Dimple Kapadia (born 8 June 1957) is an Indian actress who predominantly appears in Hindi films. She was discovered at age 16 by Raj Kapoor, who cast her in the title role of his teen romance Bobby (1973), to critical and commercial success. In that same year, she married Indian actor Rajesh Khanna and retired from acting. Kapadia returned to films in 1984, following her separation from Khanna. Her comeback film Saagar was released a year later, and gained her wide public recognition. She won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress twice for Bobby and Saagar. She went on to establish herself as one of the leading actresses of Hindi cinema in the 1980s.
Initially recognised as a national sex symbol, Kapadia was keen to avoid being stereotyped and expand her range of acting roles. She subsequently took on more serious parts in a range of film genres, from mainstream to parallel cinema, and received acclaim for her performances in such films as Kaash (1987), Drishti (1990), Lekin… (1991), and Rudaali (1993). For playing a professional mourner in the last of these, she won the National Film Award for Best Actress and the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress. She followed with supporting roles in Gardish (1993) and Krantiveer (1994), the latter of which garnered her a fourth Filmfare Award.
Kapadia has worked less frequently since the mid 1990s. She played a supporting part in Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and was noted for her portrayal of a troubled middle-aged wife in the American production Leela (2002). Some of her later film credits include leading roles in Hum Kaun Hai? (2004), Pyaar Mein Twist (2005), Phir Kabhi (2008), Tum Milo Toh Sahi (2010) and What the Fish (2013), and supporting roles in Being Cyrus (2006), Luck by Chance (2009), Dabangg (2010), Cocktail (2012), Finding Fanny (2014), and Angrezi Medium (2020). Kapadia is the mother of Twinkle Khanna and Rinke Khanna, both former actresses.
Background and personal life
Dimple Kapadia was born on 8 June 1957 in Mumbai to Gujarati entrepreneur Chunnibhai Kapadia and his wife Betty (1939-2019). She is the eldest of four children, her younger siblings being late actress Simple Kapadia, a sister named Reem and a brother, Munna. The family resided in Santacruz, Bombay and she studied at St. Joseph’s Convent High School. She described herself as having been a precocious child, often making older friends, and, due to her father’s wealth and social status, enjoyed a privileged upbringing. She was 16 years old when she married actor Rajesh Khanna, then aged 31. The marriage took place six months before the release of her first film, Bobby, in 1973. She retired from acting for twelve years to raise her two daughters, Twinkle (born 1974) and Rinke (born 1977). Reportedly, it was Khanna who disapproved of her acting career following the marriage, though Kapadia once noted that “career has always been secondary” to her.
Kapadia separated from Khanna in April 1982, moving with her two daughters back to her parents’ house. She returned to acting two years later. In a 1985 interview with India Today, she remarked, “The life and happiness in our house came to an end the day I and Rajesh got married,” sharing her unhappy marital experience and calling their marriage “a farce”. According to journalist Dinesh Raheja, the hostility between Khanna and Kapadia had faded over the years, and in spite of not having ever reunited, they were seen together at parties, she worked in his self-produced film Jai Shiv Shankar (1990) and even campaigned for his election. In a later interview after Khanna’s death, she reflected back positively on her marriage, referring to it as her “biggest high”. Asked in Filmfare whether she would want to remarry, Kapadia replied, “I’m very happy and content… Once was more than enough.” She was reported to be in a relationship with Sunny Deol after they starred together in several films in the 1980s. Her daughters also became actresses and retired after settling down. Her elder daughter, Twinkle, is married to actor Akshay Kumar.
Kapadia is an art lover, and has experimented in painting and sculpture. In 1998, she started a new company, The Faraway Tree, which offers self-designed candles to the market. Having been a candle enthusiast and finding candle-making therapeutic, she went on to develop this skill in Wales, where she took a workshop with Blackwood, Caerphilly-based candle artist David Constable. Her business venture was reported in the press to have inspired other candle fans to start their own businesses of the sort. Her candles were presented and offered for sale at a number of exhibitions across India.
