It’s raining newcomers in Bollywood

by Shelly Walia

There was a time in Bollywood when the search for new face always as a rule ended with the launch of a star son or daughter. But more and more filmmakers are now looking outside the stable for new talent. Yash Raj banner gave Indian Idol Meiyang Chang his big break in his latest release in Badmaash Company. New face Akash Dhar making his debut in Faran Akhtar’s production Game. Others joining the Bollywood brigade include Rajat Barmecha, Aayan Boradia, Sonakshi Sinha, Trisha Krishnan and many more.

A host of newcomers is taking its first steps in Bollywood. We talk to a fortunate few to find out if a successful debut is more than just luck by chance.

“Coming to Mumbai isn’t a big deal, but entering Bollywood is,” says Meiyang Chang, 27, who made his debut this month with Yash Raj Films’ latest release Badmaash Company. But jumping onto the Bollywood bandwagon was never the idea for this dentist.

It all began with his performance as a singer at the Indian Idol 3 stage on Sony Entertainment Television. What followed was a slew of opportunities. Chang was offered the anchor’s role for Indian Idol 4 and later also for the Indian Premier League telecasts. And now. a role in Yash Raj’s Badmaash Company. He has come a long way from his days as a dentist in Bangalore.

Chang had been planning to go abroad for further studies when Indian Idol happened.

“I had never seriously thought of being in the industry, but when director Parmeet Sethi was writing the character of Zing for the movie, he called me for auditions,” says the Dhanbad-based actor.

What helped him bag the role? “My presence on television,” he says, adding, “There are not too many people in Bollywood who could suit the looks of the character.” How does he feel seeing himself on the big screen? He laughs, “It was weird. I thought it was someone else, and not me. But it feels great.”

While the Yash Raj banner gave Chang his big break in Bollywood, there is yet another newcomer lined up for Yash Raj’s next project.

Debutant actor Ranveer Singh will star opposite Anushka Sharma in their next film (as yet untitled), which is slated for a release later this year.

If Bollywood was luck-by-chance for Chang, for newcomer Aahana Kumra, 24, this is what she always wanted to do.

Aahana, who will make her debut in the Naseeruddin Shah starrer The Hunt, is an alumnus of Whistling Woods Academy in Mumbai and has worked with the casting director of My Name is Khan.

She also assisted director Anurag Kashyap on a short series of a television serial for Sony Entertainment Television.

“Working with Naseer sir was like a dream come true, after being taught by him at Whistling Woods for two years. I was called for auditions for the movie when director Anup Kurian was casting and that’s how I made it,” says Lucknow-based Aahana, who has also acted in short films for the Film and Television Institute of India.

Aahana has also been offered a one-year endorsement contract with Garnier and is currently involved in a Whistling Woods in-house production Shervaani Kahaan Gayi?, which will have Naseeruddin Shah as the main lead, along with other actors from the institute.

Another alumnus of Whistling Woods, Akash Dhar, 27, will take his first steps in Bollywood in director Abhinay Deo’s Game later this year.

Produced by Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment, Game stars Abhishek Bachchan, Kangna Ranaut and Boman Irani.

“I want to make a career in cinema,” says Mumbai-based actor Dhar who has modelled in ads for brands like Vodafone, Bajaj, Max Life Insurance and Toyota Innova.

He has also acted in a couple of television serials, including Meher on Doordarshan. Dhar says he is interested in theatre and is associated with the Naseeruddin Shah-owned theatre company Motley. “I am currently travelling with Motley with the play The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, which is playing all over Mumbai,” he says.

Like Aahana and Akash, Amrita Puri has dreams of making it big in Bollywood. For this 26-year-old, it is a “fantastic feeling” to finally enter the industry in the Sonam Kapoor and Abhay Deol-starrer Aisha. The movie is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, and is slated for release on August 6.

After completing her graduation and post-graduation, Puri tried her luck in Bollywood by auditioning for movies. She also continued with modelling and theatre and worked as a copywriter with advertising agency Ogilvy for a year and started freelancing for lifestyle magazines.

“I kept trying my luck at auditions and heard of Aisha through a message on Facebook. I am very lucky to bag a role in such a big film. After all, there are so many talented actors who are trying to make their way in Bollywood,” she says. Aisha will also see newcomer Lisa Haydon, 23, make her debut alongside Puri.

Others joining the Bollywood brigade include Rajat Barmecha and Aayan Boradia, both of whom star in Vikram Motwane’s directorial debut Udaan —India’s entry to Cannes this year.

Speaking of films doing the rounds of the international film festivals, Aamir Khan Productions’s Peepli Live, directed by debutant Anushka Rizvi, stars a clutch of theatre actors from the late Habib Tanvir’s Naya Theatre troupe.

The film is slated for release this August and is a satire triggered by farmer suicides in India in the past decade. Aamir Khan says, “Anusha Rizvi mailed me her script and it got me interested. It was as simple as that. I asked her to shoot a few scenes as mock shoot before we started the movie. I am so happy and proud of her work.”

Interestingly, Khan’s wife Kiran Rao makes her directorial debut with Dhobi Ghaat. The film casts Monica Dogra in the lead role.

Member of the popular electronic dance band Shaa ir+Func, Monica will be seen with Prateik Babbar and Aamir Khan in the film. Dhobi Ghaat is actually Kiran’s vision… she had auditioned a lot of people and selected her cast,” adds Khan, when asked about the choice of actors in the movie.

Talk about newcomers and can the star kids are far behind?
After his son Luv Sinha’s forgettable debut in Sadiyaan, actor Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter Sonakshi Sinha will kickstart her career in Bollywood this September in Salman Khan’s home production Dabang.

The movie will be directed by newcomer Abhinav Kashyap, brother of film director/producer Anurag Kashyap.

There’s also Vishal Bhardawaj’s Saat Khoon Maaf where Naseeruddin Shah’s second son Vivaan makes his debut as the youngest of the Seven Husbands of Priyanka Chopra. Interestingly, Shah senior will also be seen in the film.

Tamil actor Trisha Krishnan makes her debut with director Priyadarshan’s comedy Khatta Meetha, starring Akshay Kumar. Television actor Kavita Kaushik, who is known for her character Chandermukhi Chautala on SAB TV’s serial FIR, will also make her first Bollywood venture, opposite John Abraham in UTV Motion Pictures’ Phillum City.

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