Nov 19 2016

From beauty queens to Hindi cinema stars: 19 former Miss Indias who turned to acting

by   Sonal Pandya

On the joint birthdays of Zeenat Aman and Sushmita Sen today (19 November), a look at the former Miss India winners who later became actresses.

1 Nutan

A co-winner alongside Indrani Rehman in 1952, this former Miss India went on to become an A-lister in Hindi cinema with films like Seema (1955), Sujata (1959) and Bandini (1963). From the 1950s to the 1970s, Nutan won a record five Filmfare best actress awards. Her niece Kajol equated her record in 2011.

2 Leela Naidu

After being crowned Miss India in 1954 and appearing in Vogue magazine’s list of 10 most beautiful women in the world, Naidu acted in a handful of critically-acclaimed films like Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anuradha (1960), the controversial Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke (1963) and Merchant Ivory's The Householder (1963). A documentary on her life, Lila, was released in 2009 after her death.

3 Persis Khambatta

Persis Khambatta won the Miss India title in 1965, debuted in Hindi films with KA Abbas's Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein (1967) and went on to make a name for herself in Hollywood with roles in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and Nighthawks (1981). She produced a coffee table book on the history of the former Miss Indias called Pride of India in 1997. She died of a heart attack two years later.

4 Zeenat Aman

A runner-up in 1970, Zeenat Aman won the Miss Asia Pacific contest that year before being re-launched by Dev Anand in the iconic Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971). The songs ‘Dum Maro Dum’ and ‘Chura Liya Hai’ cemented her status as an emerging star. She continued acting in the 1980s and later made an occasional appearance in films like Ugly Aur Pagli (2008) and Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyon (2010). 

5 Nafisa Ali

The titleholder in 1976, Nafisa Ali had her film debut in Shyam Benegal's Junoon (1978) opposite Shashi Kapoor. Ali was a former national swimming champion before she entered the Miss India contest. Her last Hindi film was Khwaabb: Dare to Dream (2014).

6 Swaroop Sampat

The winner of the title in 1979 and a Ph.D. holder in Education from the University of Worcester, Swaroop Sampat acted in Hindi and regional films beginning with Doosra Kanoon in 1989. In Ki & Ka (2016), she played Kareena Kapoor Khan’s mother.

7 Meenakshi Seshadri

At 17, Meenakshi Seshadri won the Miss India 1981 title and entered Hindi films with Painter Babu (1983), but became an overnight star with Subhash Ghai's Hero (1983) opposite Jackie Shroff. However, she gave up stardom after marriage in 1996 and resettled in Texas, USA.

8 Juhi Chawla

Like former title-holder Nutan, Juhi Chawla transitioned into a leading lady after her Miss India win in 1984 with her big breakthrough film, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), opposite Aamir Khan. After her marriage to Jay Mehta, Juhi continued acting in films and even recently appeared in films like Gulaab Gang (2014) and Chalk n Duster (2015).

9 Sonu Walia

Sonu Walia arrived in Hindi films with Khoon Bhari Maang (1988), winning the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award after winning the title in 1985. Walia is married to an Indian-American businessman and divides her time between India and the US.

10 Namrata Shirodkar

Miss India 1993, Namrata Shirodkar is mostly known for her roles in Vaastav (1999), Pukaar (2000) and the Jane Austen adaptation Bride & Prejudice (2004). Shirodkar met Telugu film actor Mahesh Babu on the sets of Vamsi (2000). She retired from films after her marriage in February 2005. 

11 Sushmita Sen

The first Miss India to win the Miss Universe crown, the 1994 winner made her film debut with Mahesh Bhatt's Dastak (1996) before acting in hits Biwi No. 1 (1999) and Main Hoon Na (2004). The single mother of two young daughters, Sen only appears occasionally in Indian films, focusing more on her entrepreneurial and charitable pursuits. 

12 Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

The runner-up to the 1994 winner, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan went to win the Miss World title and entered films in 1997 with Mani Ratnam's Iruvar and Rahul Rawail's ...Aur Pyar Ho Gaya. Aishwarya stayed away from Hindi films for five years after giving birth to her daughter Aaradhaya. She made a comeback with Sanjay Gupta’s film Jazbaa (2015) co-starring Irrfan Khan.

13 Gul Panag

The 1999 Miss India title holder, Gul Panag acted in her first Hindi film, Dhoop (2003) and was lauded for her performances in Dor (2006) and Manorama Six Feet Under (2007). Besides acting, Panag is active in social change across the country; she stood as a candidate from the Aam Aadmi Party in Chandigarh two years ago. Recently, she became a certified pilot, like her husband Rishi Attari, an airline pilot.

14 Lara Dutta

Lara Dutta, the 2000 title winner repeated Sushmita Sen's success at the Miss Universe pageant and made her Hindi film debut with Andaaz (2003) co-starring Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra. After her marriage to former tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi, Dutta has appeared in only a handful of films. This year in Azhar, she played a prosecutor who is determined to bring the alleged match-fixer to justice. 

15 Priyanka Chopra

The first runner-up in 2000, Priyanka Chopra won the Miss World title and embarked on a film career with The Hero: Love Story of a Spy (2003) with Sunny Deol and Preity Zinta. Since her debut 13 years ago, Chopra has won global success as the lead of an American television series, Quantico, and will play the villain in her first Hollywood film, Baywatch, releasing in May 2017.

16 Dia Mirza

The second runner-up to Lara Dutta and Priyanka Chopra, Dia Mirza went to win the Miss Asia Pacific title in 2000 and followed it up with an entry into Hindi films with Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein (2001) co-starring R Madhavan and Saif Ali Khan. She turned producer with her husband Sahil Sangha for the film Love Breakups Zindagi in 2011.

17 Gayatri Joshi

Another contestant in the 2000 pageant, Gayatri Joshi acted in a single Hindi film, Swades (2004), directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and co-starring Shah Rukh Khan. She married Vikas Oberoi, a real estate developer in 2005.

18 Neha Dhupia

After winning Miss India in 2002, Neha Dhupia appeared in regional and Hindi films with notable roles in Ek Chalis Ki Last Local (2007) and Phas Gaye Re Obama (2011). She currently hosts an audio chat show online called No Filter Neha where she interviews prominent personalities from the industry. 

19 Sarah-Jane Dias

A former VJ, Sarah-Jane Dias won Miss India in 2007 and debuted in Indian cinema in 2011 with films in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Dias made an impact with her last two film roles, Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses (2015) and Zubaan (2016). She is also part of the ensemble cast in Gurinder Chadha’s Partition film, Viceroy House (2017).