Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best Bollywood Debuts of 2008

The year 2008 has witnessed a large number of newcomers in the Hindi film industry. While most of them are actors/ actresses -- almost 28 of them -- there have been many new directors, singers, music composers and technical crew as well.

1. Cast and crew of Aamir

The relatively small-budgeted film Aamir deserves a standing ovation for creating brilliance on screen with mostly new hands on board. The film's main players were all newcomers -- from the director, Rajkumar Gupta, to music director Amit Trivedi to cinematographer Alphonso Roy to lead actor Rajeev Khandelwal.

The film traced a day in Aamir's life, which started like any other in his unassuming life, and would have stayed that way, if not for a little change -- his family had been kidnapped by a terrorist group, and if Aamir wanted them alive, he would have to blow up a crowded bus.

Gupta, with Roy's help, created a Mumbai we had never seen before. The film was shot in real places in Mumbai. As Roy admits, it was quite a challenge to shoot in a dilapidated chawl, and its reeking public toilet, a slaughter house and the small bylanes of Mumbai. Amit provided some great music, while Rajeev put in a superb performance.

2. Imran Khan

Imran Khan added to the increasing list of star offspring in the Hindi film industry. Aamir Khan's nephew -- Imran's mother Nusrat is Aamir's sister -- Imran proved that he has quite a bit of his uncles' -- including Mansoor Khan (director of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Josh, Akele Hum Akele Tum) -- great talent.
His debut in Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na saw a natural act, quickly making everyone accept him as the new chocolate boy hero in town, something that happened to his uncle Aamir, 20 years ago. He may not have charmed the audiences as much in his second 2008 release, Kidnap, but then again, even Sanjay Dutt could not salvage that film.

3. Prateik Babbar

While Imran made a prominent debut, Prateik's debut was as low-key as his subtle performance in Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na.
Son of the late Smita Patil and Raj Babbar, Prateik showed the world that talent ran in his blood. Even in his small role as Genelia D'Souza's brother, his presence made a striking impact. Prateik balanced Imran's cute, boyish charm with a mature look.
Hopefully, we will get to see more of this actor.

4. Anushka Sharma

Former model Anushka made the camera her best friend, and pulled off her role well in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. From her cheerful persona at the start of the film, to a more mature stance later, Anushka held the film with Shah Rukh Khan, even as director Aditya Chopra lapsed behind the camera.

5. Asin

The gorgeous Asin looked totally at ease in Aamir Khan's Ghajini, having played the role already in the Tamil original, opposite Suriya. Vivacious and beautiful, Asin was a complete natural in front of the camera. She provided the perfect foil to Aamir's quiet character. The actress was also good at her emotional scenes. Here's welcoming this talented Tamil actress to Bollywood. We hope to see more of her.

6. Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar knows how to make smash hit debuts. He wowed us with his directorial debut, Dil Chahta Hai, and followed it up with an excellent acting debut in Rock On!!. Rock On!!, a film tracing the lives of a boy band going separate ways, and then re-uniting many years later, saw some great music as well. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy managed to bring out the best in Farhan, who also made his singing debut here. From the distant husband, trapped in a mechanical job, to getting his life back when he re-discovered music, Farhan got the nuances of acting right. Shahana Goswami, who played Arjun Rampal's wife in the film, also deserves special mention for her first noticeable movie role. She has featured briefly in Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota and Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd earlier.

7. Neeraj Pandey

With directors opting for superstars these days, it's not often one sees a film starring Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher in lead roles. And that itself is reason enough to applaud the brave director Neeraj Pandey. He made the script the real star, and went ahead and made A Wednesday, a thought-provoking film on terrorism.
That Shah and Kher would give brilliant performances was not surprising. But the film went beyond performances, and described a situation where a common man decided to avenge terrorism in Mumbai, and punish them as he saw fit. Pandey's thoughts and execution were remarkable, proving to audiences that a good script and director is just what the doctor prescribed.

8. Rashid Ali, Benny Dayal

Besides making some beautiful music, A R Rahman has this uncanny knack of finding great people to sing them. And so, two of the biggest hit songs in his Jaane Tu album are sung by brand new singers. Rashid Ali sang Kabhi Kabhi Aditi in his own style, and made it a favourite among college students and radio shows. Benny Dayal made Pappu can't dance a rage, and a popular punchline for jokes. While this was the first time you have heard Rashid, some of us may have heard Benny sing Tamil songs.

9. Purab Bhandare

Nine-year old Purab made a touching debut in Santosh Sivan's Tahaan, and is one of the reasons for making the film a must watch.
Yet another film on terrorism, Sivan makes this very different from the rest, as he views it from the eyes of a young Kashmiri boy. Purab gives the film a refreshing touch. It's no wonder then that Hollywood is trying to catch his attention. Purab will be seen in a film by director Steve Barron, who earlier made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.