51 comments on “My Ten Greatest Bollywood Beauties List (Revised!)

  1. Such beautiful women Richard. Nice list and photos. I can’t understand how Sandhya would not be considered very beautiful, I haven’t seen her in more than clips here, but I find her very attractive, especially in that pic you provided, but maybe I’m tricked by the makeup, hair, jewels? Hey why didn’t you include Asha Parekh, Jaya Bhaduri, Madhuri Dixit , jayshree T, or Kajol? Just kidding! I read you were narrowing it to actresses from this era. :)

  2. You, my man, have missed out on sooooo many beauties :)

    Nutan, Tanuja, Waheeda(!!!!!), Sadhana….to name a few…

    so disappointed to see Sadhana on the list and Padmini at #1.

    We obviously have a different definition of beauty :)

  3. Oh, well. Show us your own list if you like. :)

    Actually, you did point out one bad mistake I have made, and so I have revised the list now. Waheeda Rehman is in now, at number 6.

    Padmini is very widely acknowledged as a great beauty, so I feel no need to defend her. (I had originally typed something else in response to your comment about Padmini, but I decided to change it. :)

    Sandhya… Yes, I expected a little controversy. There are some other people who do call her a beauty. No one says a classic one. :)

    Nutan… Sometimes I think of her as a beauty of sorts, but not one of the top for me. (She was a nice sight in Seema.) I still very much admire her as an actress, as with Nargis, whom I never saw as a top beauty (though others do, of course).

    Sadhana and Tanuja? I consider them belonging more to the heart of the ’60s, a little past the time period I was thinking of. Anyway, I haven’t noticed them that much, maybe because I haven’t seen many films that they were in. If that gives me a different “concept” from you, oh well. :)

  4. Oh, yeah, and Sita-ji – thanks for the good words. :) (I meant to answer you here sooner, but I’ve been busy putting together a long comment on your blog. :)

  5. I’d agree with Neha that Tanuja and Sadhana were both very beautiful, but then I’d agree with Richard that they’re also very 60’s: Sadhana’s first big film was Love in Simla (1960), and Tanuja debuted as an adult in 1960 too, in Chhabili.

    Ummm – I don’t usually care for Sandhya either, but that picture you’ve got up there of her is great. Love her eyes!

    Thank you for linking to Dustedoff, by the way. :-)

  6. You’re welcome, Dustedoff. Glad you like the Sandhya picture though you’re not a fan. That’s from Do Ankhen Barah Haath. People were right to recommend it to me as the best V. Shantaram-Sandhya film.

    And thanks for confirming re. Tanuja and Sadhana. Actually, I was considering including the actress whom Sadhana was named after, Sadhana Bose. :)

  7. Nice list. No one I would take off there.

    It is a pity that I haven’t seen enough of the other great beauties of the 40’s or 30’s era, e.g. Naseem Banu (Saira Banu’s mum) was renowned for her beauty, but have not see her at any great length, to confirm that. Ditto Devika Rani.
    Then, hair and make-up make a difference and the 30’s make-up I find unflattering, and the 60s and 70s looked horrid a few years ago, but looks OK now, since it came back into fashion.

    The other aspect is beauty up close. My sister saw Hema Malini sitting in a hotel in the late 70s and “she took her breath away, she was so much more beautiful than on screen!” Part of Vyajanthimala’s husband’s family is in my hometown, and she has sometimes appeared at weddings there. Really more beautiful in real-life, is the general verdict, and a very very elegant lady.
    Meena Kumari looks truly stunning in the off-screen stills. I think most of the women on your list would be beautiful up close in real-life.
    Whereas there are others that would look pretty ordinary stripped off all that make-up and glitter, but thats another list.

  8. My favorite is Meena Kumari.. stunning screen presence.. you are right though .. during late 60s alcohol did damage to her and in that case watching Pakeezha and looking at her in two periods of her life is such a divine experience…

  9. Bawa, Devika Rani is a beauty! There are quite a few clips of her on Samjhave’s channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/samjhave

    I’ve gone there a number of times for clips of Kanan Devi, whom I would consider a beauty – though as with Noor and Suraiya, the effect on my ears may influence the effect on my eyes.

    From what I see, I don’t find the ’30s look to be unflattering at all.

    By the way, in Hollywood films, I have always been very fond of the looks from the 1920s.

    I like lack of makeup all right; I also like dark, striking, theatrical makeup.

