New Kids On The Block: Actors To Watch Out For

This has been an interesting year so far for Hindi content. More than feature-length movies, web series such as Farzi, Taj, Class, Dahaad, Jubilee, and Trial by Fire have got audiences hooked, making bonafide Bollywood stars jump onto the OTT bandwagon. But amid all this, a slew of young, talented, and relatively unknown actors has quietly snatched the spotlight from the veterans with their luminous performances. We round up five actors who have impressed us with their brilliant roles in 2023 so far. 

Bhuvan Arora
Age: 35 
Debut:  Shuddh Desi Romance 
Other Acting credits: The Test Case, Naam Shabana, Chaman Bahar, Bank Chor 

Bhuvan Arora is Firoz, best friend and partner-in-crime to Shahid Kapoor’s Sunny, in Raj and DK’s recent Prime Video series, Farzi. The role never gets stuck in the best friend and sidekick trope and becomes an individual character that has the capacity to steal a scene by just sipping on a cup of tea; eventually making him a key talking point in a movie helmed by the brilliant Shahid Kapoor. 

The actor’s analysis:

Whenever I prepare for a character, there are a lot of aspects of the character that I prepare for. I feel everybody’s core depends on their spirituality, their orientation, or their objective in life. Firoz’s orientation or objective was to have a sense of belonging. Because he was an orphan and was adopted by Nanaji, it really mattered to him to have that sense of belonging and a family. That probably was the core of Firoz. But he had many shades. He was sincere, silly, honest, loyal, and respectful. His coolest trait was his lack of inhibitions; he was never scared to be himself anywhere he went. 

How did you prep for the role?  
I worked a lot on the background, especially the initial five years of his life before Sunny met him at the railway station and convinced Nanaji to take him along. The initial years of anybody’s life are something that determines how you grow as a human being. I worked a lot on that in terms of the background — what he had gone through, who named him Firoz, what happened in his life, etc. Apart from that, I learnt how to operate the printing machine. I have this list of about 160 questions about various elements of a character that I always ask myself while prepping for a role.  

What was the most challenging part about playing this character? 
The challenging part for me was to make Firoz’s character convincing; it’s a common tendency for actors to make such characters ‘caricatureish’. I had to always keep in mind that the character doesn’t cross that line, because the moment it did the audience would stop relating to him.  

What were your favourite and most challenging scenes? 
Logistically, a lot of scenes were very challenging because COVID was happening when we were shooting and there’s this scene where Jamal had kidnapped both of us. That scene was very difficult to shoot because of the location, it was raining constantly, and it was a high-intensity scene that required multiple cuts with different magnifications, close up and wide, and there’s a lot of action involved in that. My favourite scene probably would be the chai scene, which was an improv suggested by Raj sir on set. I think it was great because it had no lines in it, and it said so much. If a writer writes good lines even an average actor will be able to pull off a good scene. But an actor is put to the test when there are no dialogues. 

Aditya Rawal 
Age: 29 
Debut: Bamfaad (as an actor), Panipat (as a writer) 
Other acting credits: Aar Ya Paar 

Aditya Rawal’s Nibras Islam, the Monash University student commanding the gang of militants in Hansal Mehta’s Faraaz (now available on Netflix), was one of the most nuanced acts we have seen this year. In fact, much like Bhiku Mhatre in Satya, Faraaz becomes equally a Nibras film, thanks to Aditya’s impactful performance. The son of actors Paresh Rawal and Swaroop Sampat, he definitely has got the right genes for the job.   

The actor’s analysis:
Nibras Islam is the leader of the terrorists who shoot up the restaurant. While he is capable of intense brutality towards his real or imagined enemies, he is also incredibly sensitive. He is kind to the hostages that are under his care, and he tries his best to keep his young, immature crew together during the long night that the film depicts. He is an intelligent, talented young man with terribly low self-esteem. His tragedy is that he got the wrong kind of guidance at the most vulnerable moment in his life. While he is not a psychopath, he is able to rationalise his evil deeds… but this rationale is put to the test as the movie progresses. 

What made the character unique to you as an actor? 
What appealed to me the most was the idea that these boys were not the robotic terrorists we have seen in films and shows over the years. These were educated kids who came from well-off families. That people with such privilege and potential committed such a reprehensible act makes the story all the more tragic. It reminds us that, if not kept in check, extremism can poison any society — no matter what race or religion it represents.  

What according to you was his coolest trait? Was there anything you added to the character that was not initially in the script? 

