It takes a lot for someone to feature in the brightest discoveries of an entire decade, especially when the decade has seen the arrival of many more talents than any other in cinema history, with the possible exception of the era when feature films started out in India (in 1913) or when the talkies first arrived (1931).
Humungous talent combined with the right breaks, and followed by the right mov(i)es, loads of hard work and humility are the only pre-requisites to reach a sustained level of excellence. Among actors, some may be spontaneous, others may have a dash of ‘method’, and among filmmakers and music makers, it is all about a mix of art and craft that is all aimed at a constant pan-Indian connect.
Here’s our choice of the Top 12 New Talents across the spectrum in the decade 2010 to 2019. We have obviously not included all the brilliant behind-the-screen technicians who have come in, as they will make for dozens of names!
Ali Abbas Zafar / Director (2011): He has been consistent in his mass connect, and has upped his ante each time. Through his debut with Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011) to the bigger Gunday (2014) and the colossal Sultan (2016) and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017), Ali has shown a range that very few filmmakers possess. Even his last film Bharat worked, though we could see the creative interference that bogged him. Wisely, Ali is now trying his hand at a web series, Tandav.
Alia Bhatt / Actress (2012): When Karan Johar introduced her in Student Of The Year, Alia Bhatt came across as a reasonably gifted newbie. However, her evolution as an actress was rapid (Highway, 2 States), and not stopping on the laurels she got, she went on to show her mastery in roles as assorted as Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Raazi and Gully Boy.
Amar Kaushik / Director (2018): His handling of a completely different subject (Bala, on premature balding) after his debut with Stree (a horror comedy) showed that Amar is no flash-in-the-pan filmmaker. If his next moves are on par, we are set to get another bright name in filmmaking, who can make diverse movies with the common thread of excellence.
Arijit Singh / Singer (2012): In a musically-barren scenario, he is perhaps the best bet among new singing talents. His style has already been imitated by many to follow. When great songs like ‘Aayat’ (Bajirao Mastani) have come his way, he has demonstrated his classical base with brilliance. If he can only improve his diction and avoid the occasional re-creations, he can well go far—very far.
Ayushmann Khurrana / Actor (2012): Far more than Amol Palekar of the ‘70s, Ayushmann Khurrana has made the new-age hero totally relatable. A cardinal difference is that he has made the mainstream audience accept him and his outré movies. The process began with his John Abraham-produced debut Vicky Donor, and after some mishaps, Ayushmann caught on to the fact that he had to be sharp at selecting great scripts. From 2017, he is the only non-superstar hero who has had seven back-to-back successes, which is also because he has become the person he plays—whether it is a cop or a man who dresses and talks like a woman!
Nitesh Tiwari / Director (2011): Unlike other successful filmmakers who get insecure with consistent hits, Nitesh Tiwari has remained grounded, craved for an all-India connect and has never fixed on a genre. He began by co-directing the multiple awards-winning feature film Chillar Party (2011) centering around kids, went on to Bhoothnath Returns and touched the peak with Dangal. Unfazed, like any true-blue talent, he went smaller in scale but bigger in concept with Chhichhore. He is now planning Ramayan, and is probably the best talent to do so in today’s times.
Rajkummar Rao / Actor (2010): His range has always been phenomenal: check Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Aligarh, Newton, Queen, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana and Stree, roles and films of all hues all executed with equal felicity and finesse. A complete natural, Rajkummar has carved his own distinct niche.
Ranveer Singh / Actor (2010): He is another chameleon, and hovers between his natural yen for method acting and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s advice to be open and natural. In less than a decade and in just a dozen lead roles, Ranveer Singh has proved that can excel in any role from a playboy to a cop to an underground singer to a tyrannical invader to a Maratha emperor to…well, you name it and Ranveer gets into character like water taking the shape of its container. On the way: he is Kapil Dev in ’83 and a Gujarati in Jayeshbhai Zordaar.
Shraddha Kapoor / Actress (2010): She can be simple-girl-next door to a glam doll, and anything in-between. Her range of films (Aashiqui 2, Ek Villain, Haider, ABCD 2, Baaghi, Saaho, Chhichhore) shows that she is a courageous actor who is unafraid of taking on any character, even if it is Haseena Parkar.
Taapsee Pannu / Actress (2013): Her beginning was as mainstream as you can get—in David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor, and she came into Hindi cinema from the South. But soon, Taapsee went on to show the stuff she was made of, come short role (Baby, Mission Mangal) or long. Essaying substance across the board in films like Naam Shabana, Mulk, Pink, Badla, Saand Ki Aankh and still balancing films down South is her special forte.
Tiger Shroff / Actor (2014): A star kid who is especially loved by kids of all ages, Tiger remains the only top hero who unabashedly sticks to action but has made a solid niche for himself. With two consecutive super-hits in Baaghi 2 and War, he is now on the way to be slowly recognized as a decent actor. What’s more, he is a role-model for fitness and discipline.
Varun Dhawan / Actor (2012): He has that enigmatic blend of star-appeal, youth and talent. Though personally inclined to darker, offbeat movies like Badlapur (which showed his acting chops), October (whatever business it did was only because of him) and Sui Dhaaga—Made In India, Varun respects his stardom and has never neglected fans. He is comfortable in every role, and is now reprising Coolie No. 1 after another entertainer in Street Dancer 3D.