    I never cared for what we call the ’70s look – not then and not now. In the mid ’70s, when I was a young teenager, I gravitated toward early punk, partly because I never could relate to the stuff that was coming out of mainstream pop culture at the time. But basic punk rock style (in looks and music) didn’t captivate me all that much for most of my youth; I think I was much more attracted to what became known as Goth. (That might explain quite a bit…)

    I don’t really go nuts the way some people do for much of the ’60s style, either. In old rock’n’roll, I think I always preferred the sock hop and rockabilly looks. :)

    That’s interesting about Vyjayanthimala and Hema Malini.

    Thanks for the comment about these women in my list being beautiful up-close, in real life. You’ve made me curious about which ones you’re thinking about whose beauty is more dependent on gloss and makeup. It would be fun to see that list sometime. :)

  10. How does one manage to pick and choose just 10?! I have thought and thought about it, and concluded that when it comes to Bollywood leading ladies, they are ALL beautiful, or at least attractive. So, I for one, cant make a top 10 beauties list – it would have to be my list of favorite actresses, instead. And some of those on your list would definitely make it to mine, too. Madhubala would certainly be on the top but Waheeda, Meena and Vyjayanthi wouldnt be far behind! Love Suraiya too, just havent liked any of her films that I’ve seen so far – so she may not make it into my top favorites.

    Like Bawa, I wish I could see more of Devika Rani and Naseem Banu, too. I remember seeing Devika’s protraits, painted by her hubby Svetoslav Roerich (they appeared in magazines when he died) – and she looked gorgeous.

  11. Yes, I know, I had a very difficult time limiting it to just 10 and even changed it after I posted it. One criticism above was absolutely right, I could not just leave this list without Waheeda on it, but to correct that glaring omission, I ended up dropping Nalini Jaywant.

    I have a favorite actress list too, which is somewhat similar to this one, but I found that one to be even more difficult.

    Oh, well, you know, these lists are a fun way to convey my enthusiasms and highlight performers whom I like a lot, but I’d encourage everyone to take the exclusiveness of the “best of” list and, especially, the rankings within it with some proverbial grains of salt. :)

  12. P.S. Checking my stats, I saw a hit from Mr. Naidu’s place, which reminds me that some people are probably displeased with my omission of Helen. Oh, well, as we were saying, it’s just not easy narrowing it down to 10!

  13. Nice unconventional list and that is what makes it great.
    Nice to see that you have put in Minoo Mumtaz, Suraiya, Noorjehan and Sandhya on the list. They wouldn’t even come anywhere in the vicinity of my list. But I always like to hear a diffferent opinion.
    And you are right it is very difficult to narrow down the list to 10. I used dustedoff’s trick and took only the leading ladies and from 50’s and 60s.

  14. Waheeda Rehman was born and lived for a time in Rajahmundry, a town in Andhra Pradesh. So it is but natural that she should have starred in some Telugu movies.

    Infact one of the most famous songs in Telugu cultural history called “Eruvaka Saagaro” from the movie Rojulu Marayi was picturised on a 16 yr old Waheeda Rehman, who was starring in her first ever film in a role as a dancer. I believe she looked her best in that song.

    For thousands stuck in poverty, this film and more particularly this song was a clarion call to know about and experience the ideals of socialism in those ’50s. A young, innocent 16 yr old Waheeda was the true epitome of the effervescence of that age. Even to this day, this song remains a popular number in Telugu households. She has been sporadically acting in Telugu movies, the latest being Chukkallo Chandrudu, as a grandmother in 2006.

    Waheeda has also been honored with the NTR National Award in 2006.

    P.S – I was trying to post this comment on that Jayasimha post but couldn’t!! :(

  15. Harvey, thank you for saying my list is great! I looked at your beauties list in comments for Dustedoff’s beauties list, and I like it too. Maybe four on my list would be nowhere near your list, but we do have some beauties in common, don’t we? Most noticeably Padmini! (Oh, and look, I actually put a beauties list in those comments too, didn’t I? I’d forgotten that I put a whole list. I see only a couple of names have changed, actually – dropped Helen and Nimmi, to be replaced with Sandhya and Suraiya. Though you can see a couple of comments down that I was contemplating Sandhya already too…)

  16. Hema, I haven’t seen Lalitha enough to get a good impression as to whether she’d be one of the great beauties (have just seen her in a few clips, really), though I am almost certain that she would.

    I’d put Ragini in the top 15. But this, too, might create controversy. Some people seem to have a big problem with Ragini’s big nose. And I recall reading that Shashi Kapoor (whom some people seem to consider the perfect gentleman) actually made a comment once that he didn’t like acting with Ragini as his heroine because he thought she was ugly! But I think she was pretty, even beautiful sometimes.

