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The wave of new talent sweeping Hindi cinema will revitalise an industry that was star-driven for too long

There was a time when Bollywood was all about the stars and superstars. Ninety per cent of all popular films featured faces that were in the news or ones that would guarantee humungous box-office openings.

That started changing a few years ago when the film industry began opening its doors to new talent. Yes, the audience still revels in well-made, big-banner, big-budget, superstar-driven films but, along with that, the industry is making way for new talent.

This year, we will see 20 new faces making their debut in Bollywood. These newcomers include a healthy mix of star kids, newbies not related to the industry, TV actors and regional actors tossing their hat into the Hindi cinema ring. This week saw the entry of Banita Sandhu in Shoojit Sircar’s October and next week will see debutant Ishaan Khatter and South actress Malavika Mohanan trying to make a good first impression with Beyond The Clouds.

Apart from these newbies, we also have Janhvi Kapoor in Dhadak, Sara Ali Khan in Simmba, Dulquer Salmaan and Mithila Palkar in Karwan, Karan Deol in Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, Tara Suataria and Ananya Pandey in Student Of The Year 2, Aayush Sharma and Warina Hussain in Loveratri, and many others.

While newcomers infuse a breath of fresh air into our films and increase the talent pool, casting a debutant is always a risk, especially if it is a big project. This week, we asked producers, directors and writers for their opinion on this change in Bollywood.

Mukesh Bhatt, Producer

Having so many fresh faces stepping into the Hindi film industry this year is a welcome change. It is very noble on the part of filmmakers to take the decision to launch and invest in new faces for their films. Fresh faces always have a tendency to draw fresh content; it encourages the makers to explore different kinds of subjects. Though the stars have their own fan base, the audience wants to concentrate more on the value of the story or the subject.

Actors, writers, directors, singers and music directors and every other professional will benefit only when they are prepared to let fresh talent make their way into the industry. And, for its very survival, it is very important to constantly infuse an element of freshness into the industry.

Debutants do not bring the baggage of their past work and come in with a new frame of mind. Since they are at an early stage in their careers, they are enthusiastic and strive to achieve excellence through their performance. This only contributes to the films they are a part of and in turn, this benefits the industry. The audience has become more intelligent; while everybody idolises their heroes, they also balance that by looking for interesting content and fresh faces. 

Apoorva Mehta, CEO, Dharma Productions

Indian cinema has grown tremendously and has introduced many fresh faces over the years. Given the number of films we make, there is a great demand for quality actors but their availability is limited. This means the supply-and-demand chain is lopsided. We, as a production house, have launched different talent in the past including a pool of directors and aim to continue doing the same.

I believe, bringing in fresh talent into the film ecosystem helps us create greater value for the film business as a whole. I wouldn’t deny the risks, such as the new actors not being received well, but there is also the possibility of creating a superstar for the industry. After the debutants prove their mettle, production houses across the country can make bigger films with these new actors.

Nitesh Tiwari, Writer-Director

There have always been avenues to tell all kinds of stories and they have opened up even more in the last few years, thanks to an overwhelming audience response to content-driven cinema. In that scenario, having more talent in the industry is very heartening. It empowers creators by giving them more options to choose from.

Dinesh Vijan, Producer-Director

I think, in the new, emerging India, the youth is one of the strongest movie-going audiences. With fresh talent coming in, you can tell a lot of stories that are relevant to the youth, stories which they connect with purely because they see themselves in those characters. Obviously, we have more actors than Hollywood does but we also make more movies; we can attempt varied stories. Today, we cannot tell unconvincing stories. All the top production houses are leading the way by launching newcomers. (Sajid) Nadiadwala launched Tiger (Shroff), Karan (Johar) launched three faces which are so relevant now. I think Gen Next is the future.

