From movies that stood true to my expectations to shows that left me pleasantly surprised, 2021 scored high on entertainment, for sure. And like every year, this year too, there were certain stars (debutants and veterans alike), whose performances stole the spotlight. 

Here’s a look at the top 10 breakout stars of Indian films and web series of 2021, as per IMDb: 

1. Adarsh Gourav

Gourav, who starred in The White Tiger with Priyanka Chopra and Rajkummar Rao, stole the spotlight from these stars with his nuanced and empathetic portrayal of a driver who turns against his employer, after being abused and exploited by him. Gourav’s fierce performance also earned him a BAFTA nomination. Gourav, who bagged a project with Meryl Streep, will also be seen in Zoya Akhtar’s next. 

Indian Express

2. Ashlesha Thakur

This young star debuted with the TV show, Shakti Astitva Ke Ehsaas Ki, in 2017 but it was with The Family Man, that she launched to nationwide fame. Playing Srikant Tiwari’s elder child Dhriti, Thakur was picture perfect in her role of a teenager who rebels first and explains later – because that’s how we all are as teenagers. 


3. Malavika Mohanan 

After debuting with the 2013 Malayalam film Pattam Pole, Mohanan continued to improve upon her craft. With Majid Majidi’s 2017 drama Beyond the Clouds, she earned critical acclaim, and in 2021, starred in one of the year’s more popular action thrillers, Master (co-starring Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi). 


4. Manoj Bajpayee 

Bajpayee is a bonafide star who has never delivered a false performance in his life. He reprised his role of a world-class spy, and middle-class father in the second season of The Family Man this year, and followed it with the black comedy, Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa (in Ray), and later, the thriller Dial 100 (in which he shared screen space with Neena Gupta). Easily one of Bollywood’s finest actors, watching Bajpayee in action is always a treat! 

Indian Express

5. Kritika Kamra 

Since 2007, Kamra has been winning people over with her roles in different, hit TV shows, like Kitani Mohabbat Hai, Reporters, etc. She was also a participant in the dance reality show, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, and starred in the web series Tandav this year. While the show failed to do justice to the talent on board, Kamra’s performance was brilliant, as always. 

India Today

6. Shahana Goswami 

A brilliant actor, Goswami has recently been a part of several popular web series (A Suitable Boy in 2020, Bombay Begums, and The Last Hour in 2021). But she’s been a part of some truly noteworthy films, Rock On!, Firaaq, Heroine, etc. And her formidable screen presence continuously begs the question – when will see a mainstream film, with her in the lead role?


7. Sunny Hinduja 

With his act as Sunny bhaiya in AspirantsSunny Hinduja instantly became everyone’s favourite fictional character. Apart from Aspirants, he also starred as Milind in The Family Man. Hinduja has been a part of the industry for almost a decade now, but it was with Aspirants that, he, and his performances, found a whole new fan base. 


8. Vikrant Massey 

One of the most natural actors in Bollywood, Massey’s filmography is a clear indication of his penchant for experimental films. In 2021 alone, he starred in 4 different movies, and while none of the roles were similar, his performance was equally impressive in all. Though we’d definitely love to see him pick better stories in the future, that do justice to his talent. 


9. Ahsaas Channa 

From playing the cute kid from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna to playing the ballsy friend in Kota Factory, Channa has certainly come a long way in the industry. And with 3 hit web series under her belt, there is certainly a lot more for her to achieve. Here’s hoping she serves us with memorable and diverse roles in the future. 

Social Telecast

10. Sai Tamhankar

Sai Tamhankar is one of Bollywood’s underrated gems, who never fails to impress with her powerful performances. In 2021, she starred as the loyal friend in Mimi, and managed to make a cliched character appear refreshing. A notable star of Marathi cinema, it’s time we see more of Tamhankar in mainstream cinema as well. 


All information provided by IMDb. IMDbPro STARmeter rankings are based on the actual page views of the more than 200 million monthly IMDb visitors.