While we’re streaming, these actors are going against the flow: Anupama Chopra
In Bollywood they might have had to play to type. But web series let talented actors make unpredictable choices, and the results are sheer magic.
One of the great joys of streaming has been to watch assorted artists flourish. Artists who might have languished in forgettable roles in Hindi cinema are now bona fide stars with thriving careers. These are a few of my favourite success stories!
Jaideep Ahlawat: Jaideep is an actor who combines screen presence with skill. Even in the crowded frames of Gangs of Wasseypur (the film had more than a dozen significant characters), Jaideep stood out. But the journey from the 2012 film to Paatal Lok in 2020 was bumpy, with more routine bad-guy roles in films like Commando (2013) and fewer sharply etched characters like Khalid Mir in Raazi (2018). With Paatal Lok, Jaideep has broken through. His character, the beleaguered police inspector Hathi Ram Chaudhary, was such a hit that Bollywood is hell bent on typecasting him — in a recent interview he told me that he is getting umpteen offers to play versions of the cop / security services officer. But Jaideep is steering clear. I hope filmmakers have the imagination to create more great roles for him.
Rasika Dugal: There is something light and liquid about Rasika, which enables her to seamlessly inhabit a variety of characters. The determined IPS trainee Neeti Singh in Delhi Crime, the warm and dignified Safia in Manto, the coquettish Rasika in the short film Chutney. And yet, Hindi cinema has been unable to give the actor enough roles with meat. I suspect Rasika is having the last laugh. Last week, two massively hyped and anticipated series dropped – Mirzapur Season 2 on Amazon Prime Video and A Suitable Boy on Netflix. Rasika is in both.
Rajesh Tailang: Rajesh has been working since 1994. His filmography includes mainstream hits such as Aamir Khan starrer Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) and Saif Ali Khan starrer Phantom (2015). But this marvellous actor only came into his own with streaming — in series such as Delhi Crime, Selection Day, Bandish Bandits (in which he faced off against the formidable Naseeruddin Shah) and Mirzapur. Rajesh is often labelled a ‘dependable actor’ but I think that doesn’t do justice to his skill. He is that rare thing — an unshowy actor who still steals the scene.
Shefali Shah: I don’t know that Shefali has ever given a lacklustre performance. As far back as Satya (1998), in which she played Bhiku Mhatre’s fiery wife Pyaari, she has been making an impact. When she appeared, you paid attention — whether it was as Ria Verma in Monsoon Wedding or Kasturba Gandhi in Gandhi, My Father or, more recently, the tragically lonely Neelam Mehra in Dil Dhadakne Do (2015). But Shefali finally got the role she deserved in the series Delhi Crime. As DCP Vartika Chaturvedi, she is fierce and determined but also vulnerable and exhausted. It’s a stand-out turn.
Vikrant Massey: I’ve been fangirling over Vikrant since he played the tragic Shutu in Konkona Sen Sharma’s masterful directorial debut, A Death in the Gunj (2016). Vikrant is a shapeshifter; he can inhabit any character that a writer or director throws at him. His career, which began in television in 2008, has flourished on streaming with shows like Broken But Beautiful, Criminal Justice and Mirzapur. Vikrant’s recent films — Cargo, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and Ginny Weds Sunny — have also been streaming successes. This is an actor with talent to burn, but also the wisdom to keep mixing it up. So he can hold his own against Deepika Padukone in Chhapaak but also play Goru Dhobi in the delightful short film Gadhedo. The unpredictable choices are magic.