bedroom scenes. She appeared in many movies throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She won the National Film Award for Best Actress portrayal of her role in Rudaali in 1993. She was praised for her performance as an alcoholic in Dil Chahta Hai in 2001.
JayaPrada — Her first film “Sargam” was huge hit and she became an overnight star there as well. However she couldn’t speak Hindi. Director K. Vishwanath relaunched her again in Hindi films, with the hit film Kaamchor. By this time she was able to consistently work in Hindi films. Her other hit films were Sharaabi, Sanjog, Tohfaa. Director Satyajit Ray called her one of the prettiest women in the world. In 1986, she married producer Srikanth Nahata and left the film industry. She entered into politics by joining Telugu Desam party. She was nominated to be an MP in Rajyasabha by TDP party. Following differences with party Supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu, she left TDP to join Samajwadi Party and contested and won from Rampur parliamentary Constituency in UP during the last General election in 2004.
Meenakshi Seshadri — Very few people know that Meenakshi was the winner of Miss India contest in 1981 at the age of 21. She made her debut in Painter Babu opposite Rajiv Goswami, the brother of Manoj Kumar. It was a flop movie but she recovered from 1983 movie Hero directed by Subhash Ghai. Her most notable performances were in films Meri Jung, Vijay, Shahenshah, Ghayal and Damini. In her 15-year career in the film industry she acted in about 80 films. She also has a career as a Bharatnatyam, Kathak, and Odissi teacher/dancer. After successful career as an actress, she got married to investment banker Harish Mysore and settled in Plano, Texas, USA where she teaches Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi.
Neelam — Neelam debuted in the 1984 movie “Jawaani” opposite to Karan Shah. She became famous in 1986 in the film Ilzaam where Govinda was in lead role. Her superhit pair with Govinda gave movies like Love 86, Khudgarz, Hatya, Taaqatwar and Do Qaidi. Agains she was noted for her appearance in the 1998 movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai where she appeared as herself in the movie playing a VJ. In 1999 she appeared in the multi-starrer family film Hum Saath-Saath Hain as the sister of Salman Khan. Her other major films were Parampara, Ek Ladka Ek Ladki and Agneepath. She got married to Rishi Sethia but got divorced shortly after wards. These days she is regularly seen in the Mumbai Page 3 circle with her other close friends Ekta Kapoor, Sunita Menon, Bhavna Pandey and Farah Khan.
Tina Munim — She started her career in hindi filmes with Dev Anand’s superhit movie “Des Pardes”. Dev Anand repeated her in his several other films. She also played the lead female role in Sanjay Dutt’s debut “Rocky”. Apart from Dev Anand, she also made a popular on screen chemistry with actor Rishi Kapoor in Subhash Ghai’s movie Karz. Her other hit films were “Aakhir Kyon?”, “Baaton Baaton Mein” and “Man Pasand”. In the late 1980s she left the film industry and moved to California for completing her degree. In 1991 she returned to India and married industrialist Anil Ambani. Today she is well known page3 icon due to her involvement in a number of charity, arts, and talent shows.
Vidya Sinha — Rajnigandha was her first movie. It was directed by Basu Chatterjee. This movie was a huge box office success. Then she was seen in some other hit films like Choti Si Baat, Pati Patni Aur Woh etc. In late 1980s she quitted the film industry. Now you can see her in television serials like Kavyanjali, Hum do hain na, Zaara, Bhabhi etc. After her comeback to films and television she said, ”I did not want my daughter Jhanvi to be brought up by servants and I did not hire any servants. I brought her up single handedly as I did not want to miss out on her upbringing.” ”We then went to Sydney, Australia and I came back some time ago. At the moment I am only doing ‘Kavyanjali’ as it takes up all of my time and there is no time for anything else,” This shows that she is not only a good actress but also a caring mother.