Most popular Hindi movie actresses since the 1980s

They say it’s a male dominated world and Bollywood is definitely not an exception. Male superstars have always called the shots in the Hindi Movie Industry but nevertheless female actors used to be a force to reckon with. The craze and following for actresses was at par, if not more, than their male counterparts of that era. But over the years, the superstardom of female actors has shown a consistent downhill trend.

Starting from the 80s, we have bracketed the female superstars into 5 groups categorized based on their active years and have analyzed their level and sustainability of success. Surprisingly, with the all the PR machinery and media hype in place in today’s time, the order of stardom is also the same which strengthens the point we are trying to highlight. Here it goes:

Sridevi - Madhuri Dixit

Sridevi – Madhuri Dixit

1. Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit (10/10): Carrying forward the legacy of Hema Malini (probably the only leading lady to single-handedly dominate the industry during her time) the Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit combo dominated the industry for around 2 decades which is a phenomenal achievement in itself. While Sridevi’s peak period was during the second half of 80s, Madhuri touched the pinnacle of success in the first half of 90s. Even the likes of Sunny Deol and Rajinikanth played supporting roles in 1989 blockbuster ‘Chaalbaaz’ which rode on Sridevi’s magnetic charisma alone. Such was the phenomenal stardom of Madhuri Dixit that all the leading distributors renamed the 1995 blockbuster ‘Raja’ to ‘Rani’, as the movie was heavily panned by critics but still became a huge success due to Madhuri’s starpower. Both of them individually starred in some of the classic movies of Indian Cinema like ‘Mr. India’, ‘Chandni’, ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ and ‘Saajan’ to name a few. The space here is too less to mention the achievements of these 2 legendary female actors.

Juhi Chawla - Kajol - Karishma Kapoor

Juhi Chawla – Kajol – Karishma Kapoor

2. Juhi Chawla, Kajol and Karishma Kapoor (8/10): Kajol emerged as the most successful lady of this group with a string of super hit movies like ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, ‘Ishq’, ‘Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ and many more. When she left movies for marriage, Kajol was at the peak of her career. Karishma Kapoor, who was labeled as the mass heroine given her superhit association with Govinda-David Dhawan, entered the big league with ‘Raja Hindustani’, ‘Dil To Pagal Hai’ and ‘Biwi No.1’ opposite the mega Khans. Juhi Chawla formed the leading trio of actresses along with Madhuri and Sridevi in the early 90s. She was phenomenal in movies like ‘Darr’, ‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke’, ‘Bol Radha Bol’ and ‘Ishq’.

Preity Zinta - Aishwarya Rai - Rani Mukherji

Preity Zinta – Aishwarya Rai – Rani Mukherji

3. Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta (8/10): Aishwarya Rai showed a lot of promise with back to back hits ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ and ‘Taal’ in 1999. She is considered as one of the most stunning female actors to have appeared on the silver screen. She later proved her versatility with Devdas, Dhoom 2 and Jodha Akbar. Rani and Preity started around the same time in 1998 and during 2001-2005, their stardom peaked with movies like ‘Saathiya’, ‘Chalte Chalte’, ‘Bunty and Babli’, ‘Black’, ‘Hum Tum’, ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, ‘Veer Zaara’, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ and ‘Salaam Namaste’. After 2005, it has been a tough ride for both of them, even as Aishwarya has taken a sabbatical post her marriage to Abhishek Bachchan.

Priyanka Chopra - Kareena Kapoor

Priyanka Chopra – Kareena Kapoor

4. Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor (6/10): Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor established themselves as Bollywood’s topmost actresses in the first decade of the new millennium. They rose to stardom by showcasing their immense talent in movies like ‘Aitraaz’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Barfi’, ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Omkara’ and ‘3 idiots’ to name a few. Both of these actors are currently very much active in the mainstream cinema and can add a few more feathers to their caps, but the shift towards the younger lot will not let it happen easily though.

