Meet 10 Screen Icons of Hindi Cinema

The actors that defined an industry, from Nargis to Fearless Nadia

By Google Arts & Culture

Pran in Ram aur Shyam (1967) by MoDEOriginal Source: MoDE

Hindi Cinema is an international industry, with a deep history and a vibrant present. Scroll on to meet some of its iconic on-screen stars. Does your favorite appear on the list?

11 O'Clock Indian Cinema Poster (1948) by Designed by Sona Art, Printed by 'Uni-Arts' Litho Works for Basant Pictures, Bambay, IndiaPowerhouse Museum

Fearless Nadia

Hunterwali has gone down in history as one of the earliest Indian films to feature a woman lead. Its star, the Australian-Indian Mary Ann Evans, became known by her stage name, Fearless Nadia, such was her pioneering spirit.

Film still of Fearless Nadia in Hunterwali (1935)Original Source: Homi Wadia (Producer)

With a background in the circus, Fearless Nadia was a born performer and her on-screen stunts became legendary. Alongside her star turn as the masked vigilante in Hunterwali, she had many other iconic roles, including a star turn in a James Bond spoof called Khiladi.

Film still for an unknown film featuring actress Meena Kumari by UnknownMuseum of Art & Photography

Meena Kumari

In a career spanning 30 years and more than 90 films, Meena Kumari also managed to fit in being a poet, all before her tragic death at the age of 38.

Photographic still featuring Meena Kumari and Sachin, from the Hindi film, Majhli Didi (1967) by UnknownMuseum of Art & Photography

Widely considered one of Hindi cinema's greatest actors, she began as a child star and later became known as 'The Tragedy Queen' for her portrayal of doomed heroines.

Photographic film still featuring Madhubala (Unknown, circa late 20th Century) by UnknownMuseum of Art & Photography


With leading roles in dramas such as Neel Kamal (1947) and horror films like Mahal (1949), Madhubala was already well established before booming to international fame in comedies like Mr and Mrs '55 (1955) and Half Ticket (1962).

Film still of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in Mughal-E-Azam (1960)Original Source: Shapoorji Pallonji (Producer)

Her role as Anarkali, the lover of a Mughal Prince, in the 1960 epic, Mighal-e-Azham (which became the highest-grossing Indian film ever on release) earned great acclaim and a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.

Film still for unknown film featuring actress Nargis by UnknownMuseum of Art & Photography


A politician-turned-actor, Nargis Dutt was at home in every genre from literary drama to rambunctious comedy.


After her breakthrough role in Andaz (1949), she became one of Hindi cinema's leading ladies, starring in Raj Kapoor films and notably in Mehboob Khan's Oscar-nominated Mother India (1957). Her son, Sanjay, is a huge contemporary star of Indian Cinema.

Still of Dev Anand (1946 - 2011)Museum of Design Excellence

Dev Anand

They don't come much bigger than Dev Anand. His 60-year career boasts over 100 films, and a host of awards, including the government-awarded Padma Bhushan.

Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman in CID (1956)Original Source: Guru Dutt (Producer)

Anand exploded onto the scene in the megahit, Baazi (1951), and his fast-talking delivery and signature nod became staples of Hindi films. He directed and starred in his final film, Chargesheet, in 2011.

Photographic still of Asha Parekh from the Hindi film, Bharosa (1963) by UnknownMuseum of Art & Photography

Asha Parekh

Since her debut as a child star in Maa (1952), Asha Parekh has grown into an icon of film and fashion. In 1959, she appeared in Nasir Hussain's Dil Deke Dekho, which vaunted her to stardom.

Asha Parekh - Photographic stillsCinemaazi

This began a fruitful collaboration with Hussain, who cast her in six more films. Over her career she has starred opposite actors such as Dev Anand and won several awards.

Raj Kapoor in “Mera Naam Joker” (1970) by Unidentified photographerFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Raj Kapoor

Sometimes referred to as the 'Charlie Chaplin of Hindi Cinema', Kapoor was a unique and vastly influential star in his own right. His iconic performance in Awaara (1951) was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top-Ten Greatest Performances of All Time in World Cinema.

Photographic film still for 'Shree 420' featuring actor Raj Kapoor by UnknownMuseum of Art & Photography

First known for his tramp-like characters, Kapoor was also a director and producer, and his films have competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Not just Indian Cinema's 'Greatest Showman', he was also one of its most influential creators.

Film poster for 'Vishwanath' by Royal Prints (printer)Museum of Art & Photography


Simply put, Pran was a legendary villain. He was such an intense and effective on-screen bad guy that the popularity of 'Pran' as a name for newborn kids dropped significantly during the years of his career.

Pran in Ram aur Shyam (1967) by MoDEOriginal Source: MoDE

Though his characters explored the dark side of the human condition (he was even named 'Villain of the Millenium' by Stardust Magazine), Pran is remembered as a respected and beloved star of Hindi Cinema.

Zeenat Aman (1970s)Museum of Design Excellence

Zeenat Aman

Superstar model Zeenat Aman won the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant in 1970. That same year, she launched her acting career with a supporting role in The Evil Within. Since then, she's racked up an impressive catalogue of screen credits and made her stage debut in 2004.

Zeenat Aman in Qurbani (1980) (2022) by MoDEOriginal Source: MoDE

Known for her great beauty and screen-presence, Aman rode controversy and intense media-attention to forge a long and glittering career, which continues to this day.

Zohra SegalCinemaazi

Zohra Sehgal

Dancer, choreographer, and superstar actor, Zohra Seghal might be known to Western audiences for her role (at 90 years old!) in the British hit, Bend It Like Beckham (2002) or the British TV shows, Tandoori Nights (1985-87) and The Jewel In the Crown (1984).

Zohra Segal and Prithviraj Kapoor: The Novel StagesCinemaazi

Before this, though, she had a great and storied career in Hindi Cinema as a dancer and actor throughout the 1940s. An icon across generations and continents!

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