By Priyanka Khanna, IANS
New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Babli, the lovable con-woman in the latest release "Bunty Aur Babli", joins the exclusive league of beautiful women in Indian cinema who can send audiences into fits of rapturous laughter.
Rani Mukherjee's portrayal of Babli has catapulted her into the club of a handful of women in Hindi cinema who possess a keen sense of timing and fabulous sense of humour.
Rani has surpassed cousin sister Kajol who has it in her but never got the right platform to revel with her comic side.
In Hindi films, women have a fixed number of emotions to convey. Playing a comic lead is a rarity few have been blessed with.
Rani, armed with her girl-next-door charm and average looks, has been on a roll this year.
After a critically acclaimed performance as a physically challenged girl in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's path-breaking film "Black", she has once again given a superlative display of her acting prowess in the film that released Friday.
By keeping pace with co-star Abhishek Bachchan (in some scenes surpassing him) in the Shaad Ali film, Rani has shown versatility that few female actors have had the opportunity to showcase.
Though comedy in Indian films has been associated largely with male stars, a handful of women have surpassed in the comic genre in the past. In the era of black and white cinema, Geeta Bali essayed important roles in comedies, including in "Albela".
Madhubala's role in films like "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi" and "Half Ticket" are still remembered as well as her truly infectious laughter. Ditto for Hema Malini who raised a few laughs on her own in her act as Dhanno in "Sholay" and Geeta in "Seeta Aur Geeta".
Rekha was probably the first female actor to be recognised for her spontaneous comic timing in films like "Khubsoorat", "Jhoothi", "Bahurani" and "Biwi Ho To Aisi".
In more recent times, Sridevi won hands down for her ability to be completely uninhibited in front of the camera.
She carried "Chaalbaaz" on her delicate shoulders and extracted more than a couple of laughs in "Mr India", "Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja" and "Gurudev".
To her credit goes Hindi cinema's best replication of a Charlie Chaplin act in "Mr India".
More recently, Juhi Chawla used to light up the screen with her spontaneous, carefree and chirpy laugh. She is perhaps the only female star who got noticed for her comic talent, innocence and freshness with her debut in "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak".
Juhi sharpened her act in "Bol Radha Bol", "Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke" and "Ishq". But she began to seem repetitive in "Yes Boss", "Duplicate", "Andaz" and "Mr And Mrs Khiladi".
Though female actors Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Sushmita Sen and Preity Zinta have given a glimpse of their knack for comedy, they have not been fortunate enough to play major comic roles.
Aishwarya Rai did try her hand at comedy but it fell flat. She does rock in a rabble-rousing dance number in "Bunty Aur Babli" with Abhishek and Amitabh Bachchan joining her on the dance floor. But the item number does little to take the attention away from Rani. It seems Rani has stolen a march over her contemporaries in the comic genre as well.
As it is, Bollywood is increasingly getting serious about comedies. More and more Hindi filmmakers are focusing on the audience's funny bone, even if they may not laugh all the way to their banks.
Though light moments have always been integral to all films, out and out comedies are not a usual subject for Hindi feature films.
Four successful comedies - Priyadarshan's "Hungama", Raj Kumar Hirani's "Munnabhai M.B.B.S.", Indra Kumar's "Masti" and David Dhawan's "Mujhse Shaadi Karogi" - have filmmakers hoping to do an encore. The granddaddy of Bollywood - Yash Raj Chopra - once again seems to have just the right product in "Bunty Aur Babli".
Abhishek Bachchan seems to have hit the jackpot with his latest release "Bunty Aur Babli".
He is set to stay in filmmaker Rohan Sippy's next which will be a comic caper. This will be an opportunity for superstar Aishwarya Rai to join the fun.
Getting a nod from Aishwarya will not be easy though. She has just completed Paul Berges' "Mistress of Spices" and is working on Jagmohan Mundhra's "Provoked". The film also features Nandita Das.
Besides, Aishwarya has "Dhoom 2" with Hrithik Roshan and Raj Santoshi's "Saamna". She is also in a costume drama tentatively titled "Prithviraj-Sanjukta".
Sony Television's Jassi of the "Jassi Jaisa Koi Nahi"-fame is reportedly taking the comic route to Bollywood. Mona Singh, who plays Jassi, will reportedly feature in a black comedy.
The film by Bobby Pushkarna will have Mona playing an average working girl who wants to make it big. The film may give Bollywood another female actor with the evasive quality called comic timing.