Kapadia once said she had always had aspirations to become an actress when she was a child, calling herself “film-crazy”. She was introduced by Raj Kapoor in his 1973 teen romance Bobby. While the film was to be Kapoor’s son Rishi Kapoor’s first leading role, Kapadia was given the title role of Bobby Braganza, a middle-class Goan Christian girl. The story follows how Bobby falls in love with Raj (Rishi), the son of a wealthy businessman, and how the two face the disapproval of their parents. Bobby was a major mainstream and critical success, and Kapadia was lauded for her performance, which won her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress (tied with Jaya Bhaduri for Abhimaan). In later years Kapadia would credit Raj Kapoor for her development as an actress: “the sum total of me today as an actress, whatever I am, is Raj Kapoor.” Several of her lines in the film became popular, particularly, “Mujhse dosti karoge?” (“Will you be my friend?”), and the “knotted polka-dotted blouse and earphone hairstyle” she wore made her a youth fashion icon of the times in India. Consequently polka-dotted dresses were often referred to as ‘Bobby Print’. Bhawana Somaaya of The Hindu credits Kapadia with starting film memorabilia merchandising in the country, and Mukesh Khosla of The Tribune reported that Bobby established her as a “cult figure” as she led the fashion trends. In 2008, Rediff.com ranked her performance in the film as the fourth-best female debut of all-time in Hindi cinema: “An elfin little girl with big, lovely eyes, nobody quite portrayed innocence as memorably as Dimple in her first outing. She was candid, striking, and a true natural … here was a girl who would redefine glamour and grace, and make it look very, very easy indeed.” By the time Bobby released, Kapadia had married actor Rajesh Khanna in March 1973 at the age of 16. She left the film industry to raise her children.
After Kapadia’s separation from Khanna in 1982, she was keen on returning to acting, which she ultimately did in 1984. For the next decade, she would go on to become one of the leading actresses in Hindi cinema. Kapadia accredited the reason for her return was because of a personal need to prove to herself her own capabilities. The first film she worked on was Saagar, directed by Ramesh Sippy, after a mutual friend had notified Sippy about her willingness to return to acting. She first performed a screen test, which according to her was very unsuccessful as she was extremely nervous and “literally shivering” while making it. To her surprise, Sippy ultimately signed her on to play the lead part opposite her Bobby co-star Rishi Kapoor. Scripted with her in mind, the film was intended to be her comeback vehicle, but its one-year delay meant that several of her proceeding projects would be released before, the first of which was Zakhmi Sher (1984). Saagar eventually premiered in August 1985 and was controversial for several scenes featuring Kapadia, including one in which she was seen topless for a split second. The film was a critical success and was eventually chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars that year. Kapadia’s performance as Mona D’Silva, a young Catholic woman from Goa who is torn between her friend (Kamal Haasan) and the man she loves (Kapoor), won her a second Best Actress award at the Filmfare Awards. A review by Asiaweek labelled her “a delight”. Rediff.com noted, “Dimple, caught between a friend and lover, performed solidly and memorably, grounding the two male leads and making the film work.” A 1993 issue of India Today wrote, “Saagar was in many ways a paean to her incredible beauty. She looked ravishing: auburn hair, classical face, deep eyes, an aura of sensuality. It was clear she was back.”
In 1984 she had a role opposite Sunny Deol in Manzil Manzil, a drama directed by Nasir Hussain. While speaking of her positive experience during the making of the film, she expressed her lack of comfort performing the “routine song-and-dance” nature of the part. Kapadia’s first film of 1985 was Mukul Anand’s Aitbaar, a Hitchcockian thriller for which she received positive reviews. She starred as Neha, a wealthy young woman whose greedy husband (played by Raj Babbar) plots to murder her. Speaking of her performance, she said that during shooting she was “a bag of nerves”, which eventually ended up benefitting her performance as her own state coincided with her character’s inner turmoil. Among other films released that year, she was paired up with Sunny Deol in Arjun, an action film directed by Rahul Rawail and scripted by Javed Akhtar. It was Kapadia’s first commercial success since her return to films.
Feroz Khan’s Janbaaz (1986) tells the story of a man fighting the drug menace. The film became known for its love scene involving Kapadia and male lead Anil Kapoor, in which the two also shared a full on kiss, something Hindi movie-goers were not accustomed to in those days. A review in Bombay: The City Magazine liked the film’s “slickness” but dismissed the overall product as “passé”; Kapadia’s role as Reshma was called “the macho man’s woman”, but she was noted for having played it “gamely”. In that same year she acted opposite Saagar co-star Kamal Haasan in her first regional film, Vikram, a Tamil-language sci-fi feature. She played the minor part of Inimaasi, a young princess who falls for the title character, played by Haasan. At that time, she also worked in numerous Hindi films made by producers from South India, including Pataal Bhairavi, which she detested. She has confessed to accepting these roles for financial gain rather than artistic merit during this period, noting, “I shudder even now when I think of those films. As an artiste I got totally corrupted.”
