Time and again, Bollywood actors have taken up the challenge of essaying a sex worker in films. Given that the task is demanding, it requires a great deal of research and preparation for an actor to be able to get into the character's skin and do so with conviction.
National Award winning actress, Vidya Balan, plays a bold, sultry brothel owner in her upcoming film, Begum Jaan. With the release of the movie inching closer, we though it might be a good idea to revisit the past and take a look at our favorite sex worker roles from Hindi films.
Huma Qureshi in Badlapur (2015)
Huma Qureshi plays Jhimli in Sriram Raghavan’s revenge drama, Badlapur. Her character is forced to help Raghu (Varun Dhawan) reach his wife’s murderer by divulging information about her boyfriend Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in a bank robbery case.
Despite not having enough screen time, she managed to play the role with conviction. Huma's performance earned her several Best Supporting Actress nominations.
Kalki Koechlin in Dev D (2009)
Dev D is Anurag Kashyap’s contemporary adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Devdas. Kalki plays Leni, a high school girl who turns to prostitution after an objectionable MMS featuring her goes viral.
Kalki made her Bollywood debut with this film and there has been no looking back for her since then. She even bagged the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Rani Mukerji in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007)
Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is a heart-wrenching tale of a young woman, Vibhavari Sahay/Badki (Rani Mukerji) who leaves her family in Varanasi to get a job and provide for them, but ends up as a high-profile escort in Mumbai.
Rani Mukerji shows her craft while portraying Vibhavari’s transformation from an immature, emotional Badki to a matured, highly professional call girl Natasha, who is also the breadwinner of the family. The film may not have received as much praise, but Rani did not disappoint.
Sushmita Sen in Chingaari (2006)
Chingaari is about a single mother, Basanti (Sushmita Sen) who works in the village red light area to bring up her daughter and how she avenges the murder of her boyfriend by the manipulative village priest (Mithun Chakraborty).
The film may not have had good business but Sushmita etched a place for herself in the audience’s hearts with her powerful acting.
Manisha Koirala in Market (2003)
The 2003 film, Market, follows an under-age girl Muskaan Bano who is sold off into the flesh trade by her Arab husband. Market is the story of her life in brothels and her attempts at revenge.
In a role that was underrated, Manisha Koirala was brilliant as a sex worker who goes on to avenge herself.
Kareena Kapoor in Chameli (2003)
Kareena Kapoor plays the titular character in Chameli, an individual who was sold off into the flesh trade as a young girl by her uncle. She is a street-smart but naive hooker, who meets a well-to-do banker, Aman (Rahul Bose), both of them stuck on the road during a downpour.
The film was well received by critics and the film marked a significant turning point in her career.
Preity Zinta in Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001)
In Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, Preity Zinta plays Madhubala, a sex worker who is hired to be a surrogate mother to Raj Malhotra (Salman Khan) and Priya Malhotra’s (Rani Mukerji) child.
Preity put in her best efforts. Her depiction of Madhubala’s transformation from a crass, cocky prostitute to a sensible and caring woman is remarkable. The film, too, got a warm response from the audience and critics for its unconventional storyline.
Tabu in Chandni Bar (2001)
Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar deals with the underworld of Mumbai, where the sons of gangsters take up arms and the daughters of bar dancers and sex workers end up in dance bars.
Tabu played Mumtaz Ali Ansari, a girl forced into bar dancing by her uncle after her family is killed in communal riots in Uttar Pradesh. She beautifully portrayed the journey of a helpless newbie to a matured veteran and mother of two. Tabu was honored with the National Film Award for Best Actress for Chandni Bar.