It was important to not judge the character I was playing. No one looks at themselves as a villain… in a different context, some of his qualities — his leadership skills, his gift of the gab, and his ability to think fast under pressure — would be considered commendable. Hansal sir was clear about his vision, but he was always open to suggestions and discoveries that the actors made. Since the wonderful writers Raghav Kakkar and Kashyap Kapoor were present on set, they often came up with some gems themselves. It was a wonderful collaborative atmosphere. 

What was the most challenging scene? 
The scene where I preach to the hostages was one that I was both looking forward to and apprehensive about at the same time. When a character recites a verse from a foreign language or expounds on his ideology, it can often sound hokey. But having learned the Arabic verses before we got on floors, Hansal sir and I were just focused on bringing honesty to the performance. Along with the DOP, Pratham Mehta, we did two long takes of the scene. I was somewhat satisfied, when Hansal sir simply said to me, ‘It’s good. But I think you can do it better.’ The third take is the one that is in the film.  

Aashim Gulati 
Age: 32 
Debut: Tum Bin 2 
Other acting credits: U-turn, Dil Sambhal Jaa Zara, Hostages, Holiday 

Aashim Gulati plays the wronged heir apparent, Shah Salim, in ZEE5’s Taj: Divided by Blood and its second season, Taj: Reign of Revenge. In the first season, his Salim is a charming, flamboyant yet vulnerable party boy who is often high on sex and drugs, until he falls in love. In the second, his portrayal of Salim gets more layered as he builds up a fiery resilience from the embers of his loss, vowing to burn his father’s empire down to ashes. 

The actor’s analysis: (Please use this text as a box with a still from the movie) The core of the character is love… it’s the fundamental of what Salim is about. Everything goes south in the series because of his love for Anarkali and what happened to her because of that. Salim is free like a bird flying in the sky, He’s not somebody who can be tamed, he has a mind of his own. Jis tarike se hawa ko aap apne muthi mein nahi bandh sakte, jaise raeth ko aap muthi mein nahi baandh sakte, waise he Salim ko kabu mein laana kisike bas ki baat nahi thi. That is the essence of the character. I kept that in mind and gave him my own wings to fly, and I think he flew beautifully. 

What were the inspirations for playing this character?  

I didn’t take any inspiration from anyone. I was very clear about how I wanted Salim to look and feel. I took it as a blank canvas, I had my palette that I carried within me, and I wanted to paint the character my way, of course, keeping in mind the milieu of the times it was set in and the essence of the world it inhabits. I looked at Salim as a piece of art and I painted him with the colours I saw him in.  

What was the most challenging part about playing this character? 

 Sometimes when you think about period dramas, especially when you wear the costume and when you have the full get-up, you automatically would talk in a certain manner. But it is our preconceived notion of the people of that era, we have not actually seen anyone talk or behave the way actors usually do in such period dramas. I wanted to make him sound authentic, keeping in mind that it’s still period, still relatable, and still conversational so that it can be relevant in today’s day and age and won’t alienate the audience. I didn’t want to play within the rigid format and make it look stilted. 

Which is your favourite scene in the show? 

When Anarkali dies in my arms, it was a very emotional scene. It was something that really moved me when I read it and it’s basically the progression to the scene because he sees Daniyal killing Anarkali from a distance, which was not a lot, but it seemed like it took him years to move. He would regret it the for the rest of his life wishing he had gotten to her sooner and had her saved from Daniyal. That was one of the better scenes that I thought I did.  

(Can include in a box or separate element) Aashim will be next seen in Jee Karda, a Prime Video series, Ruhi the Virgin on Voot, and Netflix’s Chuna. He is also part of Homi Adajania’s upcoming movie Murder Mubarak

Chintan Rachchh 
Age: 23 
Debut: Class as Faruq Manzoor 

Chintan Rachchh plays Faruq Manzoor, a drug-peddling student from a poor Kashmiri family in this February’s Netflix series, Class, directed by Ashim Ahluwalia. His forbidden romance with Dhruv, played by a superbly talented Chayan Chopra was lauded for its warm and realistic portrayal of queer relationships in India. 

The actor’s analysis: (Please use this text as a box with a still from the movie) Faruq is a character who wants to love and be loved but he thinks he doesn’t deserve it. He wants to be happy, but he’s hurt. He wants to express himself, but he is bound. Hence, everything that he wants has an obstruction. Nothing has ever worked out for him and when Dhruv enters his life it feels so nice and surreal that he almost feels afraid to lose this — what if this chemistry, this feeling he has when he’s with Dhruv, disappears? He wouldn’t be able to stay without it. But still, he takes the plunge. Apart from the love angle he has a silent rebellion going on in his head against just everything, against the society.  