In 1987, Kapadia played the role of Pooja in Mahesh Bhatt’s drama Kaash. Kapadia and Jackie Shroff starred as an estranged couple who, during a relentless legal battle over the custody of their only son, learn that the boy is suffering from leukaemia, which makes them reunite to spend together the last months of his life. Before shooting began, she called it “the most serious artistic challenge I have ever faced in my career.” Bhatt said he decided to cast her in the part because he was aware of her own marital experience, and he noted that during the making of the film she “came closer and closer to the naked truth”, so much that “after a certain point, mentally I couldn’t differentiate between Dimple and Pooja. She became the character.” Kapadia’s performance as Pooja was highly praised by critics. In an article discussing her career’s best roles, The Times of India wrote, “As … [a] long-suffering wife who tries making a living for herself and her young son by working odd jobs, Dimple showed immense strength as a performer. This has to be one of her best and most unrecognised performances.” Sukanya Verma noted, “She rendered her Pooja with stoic determination and touching vulnerability making her character extremely believable and sympathetic at once.”
In Zakhmi Aurat (1988), Kapadia played Kiran Dutt, a police officer who is subject to gang rape and, when the judicial system fails to convict the criminals, unites with other rape victims to castrate the rapists in revenge. A financial success, the film opened to a polarised reaction from critics and further attracted wide coverage for its lengthy and brutal rape scene involving Kapadia. Khalid Mohamed of The Times of India noted Kapadia’s “power packed performance” but criticised the rape sequence as “utter lasciviousness” and “vulgarity spattering through the screen”. Feminist magazine Manushi panned its low cinematic quality, including the absurdity of the action scenes and the “ugly kind of titillation” in the rape scene, but believed it “stays closer to women’s experience” than other films of its sort; the review was particularly approving of Kapadia’s work: “What really carries the film through is Dimple Kapadia’s performance—low key, moving and charming without being at all clinging or seductive. She brings a conviction to her role that is rare among Bombay heroines.” In later years, The Times of India labelled it a “B-grade movie” though it noted Kapadia’s convincing portrayal of “anguish and bitterness at being denied justice”. M.L. Dhawan from The Tribune, while documenting the famous Hindi films of 1988, praised Kapadia for “proving her mettle as an actress of intensity and passion.” Subhash K. Jha, however, wrote in 2002 that its box-office outcome notwithstanding, Zakhmi Aurat “turned into quite an embarrassment for its leading lady”.
The three final years of the decade saw the release of several other films featuring Kapadia, but few did well. In 1987, she appeared in two action movies which did well with audiences: Rajkumar Kohli’s Insaniyat Ke Dushman and Mukul Anand’s Insaaf. In the latter, she played a dual role of a dancer and a physician. She worked with Kohli in two more movies in 1988: the action drama Saazish and the horror film Bees Saal Baad, a remake of the 1962 film of the same name. She was the action star Bijli in Mera Shikar (1988), a revenge saga directed by Keshu Ramsay, playing a once joyous young woman who trains in martial arts to punish a notorious gangster for the crimes inflicted upon her sister. The film was described as an “extraordinarily adroit entertainer” by Subhash K. Jha, who preferred it over the “sleazy sensationalism” of Zakhmi Aurat and noted the “unusual restraint” with which the “metamorphosis of the frisky Bijli into the ferocious fighter is achieved”, further crediting Kapadia’s physical and cerebral travails. Ram Lakhan (1989), directed by Subhash Ghai, was a success with both critics and audiences, becoming the second-highest grossing Hindi film of the year and earning eight nominations at the 35th Filmfare Awards; Kapadia’s role as Jackie Shroff’s love interest, however, was considered small with one critic saying it did not do “justice to her talent” and another reporting that she “pales into insignificance in the film”. Other films starring Kapadia that year include Babbar Subhash’s Pyar Ke Naam Qurbaan, opposite Mithun Chakraborty, and J.P. Dutta’s action picture Batwara, opposite Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna.