  17. Since I didn’t see your unrevised list, I don’t know who were on that one.
    It is indeed a difficult task to narrow it down to 10. But you gave yourself a more difficult task by ranking them.
    I just won’t be able to decide.

    Shashi Kapoor was always the perfect gentleman, but only on the screen. Off screen, from his different comments he surely comes across as very bitchy.

    And since you have reserved yourself to 40s and 50s,
    I thought I’ll do a list for the 50s leading ladies of Hindi cinema as well (the 40s are an unknown region for me)
    Meena Kumari
    Nalini Jaywant
    Geeta Bali
    Usha Kiron
    Waheeda Rehman

  18. There’s nothing I could disagree with on that list! As I mentioned, Nalini Jaywant was originally on mine here. I thought about Usha Kiron – loved her in Madhosh! Shakila – I think I saw her only in C.I.D., but she was good there. I like Geeta Bali a lot too (though wouldn’t consider her a beauty the way some people do – just very expressive and often cute). I think the others have already been talked about here or there pretty extensively. :)

    I guess I’ve gone in an odd direction because I’ve gotten to know the ’40s films much better than, say, the ’60s films. The ’40s films certainly had its share of Bollywood beauties, but the thing that really drew me to the ’40s films is the music. For whatever reason, the ’40s has become my absolute favorite decade for Hindi film music. But the ’50s is still probably my favorite decade for Hindi films (and films from the Subcontinent in general)…

  19. Well Geeta Bali is to me what Noorjehan is to you, although Geeta never sang on screen.

    > Where is she [Minoo] today?

    Minoo Mumtaz is Mehmood’s sister, right? The last I saw her was in some Hindi TV serials in the late 80s on DD.

    > Why/how could both these beautiful women be so hopelessly in love with someone who looked like Bharat Bhushan?

    Well, you know there love wasn’t only skin deep. I think they were much more in love with his poetry. Madhubala runs away from her home only after she hears his voice and not because she was pining away for him. ;-)

    > Nalini Jaywant was originally on mine

    You threw her out to make space for Waheeda?

    > the ’40s has become my absolute favorite decade for Hindi film music.
    I know so little about Hindi Film music from the 40s. It is just limited to Anmol Ghadi and some other Suraiya films and Raj Kapoor films.

  20. Great list, Richard! I’ve always been particularly fond of Madhubala, Waheeda Rehman, and Meena Kumari. I’d only add Kalpana Kartik to my list. But then, I have so much to see from the era, too…

  21. Harvey, I hadn’t seen many films with Nalini Jaywant, or at least didn’t remember the ones I’d seen too well. Right before I put together the list, I had done a partial second viewing of Nastik, and she had also come up in an e-mail conversation off-blog. That was what led me to put her on the list (initially, before bumping her for Waheeda), but yesterday, when I looked at your comments at Dustedoff’s old post, I was reminded that she was also in Kalapani, another Madhubala starrer I saw a while back that had an actress who was possibly more beautiful than Madhubala. So, I started looking at clips from that last night, and now I am sure that she belongs on this list. (I’ve watched “Lazar Nagi Raja…” a couple of times since last night – what I great song too!) What would I do now to get her back on the list? Sandhya stays(!), so I would bump either Minoo or Suraiya, probably Suraiya. But I think at this point, the list should stay as it is and it’s still fine with me.

    Much of my favorite ’40s music is from the music directors that we know as great ones from the ’50s. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least five great Naushad soundtracks (by the way, Anmol Ghadi was great, but Ratan, from 1944, was the greatest!), then there’s C. Ramchandra, who did some really fine stuff in the late ’40s (just watched Patanga last night – fantastic soundtrack)… The Raj Kapoor film soundtracks don’t stand out for me as much, although Lata did some wonderful singing in Barsaat. Then there’s my favorite, Mahal… That was in ’49, but I’ve found more Khemchand Prakash music from earlier on… Also, Pt. Amarnath, Ghulam Haider, Feroze Nizami (who did even finer work in Pakistan in the ’50s, with singing by you-know-who)… Anyway, I guess those are the big reasons the ’40s became my favorite decade for Hindi film music – oh, yes, and all the great singers, especially so many female singers…

  22. BollywoodFan, glad you liked the list!

    I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of Kalpana Katrik, but of course, she is well known as a beauty, so it’s certainly understandable that many people would include her.

  23. Harish, thank you for all that interesting information. Sorry about the delay in its appearance – for some reason, WordPress dumped your messages in the spam folder and I didn’t check that folder until today (Feb. 17).

