If I say 2020 was not a good year for new acting talent in Bollywood, you will turn around to ask, what was the year good for? But seriously, there were some who made an impact beyond the ordinary. Here is my pick from the bright bunch.
1.Pratik Gandhi: A recognizable name in Gujarati cinema and theatre, Pratik’s debut as Harshad Mehta in Hansal Mehta’s Scam 1992 wasn’t supposed to make the impact that it did. What made him such a household name? The Everyman quality! Pratik wasn’t trying to be a star. He played a character. He stayed there. The fact that he was an unknown face in Hindi gave him an immediate edge as Harshad. Pratik has gone from mob to mobbed in one swift stroke. Destiny.
2. Alaya F: Once upon a time, before Covid struck, a lovely girl named Alaya, not to be confused with Alaya, made her striking debut as Saif Ali Khan’s illegitimate daughter in Jawaani Jaaneman. There is something quietly arresting about this star kid. She is eloquent expressive and confident. Chic poised and wise beyond her tender years. She has a long road ahead.
3. Roshan Mathew: Whatever one’s quibbles with Anurag Kashyap’s cinema, there is no denying the fact that he has an eye for new talent. Roshan, a brilliant Malayali actor played Sayami Kher’s wastrel husband in Kashyap’s Choked with such empathy that he immediately proved here was an actor who knows the chops. I can’t wait to see what he does next in Hindi cinema.
4. Surya Sharma: Not many know him as yet. But make no mistake he is destined for stardom. In the excellent web series Undekhi Surya plays the kind of ruthless amoral sprucedup lout who brings a bad name to money. As Rinku (ironically wimpish name for someone so brutal) presides over the narrative at though it was inherited property. Sharma is absolutely chilling in the way he normalizes crime and treats women like vassals, and vessels. He nails the character and gives the series a seriously breathless spin. Watch out for the Surya Namaskar.
5. Sanjana Sanghi: Though she did bit roles earlier, Sanjana made her debut as a leading lady in Sushant Singh Rajput’s farewell film Dil Bechara. To play a dying girl with pipes running out of your nose in your first film is hardly anyone’s idea of a dream role. Sanjana made her presence felt.
6.Prit Kamani: Not many saw him in a Netflix flick called Maska. Kamani plays Rumi, heir to a crumbling Irani café, with a sense of melancholic innocence. He is ambitious but not quite clued-in enough to support his ambitions. In one hilarious sequence he walks into a film audition stark naked because it’s the role of a man caught with his pants down. This chap is way too earnest and roast-worthy. But Rumi is kind generous and compassionate. Kamani is able to convey all of this. It’s quite a debut performance.
7. Aditi Subedi: In Baba Azmi’s Mee Raqsam this chit of a girl played Mariam, a Muslim girl from a conservative family who decides to do something forbidden. Learn Bharat Natyam. It’s hard to believe that Aditi had absolutely no experience in acting or in dancing. She is a natural-born.
8. Shardul Bhardwaj: As the gentle compassionate auto rickshaw driver in Nitya Menon’s Chand Mubarak (in the Unpaused anthology) Shardul brings to his part a kind of empathy and understanding that is rarely seen. He was sweet-tempered but not cloying. Rest assured, we will see a lot more of him in 2022. Covid and God willing.