In the 1990s, Kapadia started venturing more into arthouse films, later citing an “inner yearning to exhibit my best potential”. Those films include Drishti (1990), Lekin… (1991), Rudaali (1993) and Antareen (1993). Drishti, a marital drama directed by Govind Nihalani, starred Kapadia and Shekhar Kapur as a married urban couple from an intellectual milieu in Mumbai and followed their trials and tribulations, extramarital affairs, divorce, and ultimate reconciliation after years of separation. For her portrayal of career-woman Sandhya, she was named the Best Actress (Hindi) of the year by the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association. A review in The Indian Express referred to her performance as “sensitive”, believing that her own divorce might have “helped her understand the role better”. The film was acknowledged as the Best Hindi Film of that year at the annual National Film Awards, and Frontline magazine suggested that Kapadia should have earned the Best Actress award at the same function. Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s short story Hungry Stones, Gulzar’s romantic mystery Lekin… starred Kapadia as a restless sprite seeking liberation, Reva, who haunts an ancient palace and appears intermittently in the presence of an architect throughout his work visit in Rajasthan. She has often cited this role as a personal favourite and wished it would have had more screen time in the film. Referring to it once as “the most fantastic” part of her career, she recalled the working relationship with Gulzar as “a wonderful experience”. To make her character more truthful, Gulzar did not let Kapadia blink even once during filming, trying to capture an “endless, fixed gaze” which would give her “a feeling of being surreal”. Lekin… was popular with critics and Kapadia’s performance earned her a third Filmfare nomination.
In 1991, she played a young widow in the military drama Prahaar, the first directorial venture of actor Nana Patekar, with whom she would collaborate in several other films. The film, co-starring Patekar and Madhuri Dixit, received a welcome reception from critics. Kapadia and Dixit agreed to act without wearing makeup upon Patekar’s insistence that they appear natural on screen. While the actresses were noted for their “deglamorised roles”, most of the praise went to the performance of Patekar himself. Kapadia starred alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Shashi Kapoor’s fantasy Ajooba, an Indo-Russian co-production based on Arabian mythology and set in the Afghan kingdom of Baharistan. She played Rukhsana, a young woman who comes from India to rescue her father, court magician Ameer Baba, from prison. In Haque (1991), a political drama directed by Harish Bhosle and scripted by Mahesh Bhatt, she enacted Varsha B. Singh, a Hindu Orthodox woman who is married to an influential politician and who miscarries a pregnancy following a criminal assault. The story follows how Varsha defies her husband after years of subservience when, for political reasons, he refuses to take legal action against the assailants. Ram Awatar Agnihotri noted her for playing the character bravely and convincingly, considering the film “a tribute to her as an actress”.
Maarg, her third project under Mahesh Bhatt’s direction, was delayed for several years before its eventual straight-to-video release in late 1992. The film dealt with power politics within an ashram and featured Kapadia as Uma, a prostitute working by choice. Critic Iqbal Masood considered it “a powerful satire” with “excellent performances”. Bhatt called her performance “stunning” and reported that the intensity of enacting the character left her close to a breakdown after shooting ended. She next played Barkha, a single woman who abandons her premarital daughter upon birth, in Hema Malini’s directorial debut Dil Aashna Hai (1992). In Shashilal K. Nair’s Angaar (1992), a crime drama based on the life of an underworld don, she played Mili, a homeless orphan collected by an unemployed man, played by Jackie Shroff. Angaar received positive reviews from critics, as did Kapadia’s performance, with Meena Iyer of The Times of India calling it “one of the most engaging mafia films to have come out of Bollywood”, but it was financially unsuccessful.