  24. P.S. Looking through the comments a little more tonight/this morning, I noticed some bad errors I made in my own comments and corrected them. (I hope nobody else noticed! :) Wow, I think I and the WordPress program are just not used to so much exchange of comments in one or two days. Interest much appreciated!

  25. Great list, Richard. All the women on your list were beauties and Padmini is a deserving #1. However, couldn’t you have made it an even dozen to include Asha Parekh (My #1) and Helen (#2)? Asha had the most gorgeous eyes in Bollywood and a great smile. Helen also had lovely eyes (no matter what color) and the unbeatable combination of face and figure. Still, can’t complain too much. After all, the accuracy of all such lists lie in the eyes of the beholder…or blogger. :)

  26. Mister Naidu, thank you for your nice words about my list. I’m glad you like it.

    I noticed that Dustedoff had a supplementary list (and Harvey had a few extras in his list in comments) and maybe that’s what I should have done. In fact, I started to write a comment about those who almost fit on the list, including Helen and Cuckoo (who were also in my original thoughts about the list), but I decided to keep it at just 10.

    But I’d certainly have no objection to Helen being on such a list…

    I like Asha Parekh, but I’m going to get myself off the hook regarding her, because I did say I was focusing on the 40s to the early ’60s, and Asha Parekh didn’t really do a whole lot until the ’60s, so maybe she is more a ’60s-to-’70s star. As far as I know, she had one hit debut in ’59, and the earliest film that I saw her in was made in 1961.

    Of course, Helen did a lot in the ’60s and ’70s, but I actually think she was at her prettiest in the ’50s, so I can’t really use that excuse for her. :)

  27. Richard, your blog’s sidebar is looking so great with the screen caps. Very sharp! Well I’m reporting back, since before I said how I couldn’t understand how Sandhya couldn’t be considered beautiful. I could recall seeing her in anything. Tonight I watched Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957) and fell in love with her as is my frequent response to Indian actors. Loved her! You must have seen this film already, here’s a reminder:

  28. Hi, Sita-ji. Thank you for the nice words about my side bar! Yes, I saw Do Ankhen Barah Haath a few of months ago, and I liked it a lot. Sandhya was great in this! And I am glad that you love Sandhya too. (I guess some of us instantly get the appeal of Sandhya while some simply don’t – but that’s OK, these differences of opinion kind of make her legacy even more interesting. :)

  29. Vidur, once again, “ranks” should be taken only so seriously. I can certainly understand why Noor Jehan would be first on your list. :)

  30. excellent list of beautiful herines it will be better if you add the herines like sadhnaji, mala sinha and asha parekh

  31. Jawahar, thank you for your nice words about this list. But as I said above, this list focuses mainly on the late ’40s and the ’50s, and both Asha Parekh and Sadhana really began in the ’60s (give or take a few films). I guess Mala Sinha goes back more into the ’50s too… But I wouldn’t really put her on my list anyway (though she’s done some good acting – she was good in Pyaasa!). But that’s OK – there’s plenty of room for her on other people’s lists, right? :)

  32. you are correct .padmini is great and i an her great fan .i have collected about 3/4th of her films and i am going to publish abook about her

  33. hai, richard.i am from kerala where padmini had born.she acted in most of the great malayalam films like umminithanka,adyapika,kumarasambavam etc.have you watched her great evergreen film thillanamohanambal in tamil.U shoulr wqatch this film.there is a film vanchicotai valiban in tamil in which she had performed a dance competition with vyjayanthimala.this competition is consirered th be amilestone in indian film industry.there is a dance troupe of padmini known as ‘dancers of india’ which includes her sisters lalitha and ragini, her cousins ambika and sukumari.the troupe has performed all over the world.padminbi has acted only about 25 films in malayalam.but has done many films in hindi,tamil,kannada and telungu.to her contibution ,with dance in tamil film industry ,she was known as “ulaka natya peroli”(great light of dance in world).her sisters-lalitha and ragini and cousins were great malayalam film actresses

  34. Pradyumnan, thank you for the comments and info!

    I have watched both Thillana Mohanambal and Vanjikottai Valiban. Padmini does great dances in both films. The competition in Vanjikottai Valiban is wonderful… There’s also a Hindi version of that in Raj Tilak:

  35. Hi,
    You may have to bump someone (Noorjhean?) to replace it with
    Leela Naidu. Otherwise, I agree with your list.

