Rewind 2022: The best performances by female artistes

Alia Bhatt rules, Sheeba Chadha, Shefali Shah have a dream year. Young guns make a mark.

By Mayur Lookhar

Box office is usually considered the bastion, rather the burden of the male super stars. It doesn’t imply that there aren’t expectations. If you call for pay parity, our ladies would have to deliver like their much hyped men. In a year where the male super stars failed, a Alia Bhatt delivered another 100 crore plus film. Tabu was part of two 200 crore plus films. However, the veteran didn’t make the cut here.

Box office is always secondary as it is the talent and the performance that counts. We were blessed to have a year where couple of reigning queens did well, but few unheralded experienced artistes had a dream run. Youth too made its mark thus promising a great future for Hindi cinema. Honestly, we were just impressed that all the names that made it to this list didn’t feature in any mundane role. Each actor, each character was unique, pivotal to the plot, and the impressive performances lifted the film. There were so many good performances that it was tough to leave out some names.

Without further ado, we bring you the best, the most impressive performances by female artistes this year.

10 Bhasha Sumbli – The Kashmir Files 

A brutal film based on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. Director Vivek Agnihotri’s film ruled the box office, but not without its controversy. However, there was no dispute over the talent of Bhasha Sumbli. Pulled out from nowhere, only a Kashmiri Pandit could do full justice to the injustice meted out to Sharadha [Sumbli]. She feared not for her life, but for those of her dear ones. Sharada and her story were perhaps just one of the many tragedies that took place in the dark period in the Valley. The National School of Drama alumna showed her mettle as a performer in every sense.

9. Divya Dutta – Dhaakad

It’s a gross injustice that the word star doesn’t get associated with a master artiste like Divya Dutta. She’s never cared for the meaningless titles.  Now a seasoned actress, Dutta regaled in her powerful, intimidating evil act in the dud Dhaakad.  Pity though that Rohini [Dutta] had a short journey in the Kangana Ranaut-starrer spy action thriller. The seasoned actor scared the hell out of viewers with her intimidating act.

8 Pooja Pandey – Siya

In a year where her accomplished older sister Shalini made her Bollywood debut, young Pooja Pandey picked a dark tale to make her debut. Based on true events, Siya is the heart-wrenching story of the rape of a lowborn and her fight for justice.  The odds were heavily stacked against her, Siya [Pooja Pandey] still mustered some courage to take on the evil. Pooja emoted the pain, intensity, fear of Siya brilliantly. The popular awards do are likely to ignore her, but for us Pooja is the finest young debutante in Bollywood this year.

7 Tamannaah Bhatia – Babli Bouncer

Madhur Bhandarkar picking Tamannaah Bhatia as his Babli Bouncer was a tad surprising. The Mumbai-born Sindhi-Punjabi girl has made South cinema her home. We sensed the Southern touch even when she speaks Hindi. Here she was to play a Haryanvi belle. Bhatia revealed how his brother’s Haryanvi wife helped her with the language. The sister-in-law must be a damn good teacher as Bhatia gave a career-defining performance in her stop-start Bollywood career.

Bhatia truly epitomized the bubby nature, humour, strength, positive energy of Babli. The Junglee Pictures film and the character might appeal to Haryanvis, Delhi-Punjab audiences more, but it would be gross injustice to ignore Bhatia’s tour de force.

6 Shefali Shah – Jalsa 

Jalsa – a bizarre story that exposed the class divide. Maybe things would have played out differently in the real. The reel though left you gob smacked at the nature of Rukhsana Mohammad [Shefali Shah]. The ‘domestic’ conflict and the forgiving nature raised questions of modern-day slavery. The remarkable action/inactions of Rukhsana leave you stunned. Though a seasoned actor, Shah has enjoyed her finest run in Bollywood this year. The terrific performance is a reminder of her largely untapped talent. Better late than never. Shefali Shah grabbed her opportunities with both hands.

5 Sheeba Chadha – Maja Ma and Badhaai Do

Sheeba Chadha in Maja Ma [2022]

Another late bloomer who is going through a purple patch in her career. Sheeba Chadha would invariably feature in every third-fourth Bollywood film. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that 2022 is the year of Sheeba Chadha. Among many, we particularly loved her goofy, pretentious character Pam Hansraj in Maja Ma.

Both Pam and her husband Bob convincingly played the pretentious desi Americans. All along she smiled in her façade, but eventually there is break point where the Sikhni in Pamela bursts out. Though you are laughing out loudly, it’s a cathartic moment for the character.

If one is to pick scenes of the year, then the catfight between Kanchan [Simone Singh] and Pam atop a cable car will you have ROFL.

Seema Pahwa and Sheeba Chadha in Badhaai Do [2022]

Early in the year, Chadha stunned as the shy, meek mother-in-law of Bhumi Pednekar in Badhaai Do. Moving away from the traditional vicious, conniving saas (mother-in-law), director Harshvardhan Kulkarni presented Mrs. Thakur [Chadha] as this meek widow who is controlled by her jethani [Seema Pahwa].  There is a certain cuteness in her fear, the way she communicates and retreats back to her shell after firing the feeble first salvo. How can one not like such a character?

