2020 gave us some truly original, relatable, and powerful web series and movies. But even in the shows and movies where the story faltered, the performances kept us glued to the screen. And here are some of the finest breakout stars from 2020, who left us thoroughly impressed:

1. Ishwak Singh

Even though Ishwak Singh had made blink-and-miss appearances in movies before, it was as Imran Ansari in Paatal Lok that he became the apple of everyone’s eyes. With his bashful smile and honest, heartfelt performance, of a cop caught between office politics and religious discrimination, he immediately caught everyone’s attention, even when sharing screen space with Jaideep Ahlawat. 

IB Times

2. Pratik Gandhi

Despite starring in a National Award-winning film, it wasn’t until Scam 1992 that the audience, at large, actually took notice of Pratik Gandhi’s talent. And what a talented artist indeed. Gandhi went the extra mile, quite literally, to nail each aspect of Harshad Mehta’s larger-than-life persona, from his inimitable swag to his unmasked desire to reach the top.   

Indian Express

3. Rohit Saraf

Everyone’s latest crush from B-town, Rohit Saraf had already caught people’s attention with his brief but impassioned performance in The Sky Is Pink. But with Anurag Basu’s Ludo, and later Netflix’s MismatchedSaraf firmly established himself as a star to look out for – and it’s not just because of that dimpled smile. It’s also because of his ability to speak volumes through his expressions alone. 


4. Chandan Roy 

It’s impossible, at least for me, to stop the smile creeping up on my face the second I think about Vikas from Panchayat, played to perfection by Chandan Roy. Because in a world of crime lords, cynics, and patriots, how often do we find simpletons like Vikas? Rarer still are actors like Chandan who can leave you enamored with their debut performance itself.  


5. Yashaswini Dayama

Netflix’s What Are The Odds? gifted us a rockstar version of Abhay Deol, and yet we couldn’t take our eyes away from Yashaswini Dayama, playing the oddball Vivek in the movie. Because Yashaswini, who had been slowly worming her way in our hearts with movies and shows like Dear Zindagi, Adulting, Delhi Crime, Made in Heaven, etc. finally took center stage with her relatable portrayal of a socially awkward teenager, caught between life and dreams. 


6. Anud Singh Dhaka

One of Netflix’s underrated Hindi originals, Taj Mahal 1989 may have faltered on the writing, but it more than made up for it in the performances. While Geetanjali Kulkarni, Neeraj Kabi, Sheeba Chadha were brilliant, like always, Anud Singh Dhaka was the true surprise. As Angad, the ‘go-to’ guy for everyone in college, Anud brought a clever mix of confidence and vulnerability in his role that made him a joy to watch on-screen. 

NDTV Gadgets

7. Pavail Gulati

The true win for any actor playing the villain is that the audience walks out of the movie halls hating your very guts. And in that aspect, Pavail Gulati was spot-on as Vikram Sabharwal, the chauvinistic husband in Thappad. He perfectly encapsulated how even men who ‘appear nice’, can become monsters in a moment of anger, simply because a patriarchal society never taught them to even process their violent emotions, let alone suppress them (like women are expected to). 


8. Geetika Vidya Ohlan

There’s no denying the fact that Taapsee and Kumud Mishra were the stars of Thappad. But another actor who silently wormed her way into our hearts was Geetika, with her portrayal of Sunita, Amrita’s house help, and a victim of constant domestic abuse. As Sunita, she offered an insight into how domestic abuse is not a ‘class’ problem but a patriarchal problem. Sunita was easily one of the most memorable characters from the film, thanks to Geetika’s honest and heartwarming performance. 

Indian Express

9. Isha Talwar 

Mirzapur 2 delivered a star-studded ensemble cast as the story got bigger and more violent, and multiple new characters joined the game. And Madhuri Yadav, played by Isha Talwar, was easily one of the most intriguing characters, thanks to both, great writing and powerful performance. Slyly confident, Madhuri Yadav is definitely a player everyone’s looking out for in the coming seasons. 

AP Live

10 Manjiri Pupala 

Manjiri Pupala’s performance was the only memorable thing about the horror-drama Betaal. Despite the many twists and turns in the series, the story failed to hold your interest but, in this lackluster horror, Manjiri’s performance shone like a bright light. 


11. Paoli Dam 

No one can deny that Tripti Dimri stole the show as Bullbul. But Paoli Dam deserves complete credit for effortlessly bringing alive the ingratiating slyness and tragedy of Binodini. Bulbbul was the fantasy – an avenging Goddess fighting for women’s rights. But Binodini was the harsh reality – a woman who, in order to survive patriarchy, becomes its unwitting enabler. And Paoli Dam’s performance was an absolute revelation indeed.

Indian Express

12. Ashok Pathak

Sumukhi Suresh is so brilliant as a psychopathic stalker that few actors can steal your attention away from her. But Ashok Pathak, as T-Boy, managed to do so. At times conniving, at times innocent, and forever annoyingly helpful, T-Boy is not a character you can put into a box. And that’s why Ashok Pathak’s performance becomes all the more special. Also, the sheer genius of naming a person serving tea as T-Boy is just one of the many reasons that make this such a clever show. 

13. Priyanshu Painyulli

After four years of experimenting with diverse roles, it was his performance as Robin in the second season of Mirzapur that immediately struck a chord with the audience. Sneaky in a way that was equal parts adorable and cunning, Priyanshu Painyulli cast a long shadow in a limited screen time and ended up gifting us one of the most viral catchphrases from 2020. Talk about leaving a mark! 

India Today

14. Vikas Kumar 

While ACP Khan in Aarya was certainly not the first time actor and dialogue coach Vikar Kumar played a cop on-screen, it was easily the most multi-layered cop role – in not just his filmography, but in Bollywood’s cop universe too. But Kumar did complete justice to his role. After all, it’s no mean feat standing toe to toe with Aarya Sareen (played to perfection by Sushmita) and not getting overpowered by the sheer aura of the character and the actor. 

Prime Video

A special mention to Achint Thakkar, the composer of the theme music of Scam 1992. Because he may have not been in front of the camera, but his musical stylings were in a league of their own! 

Who’s your favourite breakout star from 2020? Let us know in the comments section below.