In 1993, she won the National Film Award for Best Actress for her performance in Rudaali, a drama directed by Kalpana Lajmi. Kapadia played the central character of Shanichari, a lonely and hardened Assamese village woman who, throughout a lifetime of misfortune, has never cried and is now challenged with a new job as a professional mourner. The citation for the award described her performance as a “compelling interpretation of the tribulations of a lonely woman ravaged by a cruel society”. In a positive review, Chidananda Das Gupta wrote for Cinemaya of the limitations faced by actors in mainstream films and linked them to her performance: “Dimple Kapadia has enough experience of [the commercial cinema] convention to be able to use some of its elements and enough understanding of acting techniques to create a real person. She is thus able to make her Shanichari both larger than life and believable.” Aside from a third Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for the role, she won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actress, and was acknowledged with Best Actress honours at the Asia Pacific Film Festival and the International Film Festival in Damascus. In 2010 Filmfare magazine included her work in the film in their list of “80 Iconic Performances”. Another Filmfare nomination for Kapadia came that year for her supporting role as Shanti, a street prostitute, in the Priyadarshan-directed drama Gardish. An adaptation of the 1989 Malayalam film Kireedam, the film starred, among others, Jackie Shroff and Amrish Puri. The Indian Express praised the film’s “script, vivid characters and powerful dialogues” and noted Kapadia for her “ability to hold audience attention”.
Mrinal Sen’s 1993 Bengali drama Antareen was the first non-Hindi project Kapadia took part in since Vikram (1986). She played a woman caught in a loveless marriage. Insisting on playing her part spontaneously, Kapadia refused to enrol in a crash-course in Bengali as she felt that she would be able to speak it convincingly. Her voice was eventually dubbed by actor Anushua Chatterjee, something Kapadia was unhappy with. The film was named the Best Bengali Film at the National Film Awards. In 1994, Kapadia appeared in Mehul Kumar’s Krantiveer, alongside Nana Patekar. She played journalist Meghna Dixit, a rape victim who now tries to persuade an alcoholic and unemployed village man to be a champion of justice for those around him. Kapadia later called the film “out and out a Nana Patekar vessel,” but asserted, “I had my share too”, crediting the part with allowing her “the freedom to perform”. The film became an economic success, emerging as India’s third-highest grossing picture of the year. For her performance, Kapadia received her fourth Filmfare Award, this time in the Best Supporting Actress category.
Following Antareen, Kapadia, who was reportedly expected to work in more independent films, took a three-year hiatus from acting, later explaining that she was “emotionally exhausted”. She returned to commercial cinema in 1996, but the few films she did until the end of the decade met with neither mainstream nor critical success. Her first release in 1997 was the action film Agnichakra, which went unnoticed. She played Amitabh Bachchan’s wife in that same year’s Mrityudaata, once again under Mehul Kumar’s direction. The film was a critical and commercial failure, with India Today panning its “comic book-level storytelling”. Trade journal Film Information wrote Kapadia had “no role worth her” talent, and she herself shared similar sentiments. Her next release was the murder mystery 2001: Do Hazaar Ek (1998), which was ultimately rejected by the audience despite a stronger opening. She appeared in Laawaris (1999), her role in which was described as another preachy “woman of substance” by Sharmila Taliculam of Rediff, who criticised the film for its formulaic script and lack of originality. This was followed by the final feature she appeared in during the decade, Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain, in which she played the part of Devyani, the strict mother of a wealthy family. Subhash K. Jha called the film an “embarrassment”, while Suparn Verma gave a scathing review of Kapadia’s performance, noting she “wears a permanent scowl” throughout the film.
In Kapadia’s first film of the millennium, she co-starred in Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai (2001). Depicting the contemporary routine life of Indian affluent youth, it is set in modern-day urban Mumbai and focuses on a major period of transition in the lives of three young friends (Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna). Kapadia played the role of Tara Jaiswal, a middle-aged alcoholic woman, an interior designer by profession, and a divorcee who is not allowed to meet with her daughter. The film presents her story through the character of Siddharth (Khanna), a much younger man whom she befriends and who ultimately falls deeply in love with her. She said making the picture was an “enriching” experience and called her part “a role to die for”. Critics lauded Dil Chahta Hai as a groundbreaking film for its realistic portrayal of Indian youth. The film performed well in the big cities but failed in the rural areas, which was attributed by critics to the urban-oriented lifestyle depicted in the movie. Saibal Chatterjee, in a review for Hindustan Times, noted, “Dimple Kapadia, in a brief, somewhat underdeveloped role, presents a poignant study of loneliness.”
