As the X’mas week cometh, for starters here’s looking back at the depiction of Christians in the B-town movies. Over time saddled with cliched dialogue (“Tum ko kyaa maangta men? types), shown to be fond of the booze bottle and more often than not decked out in exaggerated flamboyant costumes, that’s how one of India’s minority communities has been largely depicted.
Of late, though there has been a perceptible change, what with Saajan Fernandes (Imraan Khan) of The Lunchbox, plus John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan) and Father Martin Das (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) of Te3n being portrayed with a semblance of authenticity.
In the distant past, too, there was a clutch of characters who became memorable within the mainstream matrix: notably the kindly John Uncle (David Abraham) in Boot Polish, Mrs D’Sa (Lalita Pawar) in Anari, Michael D’Souza (Pran) in Majboor, Mamma Margaret (Nadira ) in Julie, Jack Braganza (Premnath) in Bobby. Anthony Gonzalves (Bachchan) in Amar Akbar Anthony and Tony Braganza (Amol Palekar) in Baton Baton Mein.
Moreover the wave of unconventional cinema, has yielded Albert Pinto (Naseeruddin Shah) in Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai and Don Pedro Colaco (Pankaj Kapur) in Finding Fanny.
Now that’s by way of a backgrounder to the topic du jour: a look at the 10 leading ladies – aka heroines who have incarnated women from the Christian community impactfully, chronicled by the year in which the films were released:
Simi Garewal as Mary in Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Image Source: youtube/shemaroo
Raj Kapoor’s three-parter opus about Raju who longs to spread cheer in people’s lives, only to encounter heartbreak, featured schoolteacher Mary who is already committed to David (Manoj Kumar). Result, anguish for Raju who has a crush on her. The unspoken chemistry between Simi and an adolescent Rishi Kapoor, snapped and crackled, making this part the most appealing one in the film which is now acknowledged as a cult classic, never mind if it underperformed at the
box-office during its initial run at the cinema halls.
Dimple Kapadia as Bobby Braganza in Bobby (1973)
Image Source: popxo
Raj Kapoor torpedoed the cash counters with this star-crossed love story of a fisherman’s daughter and a business family’s scion. Introducing Dimple Kapadia, as the gamine Bobby who asks Rishi Kapoor, in his first adult role, “Mujhse dosti karoge?”, she acted and danced with terrific fervour. Practically every aspect of this iconic youth movie was perfect, from Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music and the technical polish to RK’s passionate direction. Incidentally, once she chose to make her comeback after splitting from husband Rajesh Khanna, Dimple was back in form with Saagar (1985) in which she played Mona D’Silva, who runs a small restaurant in Goa.
Lakshmi in the title role of Julie (1975)
Image Source: pics
A surprise hit about a single mother-to-be, here was a family drama which was enhanced by an outstanding music score by Rajesh Roshan including the chartbuster title song My Heart Is Beating, and showcased Chennai’s Lakshmi Narayan. She did appear in other Hindi films like Jeevan Mukt, Aangan Ki Kali and Dhuan but couldn’t find a permanent foothold in Bollywood. Sridevi appeared in the part of her sister in this rule breaking love story directed by K S Sethumadhavan.
Ranjeeta Kaur as Lily Fernandes in Ankhiyon Ke Jharoken Se (1978)
Image Source: youtube/rajshri
Soon after making her debut in Laila Majnu, the Pune Film Institute graduate had the audiences weeping copiously in this riff on Erich Segal’s Love Story, in which the heroine succumbs to terminal illness. Produced by Rajshri Pictures and directed by Hiren Nag, the weepie co-starred Sachin Pilgaonkar. Ranjeeta could never quite top this performance. An ill-conveived sequel –titled Jaana Pehchana -- showing a look-alike of Lily Fernandes after her death, was released some five years ago, but tanked.
Jennifer Kendal Kapoor as Violet Stoneham in 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981)
Image Source: parallelcinema
Produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Aparna Sen, here was a deeply moving account of a lonely Anglo-Indian teacher of Kolkata who’s emotionally exploited by a young couple. Shashi Kapoor’s wife, Jennifer, rarely acted in films. Whenever she did as in Junoon and Ghare Baire, she was outstanding. This portrayal, justly considered as her best one, lost out at the National Awards to Rekha in Umrao Jaan who was adjudged the Best Actress instead. Rekha was excellent no doubt, but not quite in the class of Ms Kapoor.
Manisha Koirala as Annie Braganza in Khamoshi: The Musical (1996)
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As the daughter of deaf-mute parents (Nana Patekar-Seema Biswas), Annie communicates with them in sign language. When she falls in love with Raj (Salman Khan) and finds joy in music, her life goes awry with heart-wrenching consequences. Perhaps Manisha’s most underrated performance yet, executed under Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction, it’s worth a re-dekko any time, any day. Just steal, beg or borrow a DVD for La Koirala’s amazing emoting.
Kajol as Priya in Sapnay (1997)
Image Source: veec
Cinematographer-cum-director Rajeev Menon sought to study the impact of Christianity on a young woman who wishes to become a nun. A complex subject, it was dealt with perhaps too skimpily by Menon who reduced the bilingual (titled Minsara Kanavu in Tamil) essentially to a three-way romantic frisson between Kajol, Arvind Swamy and Prabhu Deva. Redeemed by A R Rahman’s music and an infallibly convincing performance by Kajol, the effort did have its stray commendable moments.
Katrina Kaif as Jennifer Pinto in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009)
Image Source: indiastore
Katrina isn’t exactly at ease before the camera. Fortuitously as Ms Pinto she was pretty spontaneous and sassy in the company of Ranbir Kapoor in this whacky comedy concocted by Raj Kumar Santoshi. Religious differences were brought up by the script but were not blown up into a serious issue.
Priyanka Chopra as Sussanna Anna-Marie Johannes in 7 Khoon Maaf (2011)
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As a femme fatale, a serial killer of her husbands, Priyanka went for the jugular. Adapted from a Ruskin Bond story and directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, the film wasn’t quite credible. The saving grace was the lush photography and an unapologetically vampish performance by Ms Chopra as the cougar Sussanna, extending on her Bad Girl role which she had done justice to in Aitbaar.
Deepika Padukone as Angie Eucharistica in Finding Fanny (2014)
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Not one of her best, not by a far stretch of the imagination. Yet there was something waifish and wistful about Deepika Padukone’s act as a young widow who sets out on a road trip with a car full of characters who’re as eccentric as they come. Homi Adajania’s film was meant only for the discriminating viewer. It will remain a risk-taking curiosity piece in Deepika’s filmography.
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