Katrina Kaif - Deepika Padukone

Katrina Kaif – Deepika Padukone

5. Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif (7/10): Deepika and Katrina are vying for the top honors in the last few years. Deepika is having clear edge currently thanks to 5 back to back hits in ‘Cocktail’, ‘Race 2’, ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani’, ‘Chennai Express’ and ‘Ram Leela’. Katrina is also maintaining an enviable success rate as she has been a part of superhits like ‘Namastey London’, ‘Singh Is King’, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘Mere Brother Ki Dulhan’ and ‘Dhoom 3’.

As it is clear from the above mentioned groups, the reign of female actors is limited and the shelf life is decreasing as the years are passing by. While a Sridevi or a Madhuri was easily the topmost heroine for more than 10 years, it’s slowly getting harder to maintain the top position for even 5 years these days. The story is entirely different as far as the male department goes where Salman, Aamir, Shahrukh, who were the top actors during Sridevi-Madhuri era, are still ruling the roost.

Now the much promising next younger lot, consisting of Anushka Sharma, Sonakshi Sinha, Parineeti Chopra, Shraddha Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and others, have already taken giant leaps. This has left us with many unanswered questions

  • Will Sridevi/Madhuri remain the last genuine female superstars of Bollywood?
  • Can Deepika/Katrina or any one from the younger lot be able to revive the legacy of Sridevi/Madhuri?
  • Will there be a dearth of Male superstars also after the Khan era?

We are anxious to know your views on the above questions. Please share them in the comments section below. Also, let us know who was the most complete actress (both popularity and talent-wise) since the 1980s.

Article by Abhishek Sharma tweets @abhu_sharma

Who was the most complete star actress since the 80s?

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106 Comments

  • @sht you are completely wrong one side you saying Madhuri dominate in 90-95 and than you saying not comparable to sridevi, she is not hero who can dominate for 20 and more years, Madhuri had been successful and popular both from 1988-1997 and its a good period for heroine dominance. You given credit to srk alone for Dtph success but you forgot same srk had given failures with her with Koyla in 1997, anjaam 1994, an avg with Hths in 2002, and than success with remake devdas, so every actress had given success with establish actor, Sri devi also given huge hits with Jeetendra,rishi,anil kapoor who were also giving hits to their own. So both Sri and Madhuri is easily comparable.

  • Sridevi has always been the best
    She made a grand comeback with english vinglish which no other actress can do

  • Ma vote goes to katrina.. (she isnt dat bad).. N her stardom is much more than dese mentioned above.preity was fantastic too.. Dont knw y she isnt doing movies… I hate kajol.. Pretty overrated
    Havnt watched much of sridevi’s films
    Madhuri kareena karishma juhi wer equally good.manisha was good too
    Priyanka is very much talented
    N lets see watelse deepika has in store foh us.. In the new brigade I just love shraddha kapoor

  • Sri just proved who was, is and wd always be bigger.

    Mads come backs were super duds. She is a great dancer.

    No one mentions about Divya Bharti who was signing every top films in just a year, but fate had something else, and it did help Madhuri.

    Mads though went on to become the last of superstars.

    Sri is the best actress among all listed above, and once ur beauty and charm goes its acting that wd sustain, and that’s what she proved. All other superstars including Hema Malini were not great actors, though hugely popular.

    Kajol stuck to srk and kjo and got lot of awards, while Tabu and Rani were miles ahead in reality.

    Rani got silly in love and signed only Adi’s films that all flopped.

    Kat not being a great actor still pulls crowd and got success rate more than anyone so far.

    Vidya and Kangs are great actors, but not mass popular, hence they got to choose unique roles where they show off their talents.

    Dips struggles hugely on dialogue delivery, but its her time now, so all that is ignored, and she is playing smartly the PR game.

  • No offense, they are all gr8 in some way but who cares?? Its not like we watch the movies for these ladies!, we are star crazy only for the male stars cuz we project ourselfs onto the screens becuz we wanna be like our fav stars! We like looking at the ladies and their acting but what relly brings in the auidence most of the times are the male stars!

