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The rising stars

He looks like the clean-cut young boy next door. But Tollywood’s new star Rahul is learning how to sign up with a flourish and deal with adoring fans seeking an autograph. Ever since Chirodini…Tumi Je Amar, the film in which he plays the hero Krishna, became the biggest hit of 2008, he has been more in demand than ever before both from moviemakers and fans.

It’s the same story for Priyanka who starred alongside Rahul in Chirodini. The youngster who’s scheduled to write her class XII exams in March, has already made her name as a TV star and is now shooting for Swapan Saha’s Ei Prithibi Tomar Amar. She has also signed up for Reshmi Mitra’s Bhalobasha Zindabad.

Ok, folks. Youngistan is here. The youth brigade is hurling itself at the gate and hoping to take the Bengali film industry by storm. The newcomers include computer engineers and child actors, one-time executives and even school students like Priyanka who are hoping to become dazzling screen stars.

Dev and Subhashree Ganguly in the upcoming release Challenge

Says veteran director Haranath Chakraborty: “New faces have to come, otherwise the industry will not grow. Casting new faces means one can also explore different kinds of ideas.” He’s about to launch top city model Dipannita in one of his upcoming movies.

So who are these new faces? Leading the pack is Dev, a software engineer from Mumbai who began his career in films on the production team of the Abbas-Mustan directed Tarzan: The Wonder Car. Following closely on his heels is the dimpled Hiran, who chucked a hard-earned career at a top corporate house to follow his celluloid dreams.

Sohini Paul’s cameo in Bow Barracks Forever earned her lot of acclaim

Starting late but catching up fast is Rahul, whose film Chirodini…Tumi Je Amar earned him a Best Actor trophy at the Anandalok Awards. And there’s Soham, better known as Master Bittu, the cute child artist who first went on screen in movies like Chhoto Bou and the Satyajit Ray classic Shakha Proshaka.

The gals aren’t far behind the guys either. Topping the charts is Priyanka and also Srabonti, who delivered one big hit, Champion, and then decided to get married and abandon films. Srabonti is back after a brief hiatus and is all geared to rock the industry.

Mumtaz started her career with a music video for Bangladeshi singer Mehreen

Watch out too for Sohini Paul and Mumtaz Sorcar. Sohini is top Tollywood actor Tapas Pal’s daughter and Mumtaz comes from the illustrious Sorcar family — so showbiz is a way of life for them.

Inevitably, the newcomers have already faced ups and downs in the slippery celluloid world. Take Dev, a youngster who has travelled furthest along the road to stardom. He started his career with a flop, Agni Shapath.

But he picked up the pieces and came back with I Love You from Shree Venkatesh Films. It was a smash hit which he followed with hits like Premer Kahini which did business worth Rs 2.5 crore. Now there’s the recently released Mon Maane Na which has opening week occupancy rates of 80 per cent to 90 per cent, according to Mahendra Soni, director, Shree Venkatesh Films. With three hits in a row, Dev’s getting noticed by directors.

The Bengali film industry is crying out for new faces. For years it’s been dominated by a handful of hit stars like Prosenjit and Mithun Chakraborty. Even today, in about 50 Tollywood movies annually, Prosenjit is the main face on the screen in about 10.

Mumtaz Sorcar in a still from the short film Bhorai: The Maladies of Dawn

Says Pijus Saha, producer, Prince Entertainment: “Age is catching up with our leading heroes. So it’s not really possible to do love stories with them now.”

Also, the newer themes demand fresher, younger faces. Recently, there has been a spate of movies with urban themes. Jackpot and Bajimat, for instance, are about reality shows and Ek Bar Bolo Uttam Kumar is a comedy. Others have revolved around youthful love — like Chirodini — that couldn’t have been made with an older cast.

Sohini with fellow actor Clayton Rodgers during the making of the movie

All these youngsters have, inevitably, faced a tough struggle on their way to fame. Dev’s career took an about turn while he was appearing for his final semester exams from Pune University and the questions papers were leaked. So he had some free time and visited family friend Abbas Mustan’s studio in Mumbai where he met Kishore Namit Kapoor who organises acting courses. Kapoor was starting a fresh workshop at that time and Dev signed up.

Dev returned to Calcutta and gave a couple of auditions and was signed up for Agni Shapath. It bombed, but he didn’t lose hope. Says Riingo: “A commercial hero needs to have box-office appeal, a good physique, good looks and the ability to carry action-packed scenes. Dev leads the pack.” Dev’s upcoming projects include Challenge, and two untitled movies by Ravi Kinagi and Ashok Dhanuka.

One newcomer who hit lucky from the start was Hiran. His first movie Nabab Nandini with co-star Koel was a mega-hit. Since then, he has moved from strength to strength and his just released, Chirasathi, is doing good business.

