For these actresses, screen stardom is their ticket to politics, but with mixed luck

Anupamaa' star Rupali Ganguly's decision to join the BJP and enter politics makes her the newest addition to a galaxy of women celebrities from Mumbai's entertainment
May 2, 2024
Anupamaa' star Rupali Ganguly's decision to join the BJP and enter politics makes her the newest addition to a galaxy of women celebrities from Mumbai's entertainment

Anupamaa’ star Rupali Ganguly’s decision to join the BJP and enter politics makes her the newest addition to a galaxy of women celebrities from Mumbai’s entertainment world who have taken the political plunge in the tradition of Nargis Dutt and Vyjayanthimala Bali. Who are the others still active in politics, albeit with mixed lucky? Here’s a list:

Dipika Chikhlia Topiwala: Best known for playing Sita in Ramanand Sagar’s show ‘Ramayan’ (after acting in ‘Vikram Aur Betaal’, also by Sagar), Chikhlia was the first of the then new-generation TV stars to pursue a political career, albeit briefly. She was elected MP from Baroda on a BJP ticket in 1991 (PM Narendra Modi, incidentally, also won from the constitutency in 2014, only to give it up in favour of Varanasi).

On the big screen, Chikhlia made her Hindi cinema debut as lead in ‘Sun Meri Laila’, cast opposite Raj Kiran, in 1983, and later acted in films with Rajesh Khanna at a time when he had long ceased to be a superstar.

Chikhlia appeared with Mammootty in the Malayalam film ‘Ithile Iniyum Varu’, Kannada movies ‘Hosa Jivana’ (Shankar Nag) and ‘Indrajeeth’ (Ambareesh), in the Tamil hit film ‘Nangal’, and was cast opposite Prosenjit Chatterjee in the Bengali ‘Asha O Bhalobasha’, but her film career was as inconsequential as her stint in politics.

Now, she divides her time between being seen as Sumitra Devi in the TV series ‘Dhartiputra Nandini’ and her domestic responsibilities as wife of a cosmetics company owner.

Smriti Irani: From participating in ‘Miss India’ in 1998 to be best known for her playing Tulsi Virani in Ektaa Kapoor’s blockbuster TV show ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ (2000), Irani joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2003. She continued acting, though, her last appearance being in the 2013 horror thriller mini-series ‘Ek Thhi Naayka’.

After initial electoral setbacks, including being defeated by Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in 2014, she not only staged a remarkable victory from the same seat against the same candidate in 2019, but also became a Union minister for a second consecutive term, her present charge being the ministries of women and child development, and minority affairs. She is now back in Amethi to contest her third consecutive election from there.

Hema Malini: The ‘Dream Girl’ of Bollywood, Hema Malini is a two-term BJP MP representing the Mathura constituency since 2014, when she defeated sitting MP Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal. She has again been given a BJP ticket to contest from Mathura and score a likely hattrick.

Hema Malini, who attended schools in Chennai and Delhi, made her acting debut in 1963 with the Tamil film ‘Idhu Sathiyam’ (it was remade in Hindi as ‘Shehzada’, starring Rajesh Khanna and Raakhee, in 1972), but she entered the imagination of a larger national audience only after she landed the lead role in the Raj Kapoor-starrer ‘Sapno Ka Saudagar’ (1968).

To be made famous forever by her portrayal of Basanti in ‘Sholay’, she also made news with her marriage with Dharmendra, her co-star from the film, whom she first acted with in ‘Tum Haseen Main Jawan’. Dharmendra and Hema Malini have acted together in 28 films, from ‘Seeta Aur Geeta’ to ‘Dillagi’.

One of Bollywood’s most successful heroines, Hema Malini has appeared in TV shows as well, including ‘Jai Mata Ki’, where she played Goddess Durga.

Jaya Bachchan: An outspoken Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP now in her fifth term (she first stepped into the House in 2004), Jaya Bachchan, who is the daughter of the famous journalist Tarun Kumar Bhaduri, made her debut as a teenager in the 1963 Satyajit Ray film ‘Mahanagar’.