  • 90% of the films Katrina has done has been supporting, almost cameo roles. Most of the time, she is the eye candy, the wailing beauty waiting to be rescued by the main hero. She has ALWAYS relied on her heroes – Salman, Shahrukh, Aamir, Akshay, Hrithik – who are the real stars of the movies – Ek Thaa Tiger, Jab Tak Hain Jaan, Agneepath, Dhoom 3, Singh in King, Race, and many many others. The last real role where she did not rely on her male co-star and was a real star of the film was Mere Brother ki Dulhan. Katrina showed her potential there and it is so frustrating to see how she never realizes her talent in making a film where she doesn’t have to rely on others’ success.

    This makes it completely unfair for REAL stars like Madhuri, Sridevi, and to a lesser extent people like Rani, Juhi, Kajol, Aishwarya, Kareena, Deepika, Priyanka who atleast have talent and have taken MUCH more risks in their career path and went out of their way to not play stereotypical Bollywood heroine roles in their careers.

  • How can you forget to include Vidya Balan?? She is the most gutsy and talented actress to surface in Bollywood in the last 20 years. If you look at her films, she has always played strong female characters, and recently most of her films have been central leading characters. She single-handedly changed the perception (and to a large extent a truth) that heroines can never give hits unless they’re paired with the Khans.

    She without a doubt has been the #1 current leading actress for over some time now if you look beyond the box-office numbers. The sheer courage of doing films which have central woman characters, along with the great variety of performances and roles is commendable, something NONE of the current actresses come even close to doing. Rani, Kareena were doing the same thing in the 2000s, but right now the queen is defintiely Vidya.

  • Agreed with some people dat vidya bharati was a great actress and a perfect combo of all qualites.

    However,strictly by acting,sridevi is clear winner. .but madhuri is more complete than sridevi. Agreed wid sky dat bebo is too much overrated.

  • Agreed with some people dat divya bharati was a great actress and a perfect combo of all qualites.feeling sad for her.

    However,strictly by acting,sridevi is clear winner. .but madhuri is more complete than sridevi. Agreed wid sky dat bebo is too much overrated.

  • Common Katrina is 1 when it comes to stardom mere brother ki dulhan become hit after release just one week adre bodyguard it become hit on stardom of kat who pay money to see imran khan also almost 40 percent people come to watch dhoom 3 because of kat she is no 1 today jab tak hai jann cross 100 cr because of kat kat is on top from 2007 seven years where is depeika at that time just one good year

  • sky indicine was being honest, madhuri came in 1984 and in the whole 80s decade she only had one song ek do teen, what did she do before that? so its laughbale to say she was big thing with one song, tezaab was complete anil kapoor film and and her last 2 hit film tridev she had 5 minute appearances and was not hugely existent in ram lakhan. indicine rightly pointed out she peak phase was between 1991 and 1995. sridevi was there for the entire decade. sridevi was still in the race in the early 90s even with her flops, like srk her cult acting in film like lamhe kept her up.

  • one can say ash was probably the last traditional leading bollywood ladies, after sridevi and madhuri, she could classically dance and was beautiful, she had film like devdas, mohabattein, dhoom 2 where she had as much same length of role as her heroes. the rest of the bollywood actress after that are come and go, can’t do classical dancing and which was a requirement traditionally

