They are hot, dashing and could kill with their looks, but acting...? Against all odds and raised eyebrows, these models came, fought (competition) and conquered Bollywood!
From Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to Anushka Sharma, all these models were first questioned on their foray into Bollywood and their acting skills (or the lack of them) but today, no Bollywood A-list is complete without these names.
As former Gladrags winner John Abraham talks about the challenges he faced as a model who entered an actors' territory, we take a look at other such successful model-turned-actor stories.
AISHWARYA RAI BACHCHAN
Past: Aishwarya Rai won several modelling projects in the 1990's including one that brought her straight to the American edition of Vogue. After losing out to Sushmita Sen in the Femina Miss India beauty pageant, Aishwarya went on to become Miss World in 1994 and there seemed no stopping thereafter. In 1997, she made her foray into films, first Mani Ratnam's Tamil multi-starrer Iruvar and then the Hindi film Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya opposite Bobby Deol. The latter saw Rai as a sissy spoilt girl and didn't appeal to many.
Turning Point: After some more flops and criticism, came Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Ash won her first Best Actress award, effectively shutting up all wagging tongues. And since then, there's been no looking back.
Present: Today, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is not just regarded for her looks and acting but has also been credited for bringing India on the international showbiz map to an extent.
Past: PC entered a few beauty pageants here and there before her mother entered her name for the Femina Miss India contest, following which she went on to become the fifth Indian-origin Miss World winner. This major win got her film offers and she made her debut in the Tamil film Thamizhan (2002). However, Chopra's character was seen as lacking in depth and in fact, she was written off in Rediff's review, which claimed she showed 'no promise'.
Turning Point: In 2003, Priyanka appeared as second female lead in some films like The Hero: Love Story of a Spy and Andaaz, which brought her both critical acclaim and awards along with commercial success. She went on to deliver several hits like Fashion, Dostana, Kaminey and Agneepath and of course Barfi!
Present: Today, Priyanka has played (and won an award for) a wily seductress, an ambitious model, a husband-murdering widow and even an autistic girl. 'Nuff said.
Her take: Priyanka talks to Sonia Singh of NDTV, "...I didn't know who I was. When I started I was trying to be what I needed to be, I was trying to be Miss India, I was trying to be Miss World, I was trying to be an actress. I think just about over the last 3 years or so is when I've kind of started finding myself, and becoming okay with my mistakes, or my decisions, or being okay with the fact that you can't please everyone, and it's important to be able to be content with yourself.
And I've realised that just over the last few years. I had to grow up so soon or at least fake that I grew up, that I never went through the process of metamorphosis that you go through after adolescence and going into college, and you know doing all of those things. I didn't have that, so I think that's happened, I regressed over the last few years and kind of reached that point.
Past: Bipasha was advised to enter a modelling pageant by Mehr Jessia Rampal, which she won and eventually led her into modelling assignments abroad. After doing some famous ads like the controversial one for Calida and some famous indie pop songs like Sonu Nigam's Tuuu, Bipasha made her debut in the thriller Ajnabee opposite Akshay Kumar. And unlike the others, Bipasha seemed to fit the bill in the first go itself when she won the Best Female Debut. Bips went to win more critical acclaim for her performances in Raaz and Jism, both of which were called 'show-stealers'.
Present: She has and continues to helm several female-centric performances.
Her take: On being what she thought about the cliche that models can't act, Bipasha told Sukanya Verma of Rediff, "Models are themselves responsible for creating this cliche. For most of them, looking good is very important. Acting is secondary to most. There are so many human expressions and emotions for which you have to contort your face. For instance, when you're crying, you cannot be bothered about the amount of pancake on your face. As for myself, I know I have done well in my first film and intend to do better."
Past: John Abraham won the Gladrags Manhunt Contest in India and finished second overall in the pageant, following which he appeared in several ads and music videos. All this while, Abraham was trying to improve his acting skills and even joined an acting laboratory for it. But after his debut in Jism opposite Bipasha Basu, John's many films like Saaya, Aetbaar and Lakeer failed at the box office
Turning Point: John Abraham played the villain in the first franchise of Dhoom, which went on to become a huge hit. He did more films like Water (an internationally acclaimed film) and Dostana, which became hugely popular and he was on the success map.
Present: Today, John Abraham is a successful model, actor, villain and now even a producer!
His take: John opens up to HT City: (When I started out) I was constantly told that models couldn’t act, reminded of people who’d tried before me — Deepak (Malhotra), Dino (Morea), Milind (Soman) — and I carried that baggage around for years. What carried him through? “A strong sense of self. It’s particularly hard to hold on to yourself when you become an actor. Of course, If I wasn’t a model, no one would have known of me. John Abraham would’ve meant nothing.”
Past: Katrina Kaif had modelled for many brands and fashion housese in many countries before she came to India when she was offered a role in London-based filmmaker Kaizad Gustad's Boom, which unfortunately bombed (instead of booming) at the box office. After that, every filmmaker was hesitant to cast Katrina, not just because her acting skills were nothing great but also because she hardly knew Hindi.
Turning Point: However, Katrina managed to bag some roles in films like Sarkar, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya and Humko Deewana Kar Gaye, most of which she got positive reviews for. But it was really in 2007 that things changed for Kat, when all the four films she acted in became box office hits. These included Namastey London, Apne, Partner and Welcome. And the rest is history.
Present: Today, Katrina Kaif has a fairly decent command on the language, has done everything from desi item numbers, to bubbly and vivacious roles, not to mention that she has several blockbusters to her credit.
Past: Arjun Rampal is one of the hottest models of Bollywood but acting was something was not really considered his forte. Despite winning some acclaim for his debut film Pyaar, Ishq Aur Mohabbat (2001), Rampal received a lot of criticism for his early films (most of which were flops), with many critics calling him 'wooden'.
Turning Point: In fact, it wasn't until 2007 that a film in which Rampal got a meaty enough role became a hit. This was Om Shanti Om, in which Rampal played the villain and won praise for it. He even won both critical and commercial success for her performance in Rock On!!
Today: Arjun Rampal can play a villain, a corporate employee, an actor and even a politician, with equal ease.
Past: This sultry siren did some advertisements and modelling assignments before she was spotted for the film Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, in which she packed a powerful performance. Although none of her films have fared particularly well at the box office, Chitrangda has held her own in each of them.
Today: Chitrangda Singh is not just known for her arty roles but also for her mainstream performances.
Past: Deepika Padukone had won several ramp competitions and featured in advertisements before she bagged a page on the Kingfisher Swimsuit Calendar. She got a huge launchpad in the form of Farah Khan's film Om Shanti Om opposite Shah Rukh Khan, for which she won awards and acclaim alike. But her successive performances in films like Bachna Ae Haseeno and Chandni Chowk To China failed to impress critics.
Turning Point: Deepika's performances in Love Aaj Kal, Karthik Calling Karthik and even Lafangey Parindey were received well.
Present: Just six years into the industry and Deepika Padukone already has over 20 roles to her credit and more to come, each varying from the other.
Past: Anushka Sharma walked the ramp for designers and featured in advertisments before she was selected for her debut. Like Deepika, Anushka too, got a huge launchpad as she starred opposite SRK in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. She executed her role well and won praise for it but her next film Badmaash Company didn't do wonders.
Turning Point: It was Maneesh Sharma's huge hit Band Baaja Baraat that Anushka Sharma shot into the limelight with her spirited performance in the film, which even won her some Best Actress awards.
Present: Anushka is one of the most-highly demanded actresses who ventures in high profile films.
Well, today their work really speaks for them, and John Abraham sums it up just right when he says, "No one can now dare to say that models can’t act."