What was the most challenging scene? 
The scene where Saba judges Faruq for being a peddler and confronts him about his sexual preferences; Faruq is never understood because he doesn’t explain himself. He thinks his own people will at least try to scratch beneath the surface and talk to him and ask him how he feels, but instead, he finds people tend to just come to conclusions, and he’s tired of just being plainly disappointed. And when it comes from his own sister – who he felt the closest to — he’s shattered inside. But he doesn’t express too much with words; he’s disappointed but not surprised. That emotion needed to come across in that scene. 

One thing you learned as an actor while working on this character? 

I learned how to be comfortable with myself. I try to ace things, whatever it is — a scene or a talk or an activity — and it takes you away from the moment. During the shoot of the scene where Dhruv pays the cops off to let Faruq go, and after that they have a conversation on the lines of ‘this isn’t the first time Faruq was beaten up…’ that scene took a lot of takes. After a point Ashim came up to me and out of nowhere asked, ‘Were you a topper in the school?’ You don’t expect such a question from a showrunner at 4 in the morning and while in the middle of a scene. And I said yes. To which he said: ‘It’s visible. Don’t try to ace the scene. I want you to be in it and do whatever you feel like and not just what’s written.’ That for me was a very spiritual and philosophical moment. Because my idea was to remove ‘me’ from everything become someone new. Once he said that though, I consciously try not to remove myself, but be a part of it and imbibe the character within me.  

(Can include in a box or separate element) Ask him about his upcoming projects and he is tight-lipped. “You’d have to wait and ‘watch’ quite literally. Couple of things are lined up. But yes — see you at the movies!” Chintan quips. 

Vyom Yadav 
Age: 23 
Debut: Delhi Crime Season 2 
Other acting credits: Badhaai Do 

Vyom Yadav is the intelligent but hot-headed Arvind Shukla in Sony Liv’s new political drama series, Garmi, who gets sucked into the murky world of student politics. Although the Tigmanshu Dhulia directorial didn’t really reach its true potential, Vyom’s performance was hailed by critics and the audience alike. 

The actor’s analysis:

Arvind is an individual with a strong sense of righteousness and a clear conscience. He possesses remarkable willpower but can also be impulsive and easily angered. As a result of these traits, he often makes decisions that lead him into trouble. However, his unwavering self-righteousness gives him the conviction that his actions are correct. This confidence fuels his determination in his choices. Arvind aligns himself with anything he deems right within his defined parameters and opposes anything he considers wrong. 

What was your initial reaction to the character when you read the script?  

Upon reading the script for the first time, I found that the character overlapped with certain aspects of my own personality. However, there were also stark differences between us, leaving no room for ambiguity — it was either black or white, no grey areas. Some actions described in the script were familiar to me, such as coming from a middle-class background, while others, like the political aspect and physically confronting people, were unfamiliar territory. The aspect that truly thrilled me as an actor was the action sequences. I had always been eager to explore the realm of action, and particularly with this unique character who possessed a distinct heroic aura. 

How did you prep for it? 
Since I had no prior knowledge of student politics, I had to start from scratch. I began my research online, including watching YouTube videos. Arvind, the character I portrayed, comes from a middle-class family and enters the world of politics. In each episode, you can observe subtle changes in Arvind’s body language after significant incidents. I adopted a method to understand the character; I would jot down pivotal incidents which would shape Arvind’s mindset and temperament towards others. I made sure to include all these key points from each episode, creating a reference guide. I immersed myself in the role by going out on the streets of Banaras as Arvind. In the eyes of the world, I was no longer Vyom but Arvind Shukla. This process helped me connect with the city where I grew up and establish a sense of belonging.  

What was the most challenging part about playing this character? 

One of the most challenging aspects of portraying Arvind was the character’s non-linear nature. Unlike other characters like Vindu Singh or the police officer, who maintain a consistent demeanour throughout the story with minor variations based on the scene, Arvind undergoes continuous evolution and transformation. His journey begins as a character from a middle-class background, with neatly combed hair. However, upon entering university and interacting with people from different backgrounds his body language changes.  Moreover, the shooting process itself was non-linear. We might film scene 76 on day one and then shoot a different scene on another day, making it crucial for me to maintain consistency in the character’s emotions and behaviour throughout the disjointed shooting schedule.  

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