Bollywood biz: South Indian actresses who ruled Bollywood

Bollywood owes a lot to the South Indian film industry. Not only are some of the biggest hits in Hindi cinema remakes from down south, some of the biggest Bollywood actresses have come from the South Indian film industry. This edition, Corporate Citizen looks at some of the biggest South Indian actresses who ruled Bollywood


Sridevi, who suddenly passed away recently, was born in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. She debuted into movies as a child artist at the age of four. Her first lead role was in Balachander’s Moondru Mudichu, which starred both the legends of Tamil cinema, Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan. She then acted in many hit Tamil films and was widely loved and appreciated as an actress. She made her debut into Hindi films with Solva Sawan and also acted in a string of successful movies like Himmatwala and Chandni. She starred in Mr India, one of the most iconic movies in Indian cinema. She is also considered to be the first female superstar in Hindi Cinema. In 2012, after a 15-year break Sridevi appeared in English Vinglish and it is said to be the most successful comeback for any heroine. Her last movie Mom, released in 2017, was a big hit as well. Her career spans over 50 years, and would have gone on for decades longer if not for her untimely death.


Rekha is the daughter of popular Tamil actor, Gemini Ganesan. She was born in Chennai and studied in the prestigious Church Park Convent in Chennai. She made her debut in the Kannada movie Operation Jackpot Nalli CID 999 with superstar Rajkumar. In 1970 she made her Bollywood debut with Sawan Bhadon which made her an overnight star. Since then, she has attained legendary status in Bollywood, and is referred to as the ultimate Diva. Her most iconic role is her portrayal of a courtesan in Umrao Jaan, which won her the National award for best film actress.

Rati Agnihotri

A sixteen-year-old Rati debuted in the Tamil film industry with Puthiya Vaarpugal, which became a blockbuster and made Rati an overnight sensation. Even though she was Punjabi, South Indian audiences embraced her as one of their own. She reciprocated by calling herself “Tamilian at heart” and calling Chennai her home. She also starred in Telugu and Kannada films and made 32 films in just three years. She then made her Bollywood debut with Ek Duuje Ke Liye, which became one of the top-grossing hits of the year. She has since starred in over 43 Hindi films. Her biggest hits were Farz Aur Kanoon, Coolie opposite superstar Amitabh Bachchan, and Hukumat opposite Dharmendra.


Tabu, one of the most versatile actresses in Bollywood, is from Hyderabad. She moved to Mumbai to pursue her studies in St. Xavier’s College. She made her debut with the Telugu film Coolie No.1 opposite superstar Venkatesh. Her first successful film in Bollywood was Vijaypath starring Ajay Devgan. After that she went on to do many successful films like in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi and is still acting in major roles of Bollywood. Her roles in Maachis and Chandani Bar have been critically acclaimed. In 2012, she made her Hollywood debut with the smash hit Life of Pi.

Hema Malini

Veteran actress Hema Malini was born into an Iyengar family in Tamil Nadu. She made her debut into films with the Tamil movie Idhu Sathiyam. She then moved to Bollywood and acted opposite Raj Kapoor in Sapno Ka Saudagar. The Dream Girl became the most sought-after actress and ruled Bollywood after she gave hits like Johnny Mera Naam, Seeta Aur Geeta and Sholay. Her career spans over 55 years.

By Neeraj Varty