Meet 10 Women Who Won Padma Award This Year For Their Work in Art and Entertainment

Art forms have a huge bearing on society. In fact, art mirrors society as it was and is. Hence, an artist’s creation is a chronicle of events in history, a power than transcends time and generations. Naturally, it is important that such artist is recognised. 

As India celebrated its 71st Republic Day, the government paid respect to those who are helping build a better India by presenting them with the Padma awards. (Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, and Padma Shri are the second, third, and fourth highest civilian awards after Bharat Ratna in India.)  

Out of 141 Padma awardees this year, 34 are women, of whom 10 have been honoured for their works in art and entertainment. Find out more about these 10 women who have dedicated their life for art, and shape the narrative of India as it is.

Padma Shri Indira PP Bora

Known to the world as Guru Indira P P Bora, the 71-year-old is an internationally acclaimed dancer well-versed in traditional dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Sattriya. Born in Assam, she has popularised her choreographies based on poems and songs by Rabintranath Tagore, Jyotiprasad Agarwala, among others.  

She founded a training institute called Kalabhumi in Guwahati in 1982. Apart from stage performance, Indira has also collaborated with scholars in conducting research and organising seminars and workshops.

Indira was conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1996.

Padma Shri Lalitha and Saroja Chidambaram 

Carnatic vocalists C Lalitha and C Saroja, better known as the Bombay Sisters, started gaining popularity in the 1960s. 

Brought up in Bombay, the duo came to Chennai when they won government scholarship to study at the Central College of Music where they learnt under the late singer and producer Govinda Rao for 50 years.

The sister have sung in Telegu, Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi, and Sanskrit, and  have won many awards including MS Subbulakshmi award and Kalaimamani by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 2019 and 2009, respectively.

Ekta Kapoor

Television and film producer and director Ekta Kapoor has made her way to all of Indian household through soap operas and films over the last three decades. 

Daughter of actors Jeetendra and Shobha Kapoor, the 44-year-old has steered the growth of Balaji Telefilms (production house). Ekta has received many awards including Most Successful Film and Television Producer by the National Media Award For Asian Academy Of Film And Television (in 2012). She was also recognised by Fortune India as the Most Powerful Business Woman of the Year last year.

Padma Shri Kangana Ranaut

Indian actress Kangana Ranaut shows her national award for best actress after receiving it in India, India, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Ranaut won the award for her performance in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

After an awe-inspiring debut in quite an unconventional role for a heroine, in Gangster (2006), actor Kangana Ranaut has made her way to critics’ and audience’s heart over the last 10 years with her supreme acting skills. Her roles in Queen (2013) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) have fetched her national awards for best actor, among many others. 

The 32-year-old actor’s journey from a village in Himachal Pradesh to making it as the ‘Queen of Bollywood’ is an inspiration enough.

Padma Shri Vajira Chitrasena 

Sri Lankan dancer Vajira Chitrasena is known for strengthening relation between India and Sri Lanka by promoting the Kandyan and Odissi dance forms. Along with her husband Chitrasena, who is considered the doyen of classical dance, she has travelled between India and their home country multiple times between 1959 and 1998.

At 87, she continues to head the Chitrasena-Vajira Dance foundation in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The legendary dancer has also received the Deshabandhu award, the third highest national honour in Sri Lanka. 

Padma Shri Shanti Jain

Poet, writer, and lyricist Shanti Jain believes literature can have positive impact on society and that everybody should write for spiritual peace. Shanti, 75, has authored more than 20 popular books including Ashma and Chaiti which is about semi-classical songs in India. Based in Patna, Shanti has the Sangeet Prabhakar degree in music and has performed on Akashvani and Doordarshan.

Shanti earlier served as the Head of Department of Sanskrit at HD Jain College in Arrah, Bihar.

Padma Shri Sarita Joshi

Veteran television actor Sarita Joshi started acting when she was just seven, to financially support her mother, after her father’s death. But from her debut in television series Titliyan to iconic roles like Godavari Thakkar in Baa Bahoo Aur Baby, and several Gujurati films, Vadodara-based Sarita has become a household name in India.

Sarita’s contributions to the Indian entertainment scene have won her the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Acting in Gujarati in 1988, Indo-American Society Award for Excellence in 1998, and Lifetime Achievement Award for Gujarati Theatre by Transmedia in 2007.

Padma Shri Moozhikkal Pankajakshi

Moozhikkal Pankajakshi is credited for keeping alive the traditional puppetry art of Kerala called the Nokkuvidya Pavakkali. In this form of puppetry, the performer balances a stick on their upper lips and pull the strings of the puppet.

The rare art form was a tradition passed on to Pankajakshi by her grandparents who used to perform it at homes and temples. 

Her family supports during her performance by adding music and rhythm. The 81-year-old has now trained her granddaughter who showed interest in the practice. 

Padma Shri Kalee Shabi Mahaboob and Sheik Mahaboob Subani

Known as the ‘Nadaswawram couple,’ this duo is famous as the Muslim couple who plays Hindu religious songs beautifully. 

The couple who are disciples of Nadaswaram exponent Sheik Chinna Moulana, exemplifies the true spirit of diversity in India and believe that all religions are one.