2021: The year of relaunched talents

While the year remained sinfully bereft of striking debutants, some actors who were poorly launched and/or did not make positive first impressions earlier, succeeded in making a belated impact

Representative photo
Representative photo
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Subhash K Jha

While the year remained sinfully bereft of striking debutants, some actors who were poorly launched and/or did not make positive first impressions earlier, succeeded in making a belated impact. Here are the late bloomers of 2021:

1. Gourav Adarsh In White Tiger: After a striking performance in the Manoj Bajpai starrer Rukh which no one saw in 2017, Gourav was jobless. He was ready to do anything connected with cinema. He just wanted to be occupied and make some money. At that time Gourav got a call from casting director Tess Joseph. He had reached out to her earlier to let her know of his existence.

As luck would have it, he was called for the audition of The White Tiger. Gourav’s only motivation for doing the audition was to be called for more auditions. That he would actually get the part of Balram was a thought that didn’t even cross my mind. He wanted to give a good audition. He did 2-3 scenes. Says Gourav, “Maine audition de diya. I felt nothing about it. After a while, Tess called to say I was shortlisted. That didn’t mean much. I’ve been shortlisted for 100 roles. Out of which I’ve got 15 roles. So an audition was nothing to celebrate. After the director, Ramin Bharani joined in the third round of auditions. I began to get hopeful. I bought a shirt and trousers from the station for 100-150 rupees and wore them for my auditions. They would constantly tell me there were other actors under consideration for Balram’s part.

But strangely I never saw anyone else. Sometimes I felt they were just fooling me about others, that they had already made up their mind to cast me. Before director Ramin Bahrani left for LA he told me I was under serious consideration. The first thing I did on getting the role was to find someone who would take me to a village in Jharkhand. We had to use five modes of transportation to get there. I requested him not to tell anyone in the village I was an actor. I got more than three months to prepare. Where do I get so much time to prepare over here? If one is a great actor like Naseer, Nawaz or Irrfan one can prepare in no time. A mediocre actor like me needs time. It’s like the brainy student who crams at the last minute and scores 90 per cent and the student who slogs the whole year and gets 50 per cent.”

2. Shahab Ali in Family Man 2: He had done some nondescript roles earlier and would have vanished into oblivion if co-directors Raj and DK had not rediscovered Shahab Ali for The Family Man. Shahab had a small but substantial role as the terrorist Sajid Ghani, Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s love interest. He got the role through an audition at Mukesh Chhabra casting company. After graduating from the National School of Drama, Delhi, Shahab used to play the role of Salim in the Broadway Style Musical Show "Mughal-e-Azam".He was asked to send in a self–test for The Family Man.

Then an audition at the co-directors' office which was followed by a meeting with the directors Raj-DK and he got the part. The co-directors always thought that Shahab was a Kashmiri. Shahab is not Kashmiri. 3. Karma Tapka In The Last Hour: We don’t get too many actors from the North East. And the only one who has succeeded in Bollywood is Danny Denzongpa. Karma Tapka is special. You sense it from the first frame of Amazon Prime’s supernatural thriller where he plays a mysterious shaman who connects with dead people. What could easily have become a borderline-bizarre occultist oddity is in Tapka’s personality, a man who believes in another world. We should see a lot more of this actor.

3. Karma Tapka In The Last Hour: We don’t get too many actors from the North East. And the only one who has succeeded in Bollywood is Danny Denzongpa. Karma Tapka is special. You sense it from the first frame of Amazon Prime’s supernatural thriller where he plays a mysterious shaman who connects with dead people. What could easily have become a borderline-bizarre occultist oddity is in Tapka’s personality, a man who believes in another world. We should see a lot more of this actor.


4. Paramvir Cheema in Tabbar: It’s not easy to make an impact in a series that is navigated by the talents of Pawan Malhotra. Semi-newcomer Paramvir Cheema holds his own as a conflicted Sikh cop who has nothing to lose except his self-confidence in a case that piles up a wealth of distrust and betrayal. It’s a complex role, and Cheema has played it with incredible conviction. Ajay Rai of JAR Pictures who has produced Tabbar and who spotted this struggler feels the future of the digital space depends on new talent as the established names on OTT are already acting pricey.

5. Vaani Kapoor in Chandigarh Kare Ashiqui: Nothing she did earlier has prepared us for what Vaani has done in the audacious role of a transgender in this film. Vani Kapoor is a revelation. Sinking into her meaty character of a woman with a gender disorder Ms Kapoor makes Maanvi vulnerable yet strong. Beautiful yet confused. Vani's Maanvi is heartbreaking. Before this breakout performance, the only filmmaker who seemed to have faith in Vaani is Aditya Chopra. His belief in her talent has finally been authenticated.

6. Ayush Sharma in Antim: The Final truth: After a disastrous start with Loveyatri in 2018, Salman Khan's brother-in-law bounced back in a miraculously made-over avatar as a gangster in Pune learning the pitfalls of easy money and illicit power the hard way. Ayush's body language and dialogue delivery showed a lot of rehearsed discipline. He stood his ground in the confrontation scenes with his superstar Jeejaji Salman. Saala, yeh to hero ban gaya!

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