The film industry acts like a magnet for many who aspire to achieve fame and riches in the nick of time. It is one industry that has seen the rise of many and at the same time, seen their quick downfall. Models, especially, have come and gone. Winners of the various beauty pageants like Miss India, Miss Universe, Miss Asia-Pacific (now Miss International) all have tried their luck in this world of glitz and glam yet only a few have succeeded. Amongst them is the sprightly damsel who went on to reign Bollywood with the mischief in her eyes and her vibrant smile. She was the sensation of the late ’80s and early ’90s.
After winning the Miss India title in 1984, Juhi Chawla turned towards Bollywood and with the success of her blockbuster film, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, she never looked back. The multi-starrer Sultanat was her debut film yet all the name and fame Juhi received was for her unblemished performance in QSQT. The abilities of this cheerful dame weren’t limited to acting alone, she trained herself in singing and dancing as well. Her entering the realm of production and subsequently buying an IPL team are added feathers to her hat. After her marital status became public, Juhi Chawla did a disappearing act so as to serve her new born. With much glee, Chawla cloaked herself as the yummy mummy and got busy with her family life. Her professional life, however, never took a backseat. We saw the actress being candid with kids on a kids reality show and being the face of a popular snack and soup brand, proving that indeed she was indeed a yummy mummy, in reel and real life.
She continued to act in independent and art films like My Brother Nikhil (Anamika), 3 Deewarein (Chandrika), I Am (Megha) which earned her critical acclamation. Critics cited these roles as Chawla’s finest performance so far. This was to be her second innings in Bollywood and a mighty one at that.
This spirited Diva of Bollywood reigned the rom-com genre by giving hits after hits (Yes Boss, Deewana Mastana, Duplicate, Ishq, to name a few). She later chose to plunge into more serious and potent characters like that of a journalist in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, an off-beat role of a supportive wife in Jhankaar Beats. Soon, the remarkable actress will be donning the role of a vamp with Gulaab Gang alongside Madhuri Dixit. She leaves behind a legacy of number of films with her perkiest performances. Here are a few:
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak: Prior to this, many other Bollywood films tried doing a Romeo and Juliet on celluliod (including RK’s superhit Bobby, the climax of which was changed later), this was one film that exalted the tragic love tale creating a niche for it in Hindi cinema (which was earlier glazed with Laila-Majnu and Heer-Ranjha tales). Raj and Rashmi elope, bring up a world of their own but it comes down tumbling like a house of cards as the animoisity between the two families wouldn’t let the lovers live in peace. With immense conviction Chawla, brought out the innocence of the character and for which she won Filmfare Lux New Face award for the film and was also nominated for Filmfare Best Actress Award.
Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke: For this one, Juhi Chawla once again bagged the Filmfare Award in the Best Actress category. The film was a tale of a girl who elopes from her marriage, finds love amongst orphaned kids and falls for their maternal uncle. This is a film that has been appealing to all age groups and every generation. It is cited to be remake of two Hollywood films (considering Mahesh Bhatt was its director) Houseboat and Adventures in Babysitting, yet a concocted Indianized version of the two proved to be fruitful and a fun ride.
Benaam Badsha: Behind every successful man, there is a woman, so goes the saying and the premise of this film’s story as well. A goon is turned into a householder by a determined young lady who was raped by him. Not many might have seen this one but it is embellished with Juhi’s striking performance paired with the rugged and rowdy Anil Kapoor and is a show-stopper. Although, Chawla didn’t receive any awards for this film, she was definitely lauded for her role.
Darr: A pyschological-thriller from the King of Romance, Yash Chopra, saw SRK in the role of an unconventional villain but it was Juhi Chawla who immortalized the character of Kiran. SRK played an obsessed lover and Juhi Chawla was his love interest. The film was a superhit at the Box Office.
Daraar: Much similar to Darr yet different, we saw Juhi play the role of an oppressed housewife who gets beaten up by her possessive husband. She flees from her secluded life with her husband but he chases her down. The remake of the Hollywood blockbuster, Sleeping with the Enemy, this earned Juhi Chawla a nomination for Best Actress.
My Brother Nikhil: A sister’s struggles for her brother’s release were impeccably portrayed by Chawla. She was praised by the film critics for portraying a loving sister, Anamika, who fights for the rights of her brother. The film, especially Juhi’s character, handled a delicate subject like AIDS very well. Juhi Chawla was conferred with Zee Best Actress Critic Award.
I Am: Onir’s directorial venture was a compilation of stories where Juhi Chawla portrayed the character of Megha. The story of Megha was about Kashmiri Pandits and inspired by Sanjay Suri’s mother Urvashi Suri’s life. An immaculate performance got Juhi nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress.
3 Deewarein: A film’s story that revolves around three prisoners, each having committed a heinous murder. When the jail authority tries several methods to reform them, a documentary filmmaker, Chandrika, films it but in the process, finds that her marriage life which was going through a rough patch is reforming as well. The film is inspired by The Shawshank Redemption but the subject is handled with utmost care. A noted critic, Taran Adarsh believes the scene where Chandrika confronts her husband to be the best cinematic sequences of the time.
Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiyaa: She portrayed the quintessential Indian “outgoing” housewife, Jhoomri. The character is thought-provoking, it reaches out to the Indian mahilas and changes the outlook of many who believe that a woman should limit her abilities to take care of her house, children and husband. Owing to its over-the-top approach, the film didn’t do well yet it was appreciated by Indian women.
Arjun Pandit: Juhi absolves her chirpy image to portray a grey character, Nisha, in this film. A sister who pines to avenge her sister’s death, in the process allures a man, Arjun, who was a witness to the incident but did not testify. Arjun wants to marry Nisha but is entrapped in the web of deception. He soon becomes a ruthless mafia don of Mumbai and kidnaps Nisha.
Unlike her contemporaries who have qualms about sharing screen space with other leading ladies of B-town, be it a cameo in Chandini (which many leading actresses had refused to do), Bas Ek Pal with Urmila Matonkar, I Am with Manisha Koirala, Son of Sardaar with Sonakshi Sinha or the upcoming Gulaab Gang with Madhuri Dixit.
Accepting Bollywood’s patriarch outlook, Juhi is now seen doing character roles as well. But even amongst the supporting starcast, Chawla’s presence adds radiance to the storytelling. Juhi Chawla is the only model who has survived the heat of the industry for more than 20 years now.
We wish Juhi oodles of succes and a great life ahead.