  • @sky how old r u? Ask those people who r from sridevi Madhuri era. Madhuri’s dominance actually started 91 from sajan and beta till raja. Before that she was just part of hero oriented multistarrer project like tezab, Tridev ram lakhan KISHAN kanhiya etc Post raja she has given lot of big budget flop like koyla (opening was bumper bcos of srk) premgranth, raj kumar, mahanta, Yarana, mohbbat, aarzoo, pukar, lajja ( second fiddle to manisha) & many more. Sridevi never played second fiddle to any male superstar post chandni leave aside female. She was always central character of her movie even though they turn into flop. Look at her movies post chandni
    Chalbaz
    Lamhe
    Khuda gawah
    Banjaran
    Chandramukhi
    Chand ka tukda
    Nigahe
    Gumrah
    Gurudev
    Army
    Ladla
    Judai
    English vinglish
    If u look at her above movie all male star were done supporting act except bachchan who had equally challenging role
    On other hand Maduri always did safest project infact ash had importance role than Madhuri in devdas. But Sri is Sri she has never given up even though she was in her declining career.
    Sher agar Budha hua to kya hua kabhi ghaas nahi khata.
    U can compare Madhuri’s stardom with Katrina who has also similar amount of hit with big male stars in safest project.

  • this list is incompilate coz you forget Vidya,films like Paa,Dirty picture and Kahaani are unforgatable and i beleive neither Katrina nor Deepika can act like Vidya

  • why u took name of only few hits of pryanka and kareena ??? bodyguard, raone golmaal 3 golmaal 3, krrish gunday all of them were blockbusters,, and pryanka is still in game u idiot, and kareena was a queen of bollywood for almost 10 years,,

  • Post 1980
    Top 5 actress in terms of acting
    1. Sridevi (miles ahead of all actress)
    2. Vidya balan
    3. Kajol
    4. Rani/priyanka/Madhuri
    5. Kangana / manisha

    In terms of stardom
    1. Sridevi (dominate all three industries symoultaneously)
    2. Madhuri/Katrina
    3. Kajol / Deepika /karishma
    4. Jaya prada/Kareena / juhi chawla
    5. Padmini kolhapire/ aishwarya / preti zinta

    Superstar plus actress
    1. Sridevi (again mile aheads)
    2. Kajol
    3. Madhuri
    4. Karishma / Deepika
    5. Rani / priyanka
    Above list is base on box office data, screen presence, significant of character, presence of male co-star and and importance his role demand in distributor, exhibitors, success ratio, duration of stardom etc.

  • Writer of article Forgotten MEENAKSHI SHESHADRI.
    She leaves industry at peak of her career and her renumeration is only second to shree devi
    and ahead of madhuri and thur madhuri benifited due to space created

  • heroines has to show both acting and as well her beauty.in that case or in glamour vidya is little behind.katrina looks more fashinable than everyone also she is a good dancer.while PC,DP proved them both in acting as well as glamour.while aiswarya didn’t gave much contribution to bollywood.also agree kareena is nost overrate and another overrate actress is sonakshi who didn’t got space so thanks.

    some fools who is comparing vidya with DP are dumbs.in emotional intensity DP is ahead of vidya.it’s those fools wants their hero to work with DP.vidya is appreciated because he always did value based woman leading films.while DP’s acting emotion in OSO as well as in cocktail is remarkable,also in 2012 even PC’s act in barfi was way better than vidya in kahani but vidya got award,there is the problem.however my favourite always remain madhuri,kajol,rani,priety,PC,DP.

  • @sht i agree tat sridevi ws great bt u cant undermine the achievements of Madhuri
    She ws the main contributor in the biggest hit of 90s i.e Hum Aapke Hain koun. None of Sridevi’s movie is an all time blockbuster.
    Madhuri’s dance ws the highlight of so many hits like khalnayak, saajan, beta, raja etc
    She ruled that era and thats y the poll result also says the same

  • How can anyone forget Preity Zinta. She is an actress who has time and time again brought fantastic performances and loved for her roles, which has actually changed how females are given and considered in movies.