In 2002, Kapadia portrayed the title role in the drama Leela, an American production directed by Somnath Sen and co-starring Deepti Naval, Vinod Khanna and Amol Mhatre. Kapadia’s part—written specially for her—is that of a forty-year-old married woman and a Mumbai University professor, who, after the death of her mother, loses her sense of happiness and takes a job as a visiting professor of South Asian studies in California. The story follows Leela’s acclimation to her new surroundings and particularly her relationship with one of her students there, Kris (Mhatre), a young Indian-American man. Kapadia noted about working in the film, “While in production, I’m all tensed up, and that is what makes me take my acting to the next level.” Maitland McDonagh from TV Guide wrote, “Dimple Kapadia shines in this family melodrama … [her] intelligent, nuanced performance is the film’s highlight.” Ziya Us Salam from The Hindu was charmed by her performance, describing her condition as “enticingly vulnerable.”
In 2004, she played the lead role of army wife Sandra Williams in Hum Kaun Hai?, a supernatural thriller. The film opened to a mixed critical reception, but critics praised Kapadia’s performance, with several believing that it reinforced a weak script. Rama Sharma of The Tribune noted her for lending “all her charisma to help the script sail through dead ends” with her “powerful presence” and “deep, natural and spontaneous” dialogue delivery. 2005 saw Kapadia and Rishi Kapoor reunite as a lead couple for the third time after Bobby (1973) and Saagar (1985) in Pyaar Mein Twist. They starred as two middle-aged single parents who fall in love and later have to deal with the reaction of their children. The film generated mostly negative reviews, with several critics concurring that the chemistry between the lead pair is what makes the film watchable. In a two-star review, Khalid Mohamed called Kapadia “a dream actress” but ultimately concluded that the film would be worth watching “only for the undiminished Kapoor-Kapadia chemistry”. Few people went to see the film; within two weeks it was declared a flop.
In 2006, Kapadia co-starred with Saif Ali Khan and Naseeruddin Shah in the psychological drama Being Cyrus, an English-language arthouse feature directed by Homi Adajania. She enacted the part of Katy, Shah’s neurotic and unfaithful wife who runs an affair with Cyrus (played by Ali Khan), a young man who enters their house as an assistant. Though the BBC’s Poonam Joshi stated that “The descent into despair of Dimple Kapadia’s Katy is enthralling,” other critics such as Derek Elley from Variety and Shradha Sukumaran from Mid Day believed that she excessively overacted. She next played a wealthy Brahmin woman whose daughter falls for a man of a lower caste in the mystical love story Banaras (2006). In V. K. Prakash’s romance Phir Kabhi (2008), Kapadia and Mithun Chakraborty played ageing people who meet at a school reunion and rekindle their high-school romance. The film was awarded seven prizes at the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival, including the Best Film Award at the Narrative Feature section. It was released a year later both direct-to-video and, at the same time, was the first Hindi film to be distributed via pay-per-view direct-to-home (DTH) platforms. At the request of her son-in-law Akshay Kumar, she voiced the character of Devi, the mother of the elephant Jumbo (voiced by Kumar) in the animated feature Jumbo (2008).
Kapadia was cast in Zoya Akhtar’s first directorial venture, Luck By Chance (2009), a satirical take on the Hindi film industry. She played the part of Neena Walia, an erstwhile superstar—referred to in the film as “a crocodile in a chiffon saree”—who struggles to launch her young daughter in the movie business. Luck By Chance opened to a warm critical response, though its financial income was modest. Critics were appreciative of Kapadia’s performance, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at Filmfare. Deepa Karmalkar from Screen characterised her as “gloriously bitchy”, while Avijit Ghosh of The Times of India believed that Kapadia had delivered “one of her most nuanced performances” in a character he found to be “a rare kind of Hindi film mother”, who is “hawk-eyed, tough as nails but vainglorious, and in a strange way, vulnerable as well”.
Kapadia played the small part of Salman Khan’s asthmatic mother in Dabangg (2010). With revenues of ₹2.13 billion (US$30 million) worldwide, the film was a huge commercial success, emerging as the most popular film of the year in India as well as the second-highest grossing Hindi film of all-time up to that point. Reviews for Kapadia were mixed, with Shubhra Gupta dismissing her as “laughably wrong” and Blessy Chettiar of DNA India likening her character to “the mothers in Hindi cinema of yore, self-sacrificing, torn between relationships, slightly over-the-top, likeable nevertheless. Tum Milo Toh Sahi, released the same year, was a romantic comedy in which she starred as Delshad Nanji, a Parsi woman in charge of an Irani café, who falls in love with a man played by Nana Patekar. Kapadia employed a Parsi accent for the role and, while preparing for it, visited several Irani cafés in Mumbai to understand their cultural basics and get into the mood of the character. The film opened to average reviews, but her performance received generally positive feedback, with several critics noting her chemistry with Patekar. Anupama Chopra, in a negative review, criticised her character, claiming it “veers into caricature”, but wrote that Kapadia “plays her with affection and energy and at least has some fun doing it”.