Prernaa Arora, Producer

Bollywood is going to have a pool of fresh faces and I am amazed to see so many prepped to prove their mark in the film industry. Casting is an integral part of a film and everyone wants the best actor/actress possible to be associated with their film. As a producer, I think working with new faces is always a risk because you are not really sure whether the debutant can pull off their role. But, having said that, they bring energy, freshness and newness with them and are also ready to experiment and learn in the process. In the end, it’s the script that decides who fits the role as there are a variety of characters that have different layers and shades. So, if a certain actor fits the role, even if he or she is new, then I wouldn’t mind working with them.

Anil Sharma, Producer-Director

Things are changing in the film industry. With the youth becoming the largest population, young stories are being written more and more. Also, young actors are needed for certain stories and it works in their favour as they don’t come with an image or with baggage; they bring freshness and can be moulded according to the requirements of the character.

With more than 80 films releasing every year, and big actors doing only one or two films a year, we need more actors. Actors like Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Shraddha Kapoor and Tiger Shroff have created a niche for themselves and have proved their mettle at the box office. From the names that are being introduced this year, all of them look promising with each one having a very different personality. They are choosing their films carefully and I am sure people are eager to watch them. I wish all of them a great innings in the industry.

Rumi Jaffery, Writer

It is really great that our industry has become so big. It is a global industry. People are making so many kinds of films, good subjects are being written but some films don’t get made because one doesn’t get the stars’ dates. And, by the time you do, the subject is no longer interesting or viable. So, it is a good thing that so many newcomers are coming into the industry.

I have written the debut films of many actors. I wrote Suniel Shetty’s first film; in Aishwarya Rai’s first film, I wrote the dialogue. I had no idea that so many newcomers would be coming this year! It is indeed good news. Tiger Shroff made an impact with his first film Heropanti. I am looking forward to Suniel’s son Ahan, Chikki Pandey’s son Ahaan and Shahid’s brother Ishaan. I believe these boys can act well and will become stars.

For a writer, it is a challenge writing for a star as well as for a newcomer. While writing for Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan or Akshay Kumar, it is your responsibility to maintain the USP of the star and not disappoint their fans. With a newcomer making their debut, a writer and a director are under pressure to give a hit. You need a new story, action, romance, and all the elements that will create interest and a buzz among the audience.

 Ritesh Shah, Writer

I have already seen some of the work of these debutants and I think it is phenomenal. We need more talented young people and I hope the audience also encourages them so that we can tell more stories which reach people. Writing isn’t easy but casting a new face automatically brings believability to a character, for the audience. They think the newbie is the character. A uniquely written character would work with anyone, though – Aamir Khan as an aged, overweight ex-wrestler in Dangal and Mr Bachchan in Paa, for example.

Rajat Arora, Writer

I am so glad that we have a new India where youngsters are going above and beyond to achieve their dreams. And not only in the film industry, even at the Commonwealth Games currently underway, so many young people are doing so well and making India proud. As far as Bollywood is concerned, it is great to see these new faces provide freshness to the industry with their talent. It is amazing to see that so many avenues have opened up for new actors. Not only filmmakers but the audience too is making way for them.

Today, even the stars are trying new things, which is a boon for the film industry. It is better to write a character without a specific actor in mind, like it used to be for a star. These days, not only debutants but established stars also prefer experimenting with their roles. The industry has become big enough to accommodate all kinds of actors, established names as well as newcomers, which is a great thing. 

Deepak Mukut, Producer, Soham Rockstar Entertainment

Ironically, we have only a handful of actors who are saleable and can bring in a mass crowd, and movie consumption is increasing in a phenomenal way, nowadays. Hence, we need more talent. I always welcome new talent as they come with new energy and no baggage. Of course, there is always a risk when you launch new talent but big box office hits were never made without taking risks.

Leena Yadav, Director

All new talent is welcome in the movie industry. The coming of many fresh faces gives greater variety to the narratives of the films being made and also expands the casting choices for filmmakers.

Milap Zaveri, Writer-Director

It is exciting and great that so many newcomers are making their debut in the industry this year. While we love all our established stars, we must remember that they were also new at one point. Someone spotted their talent and today they are stars. Similarly, I hope these newcomers prove to be the stars of tomorrow.

