10 Theatre Actresses Who Rocking The Silver Screen

Want to find out which of your favourite movie actresses started out as theatre artists? Below is a list of such actresses.

Want to find out which of your favourite screen artists started as theatre actresses?

With contemporary movies like Brahmastra and Pathaan, we are seeing the growing addition of advanced technology such as VFX and 3D play. It is strange to think that a huge industry began from the humble theatre stage.

But technology is no patch for raw, up-close acting.

Who are these theatre actresses rocking the silver screen?

Despite advancements, theatre remains a venerated form of media in India. A lot of our favourite and most familiar faces in movies started as theatre actors. It is only proper to acknowledge their continuing contribution to Indian cinema.

Shabana Azmi

Shabana Azmi SFU honorary degree (cropped).jpg

Shabana Azmi debuted back in 1974 and started her craft in theatre. She continued to gain stage power and progress and performed plays like Safed Kundali, Tumhari Amrita, and A Doll’s House.

Today she has more than 120 movies in different languages and has won five National Film Awards and five Filmfare Awards, Padma Shri award in 1988. She was praised as a “woman in cinema” at the 30th International Film Festival of India.

Seema Pahwa

Theatre actresses

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Seema Pahwa worked as a theatre actor she worked with the Delhi-based theatre group Sambhav, before moving to Mumbai in 1994 to work in films and continue her work in television and theatre.

She gained prominence for her role in the popular soap opera Hum Log. She went on to act in the serial Kasamh Se, produced by Ekta Kapoor. Furthermore, she went on to win the Star Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2015 Screen Awards for the movie Ankhon Dekhi.

Sheeba Chaddha

Theatre actresses

Sheeba Chaddha developed an interest in theatre and undertook theatre workshops. She acted in blockbusters like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Delhi 6, Luck by Chance, Talaash and Dr G. A short film she acted in, Prakata Het Yad in gibberish, won the Audience Choice award in the Short Films category at River to River Festival.

Seema Biswas

Film Actress Seema Biswas, at the Press conference on Indian Premier Cinema ‘Red Alert’ during the 40th International Film Festival (IFFI-2009), at Panaji, Goa on November 28, 2009.jpg

A film and theatre actor from Assam, Seema Biswas skyrocketed in fame from her role as Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen. She also won the National Film Award for Best Actress for the role.

She won the Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for Khamoshi. Her other movies include Bhoot, Vivah, and Half Girlfriend. This amazing actress has been a part of many television shows and has done her graduation from the National School of Drama.

Ratna Pathak Shah

Ratna Pathak at DIFF 2016.jpg

Ratna Pathak is popular for her work as an actor and director in Hindi theatre, television, and films. Starting in plays, she was inspired by fellow artists Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri Ratna. She later joined the National School of Drama.

Her popularity rose due to her performance as Maya Sarabhai in Sarabhai vs Sarabhai. Ratna Pathak has also appeared in many films like Khoobsurat, Golmaal 3 and Lipstick Under My Burkha, Thappad and many more. She is today known as one of the theatre icons of India.

Rohini Hattangadi

Rohini Hattangadi in 2010.jpg

Rohini Hattangadi started her career on the Marathi stage. She is known for her acting in Hindi, Telugu and Marathi cinema. An alumnus of the National School of Drama, she mostly worked in theatre.

Rohini made her film debut in Arvind Desai’s 1978 Ajeeb Dastaan and was later recognized for her performance in movies Arth, Party, and Saaransh. Today, she has acted in more than 80 feature films and has produced over 150 plays.

Kalki Koechlin

File:Kalki Koechlin at the 2017 Lakme Fashion Week.jpg

Actor and writer Kalki Koechlin studied drama at Goldsmiths, University of London and worked with a local theatre company. She debuted in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D in 2000 and has since acted in some of India’s highest-grossing commercial hits such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.

Nimrat Kaur

Nimrat Kaur snapped attending the Lakme Fashion Week 2018 (11).jpg

Nimrat Kaur started as a print model and went on to act in theatre. She held immense stage presence and appeared in many of her college’s, Shri Ram College of Commerce’s stage plays at Delhi University.

After shifting to Mumbai, Nimrat began working as a theatre actress, appearing in plays such as Baghdad Wedding (2012), All About Women, Homeland, and Red Sparrow, working with directors like Sunil Shanbag and Manav Kaul.

Nandita Das

Nandita Das at the screening of Gattu in 2012 (01).jpg

Renowned actor and director, Nandita Das has acted in over 40 feature films in over ten different languages. She began her acting career with the street theatre group Jana Natya Manch and made her directorial debut with Firaaq. She wrote and acted in many plays like Heads Ya Tails, Mother, and Between the Lines.

Radhika Apte

Theatre actresses

Radhika Apte has worked in multiple language movies. She was associated with Mohit Takalkar’s theatre troupe Aasakta. She was especially noted in the play Bombay Black, and her name was suggested to director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury.

Roy went on to cast her in his movie, Antaheen. She has acted in many Marathi plays including Tu, Purnaviram, and Matra Ratra.

Final Thoughts

As we make strides on the technological front, it is surreal to think that still, the only aspect of a film that has people as a stronghold is pure acting. When you get up on a stage with only the strobe light as an accessory, is when true talent shines.

We laud these theatre actresses who maintained the acting chops and simplicity of a theatre stage and carried their talent to the screen. It is important to acknowledge their contribution, whether in main or supporting roles, to bolstering a story and painting a truly artistic film experience.


This article on Theatre Actresses has been written with help of Shivani Bhatnagar of the Women’s Web Social Media Team.

Image source: Wikipedia, edited on CanvaPro

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