Gone are the days when actresses used to be just side pieces for the heroes in films or their presence was there to increase the glamour quotient. Over the years, the Indian actresses have established that they can be the driving forces of their stories, and in 2021, that belief was further strengthened. I have enjoyed and loved the plethora of films that I saw last year, that saw women taking centre-stage, and coming forward with impactful, important and revolutionary stories. And before we start with films of 2022, let’s take a look at some impeccable performances from last year.

Here are 7 actresses who blew me away with their performances in 2021:

Sanya Malhotra

Sanya Malhotra had not just one but two amazing performances in 2021. She began the year with a breakthrough performance of a young widow in Pagglait, who is unable to connect with the loss of her husband, and stole my heart. The restrain she exuded in the portrayal while also providing a connect with the audience was praiseworthy. Then she went on to close the year by making me fall in love with her innocence, charm and sweetness in Meenakshi Sundareshwar, proving how strong her presence on screen is.

Aditi Rao Hydari

Aditi Rao Hydari shined in one of the best films of the year, Geeli Pucchi (Ajeeb Daastaans), with her nuanced and layered portrayal of the naive Priya Sharma. The film dealt with crucial subjects of caste, gender discrimination and sexuality. Aditi’s Priya exhibited the fine balance between knowing what was happening around her and still turning a blind eye to it, while also trying to make some effort on her personal level although feeling conflicted doing that. I was mesmerized by her ease while also feeling conflicted by her actions, such was the power of her portrayal.

Konkona Sensharma

If Aditi was the heart of Geeli Pucchi, Konkona Sensharma was the soul of the film. She immersed herself so well in the character of Bharti who belongs to a discriminated caste, and is thus looked over for a job for which she is qualified for. A confident yet restrained performance of a girl who has embraced her caste and sexuality, yet still is aware of the perception others have about her, Konkona nailed it last year, bringing out one of the finest performances of all time. I have come to expect nothing less than perfection from the actress and she delivered.

Vidya Balan

Vidya Balan has been a face of revolutionary cinema for women for over a decade now, and with every performance, she proves why she is a pioneer in that. Her performance in Sherni last year added another accomplishment in that list. The subtle tackle with the issues of patriarchy and misogyny done in the backdrop of a forest in the film, was heart-touching and for me, it was Vidya’s nuanced performance that took it up a notch.

Taapsee Pannu

Taapsee Pannu has been a part of films where she has given voice to many relevant social issues pertaining to women, but last year she tried something different with Haseen Dillruba as she took up a grey character with questionable morals and intentions. Although the character was quite unique to the actress, she portrayed it with utmost panache, to a point that at a point I was despising Rani Kashyap while at the same time rooting for her.

Kriti Sanon

In just seven years of being in the industry, Kriti Sanon has established herself as one of the most sought-after leading actresses in Bollywood. Last year, she strengthened that position with her impeccable performance in Mimi that saw her brilliantly handling the delicate subject of surrogacy. It was the first time Kriti was leading a film from the front and she didn’t disappoint. I have just increased expectations from her going forward.

Nushrratt Bharuccha

I was used to seeing Nushrratt Bharuccha in mostly romcoms, so seeing her in a horror film like Chhorii was a drastic change for me as an audience, but the actress made it all worth it. Carrying the film on her shoulder for the first time, Nushrratt took up the responsibility effectively and the execution was done more beautifully. Her portrayal of an eight-month pregnant woman, Sakshi, who is embroiled in the paranormal history of a family, just blew me away, and I am sure it will open many new doors for her that she rightly deserves.

With time, the kind of cinema in India and the position of women in that, is constantly evolving and I feel proud to be able to be a part of that and witness that change. 2021 opened many new doors for female-led stories and I am sure 2022 will continue that legacy in a more beautiful way.