2015 was a great year for Pakistani actresses, and a lot of them performed exceptionally. It is surely a liberating moment for the actresses in Pakistani Cinema - a time when they can take risks to explore new horizons.

Take a bow, ladies.

The five women that I have singled out to appreciate played characters that were genuinely heart-wrenching. Here are the bold, yet confident ladies leading the class of 2015:

3. Resham - Swaarangi

Out of all the things Phida Hussain got truly right in Swaarangi was the pitch-perfect casting. While some characters may have been half-baked, but the actors playing those characters brought a sense of reality to their respective roles.

Resham, as a grieving wife of a drug addict, gave an achingly vulnerable and devastatingly believable performance. One of the performances that can stay with you even after you have left the theatre. However, the Film’s maudlin script didn’t let the film to rise above a certain level, but what little Resham could do as an actor, she shone in perfectly.

2. Saba Qamar - Manto

One of my most favourite performances is Saba Qamar’s portrayal of Madam Noor Jahan in Manto. The actress portrayed a legendary singer, bringing back the delight and charm of her personality with poise on screen. It was surprisingly bewildering experience to see Qamar showing a lovely lilt in her voice and enveloping herself as a person not taking petty things too seriously, which is in complete contrast with the film’s lead protagonist, Sarmad Khoosat.

As I mentioned in my review, Qamar plays a very difficult role with aplomb, portraying Madam Noor Jahan is not an easy job. And it is this buoyant charm and a poignant ease in Qamar’s personality that keeps the film in control. Super, super.

1. Nimra Bucha - Manto

I must applaud Nimra Bucha for taking up the role of Manto’s muse in Manto.

With this performance, Bucha stands in the league of top performers in the industry today. It is a character that demands the actor to show vulnerability with nuanced perfection, and Bucha does that with so much ease that I am left with no words to laud her daunting performance. Her work in Manto is both though-provoking and imaginative - a role that sets a benchmark for the younger actresses, including the ones on this list.

However, it is also Sarmad Khoosat’s finesse through which he has integrated Bucha’s role in this film with intelligence and discretion, making it a compelling and transcendent achievement for Bucha.

Special Mentions

The audience must possess a heightened degree of intellect to comprehend the complexity of Samiya Mumtaz’s Palwasha in Moor. It was heartening for me to see Mumtaz step into a zone that allows her to be more subtle and delicate in front of the camera, as an actor. However, Moor might not be a film about Mumtaz, but her intensely moving eyes and hard-hitting dialogue delivery are my biggest takeaways from Jami’s drama.

While appreciating the talent of our actors, we must not forget the equally soul-stirring performance of Amna Ilyas in Sabiha Sumar’s Good Morning Karachi. This one allowed Ilyas to bring a genuine sweetness to the table of best performers. Her challenging portrayal of Rafina stands as one of the biggest highlights of 2015 for me.