From Ananya Panday to Karan Deol, Bollywood piles on the star kids and debutants in 2019
This year, Bollywood has already seen Abhimanyu Dassani, Ananya Panday, Tara Sutaria, Zaheer Iqbal, Pranutan Bahl, Meezan Jaaferi, Karan Deol and more making their debuts.
This year has been a good example of the competition that debutants face in Hindi cinema today. Last month, Pal Pal Di Ke Paas launched Karan Deol, son of Sunny Deol and grandson of Dharmendra and a pageant winner, Sahher Bammba (name numerogically endowed). In the same weekend, the film had to compete with Prashthanam, starring Sanjay Dutt, Manisha Koirala and Ali Fazal among an experienced cast of actors, and The Zoya Factor with Sonam Kapoor and South superstar Dulquer Salmaan.
In a weekend with three high profile releases, Karan Deol, despite his film lineage had to compete for attention both at the box office and in media coverage. This is a far cry from times like the releases of Maine Pyar Kiya, Salman Khan’s second film opposite Bhagyashree, that stayed in theatres for months on end in 1989; or Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, that launched Aamir Khan in 1988. This love story, based on the tragic romance of Romeo and Juliet had so few expectations riding on it because the hero and heroine die in the end, that its stupendous run in theatres bowled over conventional thinking; and made Aamir Khan an instant star. Salman Khan too had arrived big time riding on his doe eyes and a white pigeon. Both films grew on word of mouth, at a time when launching stars wasn’t much of a media-driven exercise. In fact, perhaps the last major debutant launch, Student of the Year and its three new faces — Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra — wrapped up a process where young actors are given optimum visibility in the run-up to their first film.
This year alone, there have been more than 10 debutants. Abhimanyu Dassani, Ananya Panday, Tara Sutaria, Zaheer Iqbal, Pranutan Bahl, Meezan Jaaferi, Sharmin Sehgal, Karan Kapadia and Emily Shah have also made their debuts; Isabel Kaif and Sanjana Sanghi are still to come. Along with the Deol kid and Sahher Bammba, the Hindi film industry now has an expanded talent pool of heroes and heroines that are much younger than its 50+ superstars. Which makes for good news but also an overcrowded fray. 2019 is also an unusual year where there are no Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan films. Bringing in newcomers is an attempt to build a connection with a younger audience base for a film industry competing with global content that millennials tend to prefer.
The author reached out to younger filmgoers to understand the impact of current debutants. While these numbers are in no way indicative of a trend, they reflect the impact of an overcrowding of content both on streaming and on film. Arushi Sinha, a student at Sophia College Mumbai and a blogger said, “I remember Ananya Panday doing something interesting on social media against cyber bullying. But I didn’t like her acting in her first film.” Maharshi Goswami, a young professional in Guwahati was nonplussed at the mention of this year’s debutants. “I saw the trailer of Sunny Deol’s son’s film; beyond that, I really don’t know any of these.” These reactions are typical of younger viewers, who face an onslaught of information and entertainment that it’s difficult to keep up.
As one can infer from the reference to Ananya Panday’s effort on social media to focus on a visible issue, being online and being followed widely is the new path to becoming recognised. Which is why, following up on Ananya Panday taking on cyber bullying, Sunny Deol’s son, Karan, speaking out about getting bullied in school, make for quick headlines. Almost all debutants are hyper active on social media, creating content that can both be funny and sometimes, banal. While the attempt at being cool and hip is justified to become popular, this also means that new actors no longer wear an aura of being a star; instead, they need to compete with YouTubers, Instagram influencers and many others beyond their peers in acting.
A good sign with so many debutants is an evident shift in the kind of debutants Hindi films have now. There is a mix of those with star lineage and those that have become actors without film connections. An effective focus on scouting for new talent, through casting agents or auditions has definitely become a norm. Even so, one can’t help but notice the proclivity that young adults from film families have towards making acting debuts. It’s almost like all other career options don’t exist for them and becoming a star is the best possible thing.
With so many new faces coming in, some have been noticed and have found decent second films. Abhimanyu Dassani will act in an ensemble comedy directed by Umesh Shukla. Ananya Panday will be seen in the Pati Patni or Woh reboot. Opening up a talent pool brings in room for interesting stories across genres. But a key factor, the quality of the film that a debutant features in, still matters significantly.
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