    Thank you

  36. Anvar, glad to hear that you agree with my list! Leela Naidu is not an actress whom I’ve been too aware of… I thought she was too much of a ’60s actress for this list, but I see, looking her up, that she did most of her films in the very early ’60s – but she didn’t do many, did she? I see, though, that she was a legendary beauty. Yes, looks like a good enough choice. :)

    But there’s no way I would bump Noor Jehan for her on anyone! The only reason I didn’t put Noor at #1 is that I assumed that when we talk about “beauty,” our eyes have to get a lot more consideration than our ears. If our ears counted as much as our eyes, she would definitely be #1. :)

    I already did all the bumping I’m going to do with this list, when I bumped Nalini Jaywant from an earlier draft to make room for Waheeda Rehman. Looking back at it now, I realize I should have bumped Minoo Mumtaz (much as I do like her) and kept Nalini. (I realized almost as soon as I bumped her that I should have kept Nalini, but I couldn’t figure out whom I would bump to make room for her again. You can see above that I wondered if I should have dumped Minoo Mumtaz or Suraiya, but that was before I saw a whole lot more of Suraiya’s films, so now…no way I would bump Suraiya.) Ah, it’s so difficult to keep this kind of list down to just 10! But it’s still lots of fun, and I’m glad that that people are still looking at it.

  37. Hi my number 1 is and always will be MADHUBALA but
    no disrespect to your choice my number 10 is ASHA PAREK.
    I have seen a few B/w films of Asha Ameeta Sadhana
    and Nargis these lovely ladies are in my list along with
    some of your favorites.

  38. I would say, I love the 50’s, but I can only think of top 3.
    I don’t agree with most of your choices, but then again, I love different opinions. My top 3 are:

  39. Wa Lion, thank you for your comment, and I’m glad that you found my beauties list. :) And even if you happen to disagree with seven of my choices(?), I would say that’s more than balanced out by the fact that Padmini is in your top three. :)

  40. I guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder: for me Waheeda Rahman will top my list that includes sadhna, Asha Parekh, mumtaz, madhubala

  41. Thanks for commenting – almost eight years after I posted this! (It is nice to see that people are still looking.)

    I did mention in my post that the list is based mainly on mid ’40s to early ’60s, and Asha Parekh and Mumtaz belonged mainly to the ’60s-’70s era, while Sadhna also barely makes it into the time period I was thinking about (she was much more ’60s than ’50s).

    Close to eight years later, my list wouldn’t be much different. I think I would drop Minoo Mumtaz (much as I like her) in order to put back Nalini Jaywant. (I say “put back” because she was on an earlier draft of this list and, as Harvey guessed, I bumped her to make room for Waheeda Rehman.) I’d love to put Naseem Banu up there now that I have seen a few of her films, but I’d have to bump someone else, and I’m not sure who. Waheeda Rehman isn’t at the top, but as I said, I did make a special effort to include her, and I think she’s just fine on my list as #6. :)

  42. This is perhaps the first post ever where Meena Kumari is placed higher than Madhubala in terms of beauty.Don’t get me wrong,Meenaji is my favourite actress(to the point of obsession) but Madhubala is just too effervescent.Madhubala and Suraiyya are tied for me for most beautiful.But Meena too looked stunning with good entire Pakeezah is an ode to her irresistible beauty.She looked her best in her 1956-58 films like Shara,Sharda,Chand etc.

  43. Shashwat, thank you for the comment on this ten-year-old post! Since the time I wrote it, I might want to revise my opinion a little, though not much.

    I have seen much more of Suraiya since I wrote this post, and, as you can see in the present image header, I am a fan. :) (I put that one up for her birthday, June 15.) At this time, I would move her far up on the list and I might agree with putting her at #1. (Then Padmini would have to go to second or third place.) But I know there are a number of people who for some reason disagree about Suraiya! Oh, well.

    I’m sort of indifferent about whether one wants to put Madhubala above Meena Kumari or vice-versa. I have seen Madhubala films since I wrote this post where I found her quite stunning. On the other hand, I do not feel so compelled to acknowledge her as the reigning beauty queen above all others. :) She was effervescent, yes… Sometimes, I thought she was a little over-cutesy (in comedies) or pouty… But I have no great objection to those who want to keep her on the beauty pedestal!

    I’m unsure about Noor Jehan here, except I can always justify her place because of her voice. (“Beauty” does not have to consist only of what meets the eyes. :) )

    I would actually remove Waheeda Rehman to put back Nalini Jaywant (whom I had removed from an earlier version to include Waheeda Rehman). I’d also want to add Naseem Banu. To make room, I would kick out Vyajyanthimala, Sandhya, or Minu Mumtaz.

    Oh, I could think about this list endlessly! It’s certainly a fun way to spend time! But I don’t know if I would want to put together a new list, since I have been doing very different things on this blog lately. But it’s a thought – and I’m always pleased when someone gives me an excuse to go back to it! :)

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