2021 served a mixed bag of movies and web series, with some shows and movies leaving us pleasantly surprised, while others had us banging our heads against the wall. But in this mix, there were certain performances that stood out. While certain performances enhanced an already amazing story, others left us entertained even when the story couldn’t hold our interest. 

So here’s a look at the women from the Indian film industry, whose performance left an impact in 2021: 

1. Amruta Subhash

Amruta Subhash’s honest performances have always been a hit with the audience. And in 2021 alone, she played two extremely diverse characters in Bombay Begums (of a hardened sex worker striving to build a better life for her son) and Dhamaka (of a ruthless news producer) and did a commendable job in both projects. A talented star who deserves more limelight, Subhash never fails to shine, no matter the length of the role. 

Indian Express

2. Konkona Sen Sharma

An actor who never delivers a false performance, Konkona Sen Sharma should be declared a national treasure already. Playing a character who is a double minority in Ajeeb Daastaans came with its own set of complexities, and yet Sharma was phenomenal in the role – letting her expressions speak volumes. Her character takes advantage of a flawed social setup, and it’s Sharma whose performance allows you to be impressed and intrigued by her character’s actions. 

Film Companion

3. Supriya Pathak

She was iconic as Hansa, but there is so much more to Supriya Pathak than just her role in Khichdi. She starred in 4 different movies in 2021, and though none of the roles gave her the screen time she deserved, she still left an impact with every performance. However, it was the show Tabbar that truly allowed her to flex those acting muscles and deliver a knockout performance. 2021 also allowed us to glimpse her finesse as a leading lady in Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, which finally reached a wider audience this year with its OTT release. 


4. Aditi Rao Hydari

Though Hydari has been, at times, typecast by Bollywood, her filmography gives ample proof that she is a star to reckon with. In fact, her performance in Ajeeb Daastaans was easily one of her career-best. Marked with a delicate strength, Priya Sharma was a character that felt written exclusively for Hydari.


5. Vidya Balan

Vidya Balan has been successfully redefining the idea of a hero for a long time, and Sherni is just her latest attempt. While Balan’s roles have always been impactful, in Sherni she delivered a far more restrained performance, and still, managed to leave everyone impressed. Delivering a subtle but profound take on misogyny and patriarchy, Balan’s act in Sherni is one of her best roles to date! 

Prime Video

6. Huma Qureshi

Huma Qureshi’s web series, Maharani, is one of the highest-rated Hindi shows from 2021, and Qureshi’s performance had a big role to play in its popularity. Even when the plotline lost focus, her dedication to the role was commendable, and her accent, passable – a feat many mainstream stars have not been able to achieve. 

Daily Pioneer

7. Samantha Ruth Prabhu

I’ve always been a fan of female actors who break Bollywood stereotypes like a boss. Like Samantha Prabhu did when she played a fearsome villain in season 2 of The Family Man. It’s not easy stealing the spotlight from Manoj Bajpayee, but Prabhu proved to be a natural. She elevated her role from just another antagonist to a character whose story you were invested in, and whose actions, you genuinely feared. 


8. Kriti Sanon

With every film, Sanon is rising in the ranks of notable performers. And Mimi has rightfully emerged as one of the year’s better, and more popular films. Though there were certainly elements from the film that could be improved upon–like its flawed look at abortion and a seriously exaggerated climax–Sanon’s performance was not it. Relatable and impactful, Sanon was brilliant as Mimi. 


9. Zoya Hussain

With Grahan, Zoya Hussain cemented her position as an actor to look out for. Hussain has a skill of adding an emotional depth to her roles that leaves you feeling for her characters – and Grahan was no different. What is especially noteworthy is how she stood her own while sharing screen space with a seasoned performer like Pawan Malhotra.

The Quint

10. Shahana Goswami

While Bombay Begums was bubbling with talent, Goswami stood out from the rest by delivering one of the most relatable portrayals of the modern working woman. Fatima was flawed and real, and unlike the other leads, could not be boxed into a type. Playing such a character comes with its own set of challenges, but Goswami perfectly nailed the assignment. 

11. Tamannaah

November Story is an underrated gem that may have skipped your notice but deserves to be on your binge-watch list – thanks to Tamannaah’s performance and a gripping storyline. A significant improvement from her past roles, Tamannaah balances different emotions with ease, drawing you in with her role and leaving you impressed. 

Indian Express

12. Sai Tamhankar

Though Sanon was fabulous in Mimi, Sai Tamhankar managed to catch our attention even from the sidelines. A powerhouse of talent, Tamhankar is certainly no stranger to playing complex characters, but with Mimi, she joined the league of actors who leave a lasting impression even with limited screen time. 


13. Sanya Malhotra

From her dancing movies to her charming screen presence, Sanya Malhotra never fails to leave impress her fans. In 2021, both her films, Pagglait and Meenakshi Sundareshwar, saw her playing ‘everyday’ women – but her visceral intensity is certainly not common to Bollywood. In both cases, her performance seemed to go beyond the writer’s imagination and the director’s vision, leaving you thoroughly impressed. 


These women served brilliant performances and left us rooting for more. Here’s hoping the world of movies, and web series, continues to deliver!