4 Alia Bhatt – Darlings 

Gully Boy unearthed the humble feisty Muslim girl in Alia Bhatt. Darlings though saw her play this submissive Muslim wife who is an abusive relationship with her husband. Tired of the abuse, Badrunissa aka Badru is cajoled into fighting back. All through her actions. Badru never loses her innocence, eventually letting her humanity precede over vengeance. Isn’t the actor same in real life too? Remember, how she chose to not retaliate to the constant barbs by Kangana Ranaut, and still showed respect for the senior artiste. Bhatt’s natural sincerity rubs onto to Badru too, instantly drawing the actor to the character, and the audience to Badru.

Now, this is where it gets difficult where any one the three artistes could be a strong contender for the best actress. After much deliberations, our top three is as follows –

3 Deepika Padukone – Gehraiyaan

Gehraiyaan, a film that divided opinions. We only saw the movie a month ago, and we’re blown by its story, and the characters. Each character is so relatable. The principal character Alisha [Padukone] embodied the struggling middle class Indian carrying big dreams in her eyes. She braves or is perhaps foolish to cross set boundaries. They offer temporary joy, but eventually it leads to despair. She is lulled into the gehraiyaan [depths] of her dreams, and then it is struggle to reach the surface. Deepika Padukone slipped into the skin of her character so effortlessly never dropping the requisite intensity.  Arguably, the finest performance by Padukone.

2 Tripti Dimri – Qala

Tripti Dimri, a young actress who is few films old, but she’s got enough potential to rise up the ranks. She had a forgetful debut in Poster Boys [2007], then made a mark in Laila Majnu [2018]. Actor-producer Anushka Sharma lapped her for Bulbbul [2020], where she further impressed in an otherwise dull screenplay. Dimri though showed her range in and as Qala, her second successive Anvitaa Dutt directorial.

Qala is a fine singer but an unloved daughter. The mother disliked the girlchild after learning that her twin was a stillborn boy. More than a mother, Urmila [Swastika Mukherjee] has raised Qala like a hard taskmaster. There wasn’t a winter where the Himachalee girl was made to stand in snow as a punishment. Dimri did exceedingly well to get into the soul of her character. Qala largely draws one’s empathy for the stepmotherly treatment by her biological mother, and the sexual exploitation at the hands of influential men. However, her envious nature also frustrated us in equal breath. Dimri’s performance is a sheer virtuoso.

1 Alia Bhatt –  Gangubai Kathiawadi

She’s the undisputed queen of Bollywood, but Alia Bhatt has never been one to flash any badge. She simply does her job and leaves the rest to fate. It is that attitude that makes her a director’s actor. An actress’ career would be incomplete without working with the maestro filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

The maverick filmmaker roped in Bhatt as his Gangubai Kathiawadi, the noted mistress of Mumbai’s Kamathipura brothel in the 60s, 70s. Bhatt mirrored the short frame of the late commercial sex worker and social worker. It was a brave call for an actor on top of her game to pick such a character. I wouldn’t deny having fears over how Bhatt would fare, and what impact would it have on her career?

Bhatt proved why she is such a powerhouse talent stunning everyone with her strong and inspiring show.  With the real lady long dead, and hardly any material on Gangubai, Bhatt and director Bhansali perhaps took creative liberties to create the character. The dramatic journey from Ganga Harjivandas to becoming Gangubai brought out different shades to Bhatt as an actress. Having made herself impregnable as the Mistress of Kamathipura, Bhatt enacted like a true leader of the dark world.  She reaches a crescendo in the final act with a powerful speech that even shook the mandarins in Delhi.

Though an individual’s story, Alia Bhatt helped to carry forward the voice, the social message of Gangubai.  It’s this larger cause that sees Gangubai pip Qala. The queen Bhatt has added the Kamathipura jewel to her decorated crown.

Special Mention

Amruta Subhash – Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt Ltd

It’s next to impossible for a lone scribe to watch all films and web-series. We did binge watch the Zee5 series Saas Bahu Achaar Pvt Ltd. Amruta delivered a master class in acting as Suman Shrivastava, the reticent divorcee, uneducated lady who finds her purpose in life. The story of an illiterate housewife and her remarkable rise as a door-to-door saleswoman of pickles is a worthy pick for a Special Mention.

Vedika Pinto – Operation Romeo

A young Turk, who might have slipped by one’s attention. She has no godfather. Hence the populist awards are likely to snub her over nepo kids or super models.  She narrowly missed out on our list, but Pinto’s terrific showing as the innocent but mature young girl Neha Kasliwal in Shashant Shah’s pertinent social thriller Operation Romeo deserves our praise. Pinto has a fine screen presence, and a electric smile, justifying the girl-next-door tag. But there is more to this young lady. Trust her to show her range in the years to come.



  1. Tamannaah bhatia is not having any god father. Her Bubly bouncer is very entertaining and her performance is super. I request film makers of bollywood to give her chances and utilise the talent. I am sure she will do a fine job.


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