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2015: The year of heroines in Bollywood

New Delhi: Be it Deepika Padukone's role as independent but hassled daughter in "Piku" or Kangana Ranaut's double avatar as Tanu/Datto in "Tanu Weds Manu Returns", 2015 saw actresses finally win the box office battle and question the gender pay disparity in Bollywood.

Anushka Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra

Deepika had a third successful year in a row. The actress, who was once considered just a pretty face, took the lead in "Piku" with megastar Amitabh Bachchan playing her cantankerous father and Irrfan Khan also in a key role. The movie had an exceptionally good run at the box office while her ex-boyfriend Ranbir Kapoor's "Roy" and "Bombay Velvet" bombed. She did not have a big role in Imtiaz Ali's "Tamasha" but it was enough for critics to applaud her performance.

It is yet to be seen whether she makes a hat-trick at the box office with her period drama "Bajirao Mastani", which is pitted against "Dilwale", fronted by superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who launched her in "Om Shanti Om" and worked with the actress again in "Chennai Express" and "Happy New Year".

Deepika is the only woman to break into the top-10 list of Forbes India's highest earning celebrities, which was dominated by male stars.

It has been an eventful year for Deepika, who went public about her fight with depression and starred in a woman empowerment video. She has also been vocal about the pay disparity, calling it unfair. She is now all set to make her Hollywood debut opposite "Fast and Furious" star Vin Diesel.

Another actress, who has challenged the established order of things in Bollywood, is Kangana. Her candid and devil-may- care attitude may not have earned her many friends but Kangana has come a long way to be counted among the best actresses that Bollywood has today.

Kangana's road to stardom has not been easy and in recent times she has called out the industry for its harsh attitude towards women.

"When I was struggling people treated me so badly. What happens is that a heroine is always dependent on the producer or the hero. So no one thought, 'What if someone becomes Kangana Ranaut and then she will never work with me as producer or actor'. They should have some shame before they treat women badly. They assume 'kya karegi'. She is just a girl'," Kangana had said in an interview to PTI.

The actress, who won her career's second National award this year, is also not happy with the existing pay gap between male and female stars.

After giving blockbusters like "Queen" and "Tanu Weds Manu Returns", which was one of the most successful movies of the year, Kangana says she deserves to get paid at par with her male counterparts.

Priyanka Chopra too spoke against pay disparity and the actress is doing well internationally by becoming the first Bollywood actress to have her own TV show in the US with "Quantico" where she plays an FBI recruit.

"Dil Dhadakne Do" and "Bajirao Mastani" are Priyanka's only two releases this year. She next has Prakash Jha's "Jai Gangaajal" and Reema Kagti's "Mr Chaalu".

"Dum Laga Ke Haisha", starring Ayushmann Khurrana and first-timer Bhumi Pednekar, an unusual love story between a loser and his overweight wife, was another movie where female character took the lead. Though a rank newcomer in the company of well-established performers, Pednekar's turn as overweight but spirited Sandhya redefined Bollywood heroine in a big way.

"NH10", produced and fronted by Anushka, a road thriller about a couple's run-in with a group of men out to murder the daughter of their family for marrying outside of her caste, earned well.

The actress, however, could not sustain the good run with her ambitious second screen outing "Bombay Velvet" sinking at the box office. She had a great but small appearance in Zoya Akhtar's dysfunctional family drama "Dil Dhadkane Do".

Kalki Koechlin's performance in disability drama "Margarita with a Straw" was another highlight of the year. Kalki played a girl with cerebral palsy in the movie. Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan made her comeback this year with Sanjay Gupta's thriller "Jaazba".

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