Bollywood wouldn't have been where it is today if it wasn't for our fabulous leading ladies. Since the beginning of Hindi cinema, our actresses have played a major role despite the male actors hogging the limelight. Here's to 10 such iconic actresses of all time without whom this industry wouldn't have completed 100 years in style! 1. Madhuri Dixit Her dance numbers became cult hits with every woman trying to master those priceless expressions– a feat which today's innumerable raunchy dance numbers aren't able to come even close to. She soon became a force to reckon with, not only with her stupendous dance numbers, but with her fierce screen presence and her acting abilities. She became the character right from playing the shy bahu or ardent lover to a revengeful daughter-in-law or a damsel full of attitude. Her smile still draws great admiration from all quarters. A perfect combination of mesmerising beauty, superb dancing skills, incredible acting skills, glamour quotient, box office pull, versatility and iconic status Madhuri is back where she belongs i.e. Bollywood.
2. Madhubala A lot of actresses idolise her but none can come even close to the charm that this lady possessed. Her beauty was the talk of the town and audiences were awestruck whenever she filled the screen oblivious to the fact that it was only a black & white frame. People would have gone berserk had it been in color. And it's not only her beauty that made headlines; she possessed some fine acting skills too. In fact her song, Pyar kiya toh darna kya, from 'Mughal-e-Azam' is still immortalised in people's memories. Sadly, Madhubala was born with a congenital heart condition and left this world long before she should have. Though she has left a gaping hole, she is forever immortalised in people's hearts and will never fade from their memory.
3. Nargis Nargis was the first lady of Indian cinema. She was the foundation of Raj Kapoor's cinematic fantasies. Without her, the RK banner wouldn't have been what it is today. Films like 'Shree 420', 'Awaara', 'Barsaat', 'Chori Chori' and 'Andaz' wouldn't be the classics they are without her. Not only famous in India; she was one of our most recognised actresses abroad. Russians, especially, fell in love with her; her Indo-Russian co-production 'Pardesi' was a blockbuster in Russia. She gave iconic hits like 'Jogan' and 'Mela' opposite Dilip Kumar but her greatest performance came with 'Mother India' (1957). Her portrayal of an upright mother, who fights against the system and doesn't compromise on her values even when it comes to her wayward son, brought the whole nation to tears. Now long gone, she still is as fresh in the audience's minds as ever.
4. Sridevi Sridevi, or Bollywood's 'Chandni', was the supposed arch rival of Madhuri in the 90s and rightly so. She was the only one who could give her competition at the time. Given her talent, filmmakers obviously clamoured to get her to sign their films. Her versatility was superb which was seen in 'Chaalbaaz' (a Seeta Aur Geeta remake), where she played totally opposite characters with ease. She lent her sexy charm to probably the 1st sci-fi movie of Bollywood, 'Mr. India', with her saucy number – Kaate nahin kat te. Her funny antics as Hawaa Hawaai or serious mentally challenged roles in 'Sadma' drew equal applause from the audiences. Truly an iconic actress, we just can't wait for her return with 'English Vinglish'.
5. Smita Patil If anybody ever wants to learn acting, the late Smita Patil is the one to be idolised. She showed everyone what she had and others didn't. She breathed life into her characters, so much so that people could see the lightest of scars the character was made up of and empathised with it. She could easily be called the mother of Arty cinema. Be it films like 'Bhumika', the Marathi film 'Umbartha', 'Arth' or 'Mirch Masala', her roles always stood out. Actresses of today who only think that flaunting their minimally fed bodies is enough to be termed as acting, should take a leaf or two out of this legendary actor's life and role in cinema.
6. Rekha Nothing spells mysterious as the name Rekha does. Like Cleopatra or Marilyn Monroe, her mystique transcends boundaries. Even in her 50s she looks as radiant and sexy as ever while actresses in their 20s and 30s pale in comparison. She never needed a man by her side to make her presence felt, which was seen in her reel as well as real life. The only reason she isn't a global phenomenon is because she has never endorsed a brand, courted offers from Hollywood or is active on social media. She lives a very private life which is part of the reason behind her mysterious aura. She is a living legend with charisma that only a few can match.
7. Meena Kumari Tragedy and Meena Kumari are synonymous. She was the queen when it came to playing tragic roles as they ironically mirrored her real life. She was spurned by her husband, yearned for children; all of which found an outlet on the screen. Her acting was so fine that people cried when she cried and felt helpless when she did. But she just wasn't the tragedy queen; she also portrayed light-hearted characters with as much aplomb. Sadly, Meena Kumari died alone, neglected by all those who loved her. But she will forever remain in our hearts as a never fading memory.
8. Waheeda Rehman Waheeda Rehman has to be one of the most graceful actresses ever. In an era when theatrics ruled, she stuck to naturally portraying her characters. She preferred meaty roles as opposed to just being the arm candy of leading actors. She had a charm few others managed to match and gave us some very fine & memorable performances with films like 'Pyaasa', 'Chaudhvin Ka Chand', 'Guide', etc.
9. Kajol She might not be the most beautiful actress around but she sure is one of the most talented ones. She was born into quite a talented gene pool taking into consideration her mother Tanuja and aunt Nutan. She is really versatile as an actor and has played the tom-boyish, non-glamorous roles (K2H2) with as much conviction as the demure & girly avatar in DDLJ. Her screen presence is such that she can give any mainstream actor a run for his money. No wonder she was the most popular leading lady to be cast opposite the King Khan. People went berserk whenever this duo was seen on the screen together. But her popularity went far beyond her pairing with Shahrukh. What sets her apart from many other actresses is her devil-may-care attitude, down to earth mannerisms & that effervescent laugh. She never acts all hoity-toity and seems very approachable. Now married and a mother of two, she is still as popular and in demand as she was before.
10. Aishwarya Rai This lady is often termed as the most beautiful woman on Earth, a fact I'd like to differ with, and there is no dearth of her ardent admirers. Apart from really fine looks, she also is a fabulous actor and has given some super hits like 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', 'Devdas', etc. But the real reason why she must be included in this list is because she was one of the first actresses to put India & Bollywood on a global map. It is because of her that people realized that Bollywood is more than just a small copy cat industry of Hollywood. It's still a long way before we aren't stereotyped but this is at least a start.