As an actor, Jaya Bachchan gained critical acclaim for her performances in films such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Guddi’ and ‘Anamika’. Movies like ‘Uphaar’, ‘Piya Ka Ghar’, ‘Parichay’ and ‘Bawarchi’ made her a superstar.

She married Amitabh Bachchan in 1973 and the two became one of the most celebrated couples in Indian cinema.Jaya Bachchan continued to be on the big screen after marriage till ‘Silsila’ (1981).

She was back wtih ‘Fiza’ (2000) and ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ (2001), and has had a film almost every year since then, the most recent being Karan Johar’s romantic comedy ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’, where she appeared as Dhanalakshmi Randhawa, the mother of Ranveer Singh’s character.

Kirron Kher: The one-term BJP MP from Chandigarh (she hasn’t got a party ticket for the ongoing elections), Kirron Kher made her debut in 1983 with the Punjabi movie ‘Aasra Pyar Da’. The Chandigarh-born popular actress was then known as Kiran Thakar Singh Sandhu.

She took a break from films till 1987, when she returned to the big screen to play a small role in ‘Pestonjee’, which also had Anupam Kher, her second husband, on the cast.

Trained in theatre, Kiran Kher (she changed her name to Kirron in 2003) was active on the stage in the 1980s, and appeared in the Javed Siddiqui-Feroz Abbas Khan play ‘Saalgirah’. It was Shyam Benegal’s musical film, ‘Sardari Begum’, that brought her to the notice of a national audience and garnered a national award for her.

Since then, Kirron Kher has appeared as a supporting actor in a procession of acclaimed films, from ‘Devdas’ to ‘Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna’, from ‘Rang De Basanti’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ and ‘Dostana’. And in the middle of a pretty hectic film career she joined the BJP in 2009.

The 72-year-old actress has also appeared on television, most notably as a judge on ‘India’s Got Talent’ since 2009, and as the mother of Parminder Nagra’s character in an episode of the Michael Crichton-created medical drama series, ‘ER’.

Urmila Matondkar: In the news briefly during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, where she contested and lost as a Congress candidate from Bombay North, which was won, incidentally, by film star Govinda in 2004, Urvashi Matondkar made her debut as a child artiste in B.R. Chopra’s ‘Karm’ (1977). And she continued to appear as a child actor in Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Masoom’ and ‘Kalyug’, among other films.

As an adult, Matondkar opened her account in 1989 with T.K. Rajeev Kumar’s Malayalam blockbuster ‘Chanakyan’, opposite Kamal Haasan, and launched her Bollywood career with N Chandra’s 1991 action drama ‘Narsimha’.

Matondkar gained national recognision, however, with Ram Gopal Verma’s romantic drama ‘Rangeela’ (1995) and since then she has portrayed a range of intense characters, including a serial killer, obsessive lover and possessed woman in projects such as ‘Judaai’, ‘Satya’, ‘Jungle’, ‘Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya’, and ‘Kaun’. She was last seen on the small screen as judge on the dance reality show ‘DID Super Moms’ in 2022.

Rupali Ganguly: Best known for her portrayal of soap characters such as ‘Monisha Sarabhai’ and ‘Anupamaa’ (her present small screen avatar), TV actress Rupali is the latest entertainment world celebrity to seek a parallel career in politics.

Daughter of filmmaker Anil Ganguly, the 47-year-old popular TV star started acting as a child artiste. She made her TV debut with the show ‘Sukanya’, which was aired in the year 2000, but Ganguly got her big break when she played Dr Simran Chopra in the 2003 medical drama ‘Sanjivani: A Medical Boon’.

She then gained wider recognition with her portrayal of Monisha in the 2004 sitcom ‘Sarabhai vs Sarabhai’.

Thereafter, she has been cast in ‘Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii’, ‘Kkavyanjali’, ‘Ek Packet Umeed’, ‘Sapna Babul Ka…Bidaai’ and ‘Baa Bahoo Aur Baby’. The actress also participated in the first season of the controversial reality show ‘Bigg Boss’, which was won by actor Rahul Roy.

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