    Not to mention she was was featured in three of the biggest grossers of the year –

    KOI MIL GAYA
    KAL HO NAA HO
    THE HERO

  • Oh God some of the desperate attempts by Sridevi fans to cut down Madhuris hits is desperate here. I cant understand why don’t they stop trying to twist information when it always falls flat on their face and they make a laughing stock of themselves. Madhuri has 11 hits in her career, oh really? Yes in your little mind but not in the history of movie filmdom. I don’t carea bout Sridevis filmography but I am here to give facts on Madhuri. Madhuri has huge bonafide blockbusters and super hits in her career no wonder she reigned from 1988- 1997 . Let me count the blockbusters and hits for you and you can do the Maths yourself :-)

    1988 – Tezaab (blockbuster)

    1989 – RamLakhan, Tridev (blockbusters), Parinda, Kishen Kanhaiya, Prem Pratigya (Hits)

    1990 – Dil (Blockbuster), Thanedaar (Hit)

    1991 – Saajan (Blockbuster), 100 Days (Hit)

    1992 – Beta (Blockbuster)

    1993 – Khalnayak (Blockbuster)

    1994 – HAHK (All time block buster)

    1995 – Raja (Super Hit)

    1997 – Dil toh Paagal Hain (Blockbuster)

    2000 – Pukar (Above average or Hit not sure)

    2002 – Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam (Hit), Devdas (Blockbuster)

    That’s 18 I counted right there and all are undisputed block busters/hits . The number of blockbusters Madhuri has are very high (10 in count) compared to most actresses and frankly in 8 of them except Tridev , Ram lakhan, Devdas were not multi starrers but MD had the key leading role . I am sure there are lot more like Kanoon Apna Apna, Mujrim et few such movies which did well but were multi starrers and I am not even counting them.

    And Madhuris 1 HAHK grossed more than all Sridevi hits put together in 80’s n 90’s.

    And those hits with Jeetendra- God who even remembers them. They all looked clones of each other – all crap movies.

    Sridevi almost stopped giving any hits from 1990- I think her only 2 reasonably successful films 1990 onwards were Judaii (Hit) and Laadla (Above average). Gumraah maybe above average too . Point is she had 0 super hits/blockbusters from 1990 and she was clearly taken over and dislodged by Madhuri.

    The article is right in saying that Sridevi reigned from 1983 till 1990 and then Madhuri took over.

    Madhuri literally ruled in 1990s and had the nation in her spell and was the undisputed queen of the 90s

  • And these Sridevi fans just cant stomach the fact that Madhuri was way way and is still way way more popular than Sridevi. Look at the money she still gets , the big brands and endorsements she still gets. What does Sridevi get- zilch?

    I am a Madhuri fan but that does not mean I will just forgive her blunders.

    Yes Madhuris comebacks have been not good – Aaja Nachle (flop), Gulaab Gang (flop) , Dedh Ishqiya (maybe commercially not successful but was a smart and good film) and Sridevis comeback in EV was great, she chose her project wisely whereas Madhuri went wrong in her choice of films. Except Dedh Ishqiya, I wonder why she chose AN and Gulaab Gang. I can forgive her Aaja Nachle as it was Yash Raj banner and Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra personally went to her and she may have trusted them but Gulaab Gang, pray Mads what were you thinking when you accepted that? How could you trust that Soumik Sen who only talks big and has done nothing yet and what was Anubhav Sinhas credentials – that Ra One disaster.

    Sridevi did EV which was successful but how did it benefit her? Did she get anything after that? Has she done anything after that? She barely got even ads after that except maybe Tanishq, all other ads were crap third grade products. She still needs her husband to produce films for her? Why has not a single film maker of repute offered her anything yet? I read few days back that she has signed 2 films – 1 South fantasy flick and another her husband is producing. So she still needs Boney to make films for her. Great :-) My point is made :-)

    Atleast MD commands and does things on her own accord and does not need any crutches to support her. She is a self made woman and all her success is just due to her hard work, professionalism and good will.

    Tum Sridevi fans rote raho year after year and keep belittling Madhuri, the lady will be least affected and will still continue to get work and money. Why? Because she is a good person and her goodness will take her through always:-)

  • Nik madhuri does not have 1 huge hit where she played the sole protagonist and title role. Sridevi had plenty

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