I cast Aisha (Sharma) in Satyamev Jayate because when she tested for the film, she was very confident. I thought she was a very strong actress, not just someone who looks good. And we needed someone with no image for that role. That’s why we were looking for a new girl. The fact that she is Neha’s sister was not a factor in choosing her.

I hope all these newcomers make a mark. It gives more options to filmmakers and the audiences also. Certain roles need star power to pull off. What Salman sir does in his films, a newcomer will not be able to do. He already has the love of the audience, so when he does something larger than life, they applaud and clap. Similarly, certain roles need a fresh face because you want to take people by surprise. If I cast a well-known star in a role which is supposed to shock the audience, they will probably guess that there is more to this role or character in the film.

Sometimes, the script demands a fresh face, like in a young love story, like Dhadak, a remake of Sairat, which has Janhvi and Ishaan. The actors of Sairat took us by surprise as we had never seen them before. I am sure Ishaan and Janhvi will have the same effect. In my film, I already have John Abraham and Manoj Bajpayee, who are established actors. The film is already being carried on the shoulders of John and Manoj sir, so it is easier to cast a new girl; it is not too much of a risk. Your heavy lifting is being done by established stars.

For movies like Dhadak, it is a risk; it is a remake of a Marathi blockbuster; it is from Karan Johar, who launched newcomers with great success in Student of the Year. When making a film with a star, expectations are higher and with newcomers, there are no expectations. At the end of the day, it is about a good product, with a star or with a newcomer.

Anand Tiwari, Director

Cinema is one of those fields that have constantly evolved over the years. Cinema actually mirrors and sometimes even takes culture forward. Another reason for such an influx of talent is the way content is being consumed by the youth. They are definitely the target audience for studio and independent films. The youth is leading the way in terms of the content that is made. And, when you are addressing the youth, you want to get actors, even stars, who will be relatable to them; people who will inspire them to say that I could be that person too. That is why we are seeing an influx of new faces.

Since our target audience is the youth, we are giving them new faces that they aspire to be and latch on to as their stars as opposed to faces they are familiar with. That is a paradigm shift that has been happening for a while. But, 2018 is going to be a big year for fresh faces. As a content person, as a writer-director, I believe the more we move towards content being king, which determines how many people watch our films, the better we will get as an industry. So, this move will only help content. This means, you can rely not only on the 20 faces that people will come and watch your content for, but there will be 30 or 40 or 50 faces.

The dependency on specific actors and specific stars will reduce and people will watch content for what it is. Last year, for instance, all the films that were successful weren’t star-driven. There were films that did well because of their content. So, newer faces coming in will help content creators tell their stories in a way that can quickly make those films possible. Otherwise, you wait for a specific actor to be free, and you end up waiting for two to three years. New talent is definitely a good thing for the industry.

Shareen Mantri Kedia, Producer, Namah Pictures

New talent brings new energy and new perspectives. As an industry, having fresh talent means constant churn – of capabilities, of content and of commitment. I don’t believe it is a risk as much as it is an opportunity if it is moulded and directed well. Thanks to Beyond The Clouds, the industry will have wonderful talent in Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan and they are bound to grow and soar to the skies.

Rakhee Sandilya, Director

It is difficult for outsiders to just enter the industry. But, if you are talented and you really want to do something that is a little different and interesting, there is definitely a lot of opportunities for good storytellers, actors and technicians. Our industry is huge and with the advent of digital and other platforms, there are many more stories that have developed in the last couple of years. 

People are looking for actors who are talented. We do categorise some as stars but we do need actors. And as an industry, right now is the best time for everyone. Working with new actors is not a risk at all. In fact, it is brilliant. When you are working with new actors, you understand their nuances and the audience doesn’t really know them, so we discover that actor.

You try to understand that actor more than an actor you have seen and know. You know how the artiste would be when they are angry or playing a romantic role on screen. I feel it is great to work with new talent, to explore with them, because they are free-spirited. They come with freshness and they themselves don’t know what to explore.

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