He’s almost wrapped up shooting for Kaushik Ganguly’s Jackpot with another newcomer Rahul and has started shooting for two of Tollywood’s biggies — Haranath’s Ma and Swapan Saha’s Olot Palot.

Life has been quite a struggle for this 20-something after losing his parents in 1997. Hiran was from a lower middle-class family, and his motto was “survival first”. “Leaving the job to join films was a big decision in my life,” says Hiran, the winner of the Best Action Hero Award at the Anandalok Awards.

The scripts are, inevitably, the key reason why the youngsters are making their presence felt. It was definitely why director Raj Chakraborty signed up Rahul. “I didn’t need the star factor,” he says.

Rahul was a known face on TV doing hit megas like Astha. Chirodini happened with real-life girlfriend Priyanka, whom he had met on the sets of Astha five years ago. Made at a budget of Rs 1.5 crore, Chirodini recovered its costs in the first six to eight weeks. Rahul is now busy shooting for Jackpot and Bhalobasha Zindabad.

Rahul’s debut movie Chirodini...Tumi Je Amar has crossed over 100 days and is still running

Breaks have come very early for Priyanka who decided to get into television and films while still a teenager. “My mom and I wanted it,” she says. So, she went to audition when Akash Bangla was looking for fresh faces and she proved her mettle in serials like Khela, Nana Ranger Dinguli and Swapner Rong Nil.

She’d originally hoped to be the second lead in Chirodini. But director Raj figured she was just right for the lead role. She initially turned down the role as she’d signed another film but managed to do Chirodini, says Raj who believes that Priyanka “has a lot of potential”.

Mumtaz Sorcar is a Bengali film actress who is a classical jazz dancer, a boxer, and a judoka. She is also studying for her law degree. “Anyone with bad intentions had better watch out,” laughs Mumtaz.

She started out as a performer very early, with a music video for Bangladeshi singer Mehreen. Then she signed up Samik Sen’s No Poblem, currently in post-production stage. She followed it up with Bhorai: The Malady Of Dawn — a short film by Subhrajit Mitra which did the festival rounds. “I come from a family with showbiz written all over. You have to be a good actor to sell a trick,” she says.

Rahul with Sohini in a still from Kaushik Ganguly’s upcoming road movie Jackpot

There are others too who made an early start in entertainment and who are now trying to capitalise on it. Does anyone remember a little kid from Anjan Chowdhury’s Chhoto Bou and the Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Bhagya Devata? Soham did almost 60-70 films as a child artiste and is now making a comeback. He first did the second lead in Tarun Majumdar’s Chander Bari. Then, he delivered a hit, Bajimat, in June this year. He has three untitled films lined up with Sujit Guha, Mrityunjoy Roy and another newcomer director.

Mumtaz is waiting for the release of Chinmoy Roy’s laugh riot Ekbar Bolo Uttam Kumar and is doing Birsha Dasgupta’s 033 next. On the anvil are two more untitled projects including Mitra’s archeological adventure.

Priyanka played the role of Pallavi, a rich girl in love with a scooter mechanic in Chirodini...Tumi Je Amar; (Below) A still from the movie

Says Mitra: “She has an aura and is very eager to learn. If she chooses her scripts, co-actors and characters properly she will do very well.”

After doing an important cameo in Anjan Dutt’s Bow Barracks Forever, Tapas Pal’s daughter Sohini Paul moved to Bangalore to do a degree in Human Resources. She is back now and already shooting for Jackpot. “I was in Bangalore when Moni (Mahendra Soni of Venkatesh) called and asked me to send my pictures,” she says.

So Sohini clicked some on her cellphone camera and

mailed them. She was then auditioned and selected for the role of a cop in Jackpot. She starts shooting for Animesh Roy’s untitled love story in March and is in talks with some other directors.

There are others who are making a comeback. Remember Srabonti, Jeet’s heroine in the 2003 hit Champion? She started her career as a child artiste with Swapan Saha’s Mayar Bandhon, did Champion in between and then disappeared to domestic bliss. She returned to Tollywood with a hit like Bhalobasa Bhalobasa with Hiran and is now geared up to do more projects. She is now doing a love story for Eskay Productions and is going through scripts to finalise her next projects. “I want to select characters that suit me,” she says.

Soham with Subhashree Ganguly in Bajimat

There could be many more newcomers on their way into the industry. The producers and directors definitely want new faces and are actively looking for them. Says Himanshu Dhanuka of Eskay Productions: “We are keeping a watch on the reality show Lux Filmy Fatafati and are planning to take up good actors from there for our next projects,” he says.

Haranath Chakrabarty, who turned new faces like Jeet (Sathi), Koel (Nater Guru) and Arunima (Sangram) among others, into stars, says: “To make it big, youngsters should have confidence and self-belief, a photogenic face, know how to act and dance and should have a sense of rhythm,” he says. Venkatesh’s Soni too wants to launch a new face in mid-2009.

So if you’re looking out for change, remember it’s coming soon to a screen near you.

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