Kapadia’s only film of 2011 was Nikhil Advani’s Patiala House, a sports film revolving around cricket in which she was cast as Rishi Kapoor’s wife and her son in-law, Akshay Kumar’s mother. The role was small, with Times of India’s Nikhat Kazmi commenting that she “does end up a bit underutilised”. Kapadia was set to appear in her third non-Hindi and first Malayalam-language film, Bombay Mittayi in 2011, for which she started learning the language. She played the wife of a celebrated Ghazal singer, played by Amar Singh, on whose behest she was offered the part.
Kapadia collaborated with Homi Adajania twice more in 2012 and 2014, in Cocktail and Finding Fanny, respectively, to critical and commercial success. The romantic comedy Cocktail saw her play Saif Ali Khan’s loud Punjabi mother, Kavita Kapoor, a role to which Aniruddha Guha of DNA India referred as a “veritable treat”. Finding Fanny, a satirical road movie in which she played Rosalina “Rosie” Eucharistica, a woman who joins her late son’s widow (Deepika Padukone) on a road trip, earned her a fourth Best Supporting Actress nomination at Filmfare. Believing that Adajania is a director capable of bringing the best in her, she expressed interest in the film when she was exposed to the script while filming Cocktail. To look the part, she was required to wear a heavy prosthetic posterior. Anuj Kumar of The Hindu asserted that “it is Dimple who lends scars to this otherwise pretty-faced film as the lady whose fragile ego and frantic disposition often lead to funny results”. Similar thoughts were expressed in The New York Times, where Rachel Saltz wrote that Kapadia “inhabits and enhances her role” and, in turn, “steers clear of caricature and even milks some humor out of the unfunny script”.
Between these projects, she played the protagonist in the comedy What the Fish (2013). She starred as Sudha Mishra, an irate Delhi-based divorcee who begrudgingly entrusts her niece’s fiancé with the responsibility of taking care of her house while she is away visiting her son. Reviews of both the film and Kapadia’s work were mixed. The Times of India panned the film’s script for making “Kapadia’s tryst with comedy seem loud and forced”, and Raja Sen deemed her character “the most forgettable role of her career”. Sarita A. Tanwar of DNA India, on the other hand, felt Kapadia was “in top form” in “a rather audacious entertaining attempt”; similarly, Subhash K. Jha found What The Fish to be “a warm little concoction with pockets of endearing eccentricity and feyness”, and Kapadia—”delightfully over-the-top”.
For the rest of the decade, Kapadia returned to film only twice for two minor roles in the action comedies Welcome Back (2015) and Dabangg 3 (2019). She played a conwoman in Anees Bazmee’s Welcome Back along with an ensemble cast led by Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar. Mihir Fadnavis of Hindustan Times described her role as an “embarrassing, extended cameo”, but India Today called it a “laugh riot” and Rajeev Masand found Kapadia to be “droll”.Dabangg 3, the third instalment of what had become the Dabangg film series and a prequel of the first, saw her briefly reprise the role of Naina Devi after a four-year hiatus.
In her first film of the decade, Kapadia appeared alongside Irrfan Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in her fourth endeavor under Homi Adajania’s direction, the comedy-drama Angrezi Medium. A spiritual sequel to the 2017 film Hindi Medium, the film was theatrically released in India on 13 March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected its commercial performance due to the closing of the cinemas. Initial plans for a re-release were cancelled and it was made available digitally less than a month later. She played a strict store owner and Kapoor Khan’s mother, a role Vinayak Chakravorty, writing for Outlook, thought was “used to highlight loneliness among the aged” but believed she “could have done with a stronger role”; Karamvir Kamal of The Asian Chronicle mentioned her for playing her part “perfectly”. Kapadia will next star in Christopher Nolan’s spy thriller Tenet. Her screen test for the role was shot in 2019 by Adajania before filming for Angrezi Medium began.
