They shine, they pirouette and twirl and they thrill an entire galaxy of fans with their winsome ways. But in a world obsessed by fame and fitting in, some of Bollywood’s most beloved actors have made brave, unconventional choices. We list five such intrepid stars who grabbed a big, bold defining moment and never let it go.
Just six years after creating history by being the first Indian to win the Miss Universe title, the fiercely free-spirited Sushmita Sen set another benchmark by adopting a baby girl. For a 25 year old single woman to take this step — especially in a country obsessed with biological ties — required gumption, and the leggy lass sailed through it all with guts and grace. After little Renee, the actress adopted another child, Alisah, in 2010. Along with another Bollywood beauty, Raveena Tandon — who adopted two young girls when she was only 21 — Sushmita set the ball rolling for the millennial Indian woman to follow her heart, outside the conventional trappings of marriage.
Social media trolls can drive the youngest and hippest of kids to tears, so it takes a special kind of ‘senior’ star to beat the millennials at their own game. Decades after unofficially retiring as Bollywood’s go-to lover boy on-screen, Rishi Kapoor is ruling social media with the swag of a 20-year-old. Far from basking in the glow of his superstar son — Ranbir Kapoor — he is shaking up the Internet, 140 characters at a time, with his forthright comments on politics, social issues and the world of Indian cinema. A self-confessed free speech advocate and a brutally honest man, his tweets are often directed at his own foibles. Suffice to say that this sharp shooter is gaining eyeballs and renewed fans with every new post.
Her deep dimples and ceaseless charm often had Nineties superstar Preity Zinta bracketed into the legion of fun and bubbly heroines. But in contrast to her light-hearted on-screen image, the actress cut a fearless picture in real life when she testified against the dreaded underworld in the Bharat Shah case in 2003. While many of Bollywood’s biggest names (Shah Rukh Khan included) turned hostile before giving witness in the case, Preity was the only one to ‘man up’ for her day in court. The fearless and forthright actress has since stepped up on many occasions to stand up for herself and speak out for others.
The 32-year-old Gurgaon-born actor has rewritten the script for leading men in Bollywood with his bold choices in a remarkably short span of time. Right from his debut in 2010 in Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhokha, he has mesmerised audiences and critics with his unbridled talent and versatility. Eschewing smaller roles in big-ticket movies, Rajkummar has carved his own path with films such as Citylights, Kai Po Che and Aligarh. His bravura turn portraying a real-life human rights lawyer in the eponymous Shahid won him a much-deserved National Award, firmly setting him apart from the beefy and chiselled-face line-up of Bollywood starlets stalking the sidelines.
It doesn’t get more candid than for a daughter of two superstars to admit on national television that she was terrible actress in her suitably short career span. But Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia’s eldest daughter has returned to the spotlight with a vengeance, armed with a keyboard and oodles of wit. In her second innings as a writer — with a blockbuster newspaper column and a successful book — and mirthful social commentator, Twinkle is sparkling with unbridled honestly and drollness. Her success shows that you can reinvent yourself at any age or stage in life; all you need is drive.
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