Image and artistry
When Kapadia made her comeback to movies, she faced constant comparison to her Bobby days. According to Jyotika Virdi, author of the book The Cinematic Imagination, Kapadia’s trajectory is different from that of other female Hindi film stars, and she “turned every disadvantage to her advantage”. Virdi mentioned Kapadia’s forthright manner as having a major contribution to her career: “Speaking candidly to the press, she and the reporters plotted her life’s narrative from the innocent teenager snared into an impossible marriage to the emergence of a mature ‘woman with experience.'” Kapadia is known for her assertive and moody nature; during the making of Janbaaz (1986), director Feroz Khan remarked he had never met a woman with her levels of “pent-up aggression”. Journalist Bhawana Somaaya, who conducted a series of interviews with her during the 1980s, stated: “She’s a strange bundle of contradictions. Her moods change in a jiffy.” According to some critics, this approach has sometimes been at the cost of professional opportunities as “her unpredictable nature and moods have distanced many well wishers”. In reply to this, she said: “I am moody by nature. But I have never consciously hurt anyone.”
Virdi noted Kapadia for “fighting her way to the top” by committing to serious and challenging work, describing her parts in Aitbaar (1985), Kaash (1987) and Drishti (1990) as characters “where she drew from the well of her own experience”. Author Dinesh Raheja believed that Kapadia’s involvement in art films happened at a time when she was no longer willing to play the “pretty prop in hero-oriented films”, arguing that her new choices “honed Dimple’s talent for lending fine striations to complex emotions”.Speaking of the same, Mahesh Bhatt commended her for not turning into “a victim of her own success” by refusing to appear in films of strictly commercial value, namely “the money-making machine” in his words. According to Drishti (1990) director Govind Nihalani, Kapadia has a genuine interest in serious work that would challenge her talent and realise her potential. Similar sentiments were shared by Shashi Kapoor, who said she had always been eager to act in quality films. She said her interest in independent films was a conscious decision to experiment in different cinema and prove her abilities. She normally never seeks advice before committing to a project, which she admits has sometimes cultivated in wrong choices. She often willingly chooses to work with first-time directors, finding their enthusiasm and dedication beneficial to both the film and her performance.
Kapadia’s screen image has been characterized in light of her perceived beauty and sex appeal. The Times of India wrote in reference her role in Saagar: “Dimple was a vision of lush beauty; quite the forbidden fruit, rising from the ocean like Aphrodite emerging from the waves and surf.” Speaking of her post-comeback screen persona, critic Khalid Mohamed observed, “Her arsenal comprised, among other elements, expressive cognac eyes, a nuanced, resonating voice skilled in Hindustani dialogue delivery, easy body language, and that seductive toss of her auburn hair.” Mrinal Sen, who directed her in Antareen (1993), compared her to Sophia Loren and described her face as “a landscape of desolation”. Co-actor Anil Kapoor hailed her as “the most beautiful woman on screen since Madhubala”. According to Dinesh Raheja, Kapadia’s casting in Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and Leela (2002), in which she played middle-aged women who are the object of younger men’s desire, served as “a kind of tribute to her eternal beauty”.
While critics have been appreciative of her acting prowess, some have analysed it in relation to her appearance. Ranjan Das Gupta calls her “an instinctive actress, spontaneous and intelligent” who plays best “intense characters”, but he notes that her beauty is “her asset as well as limitation”. In 1988, Subhash K. Jha wrote that “besides her elastic and primeval looks,” she “possesses an inbuilt instinct for grasping characters at a level way beyond the surface”. While working with her on Kaash (1987), Mahesh Bhatt remarked that Kapadia had been through so much in her private life that she need not study method acting to play real women. Academic writers Madhu Kishwar and Ruth Vanita of the feminist magazine Manushi noted Kapadia for being unafraid to look less attractive for the benefit of convincingly expressing anguish and emotion. Following her success with Rudaali, a 1993 edition of Asiaweek reported that by this time Kapadia had long been “a critic’s darling”. M.L. Dhawan from The Tribune commented, “All those who have been following Dimple Kapadia’s career from Bobby, Lekin and Rudaali will assert that she is more talented than glamorous.” Kapadia has described herself as a “spontaneous actor who is guided by instinct” and—on another occasion—”a competent actress yet to deliver her best”.