Bollywood has a dark cloud that floats over it, called “nepotism”. It is the biggest and most obvious critique that critics point towards. Looking at the history of Hindi cinema, the star kid syndrome is relatively recent- starting from Rishi Kapoor’s debut.
Prior to that, all the major stars were not part of the fraternity. Bollywood and audiences do appreciate talented outsiders who make it. Here are 15 outsiders whose journeies should be appreciated despite nepotism.
1. Shah Rukh Khan
He started his career from a television shows like Fauji to ruling Bollywood. The actor has mentioned several times that he owes everything to the small screen. After a small break from the movies, fans saw him in a cameo in Rocketry in 2022. The following years are lined up with his projects to much anticipation.
2. Priyanka Chopra Jonas
After winning the Miss World pageant at the age of 18 in the year 2000, Priyanka’s big breakthrough was Andaaz. In 2017, she went miss international and made her Hollywood debut with Baywatch. In a career spawning over 20 years, she is now a producer, actress, singer and icon for representation. Her recent project, The Matrix Resurrections, received accolades for her performance.
3. Rajkumar Rao
Although his debut was in 2010 with Rann, as a newsreader, he broke out as a performer with Love Sex Aur Dhokha. True to his prowess, he played a gay policeman Shardul, in Badhaai Do. The movie received accolades for the sensitive and respective portrayal of Lesbian and Gay people.
4. Anushka Sharma
With a dream debut opposite Shah Rukh Khan and being directed by Aditya Chopra in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Anushka Sharma grew with every step. She became a successful philanthropist and producer, along with being an actor. Her recent project, Zero, saw her skillfully portray a scientist with cerebral palsy.
5. Kartik Aaryan
An engineering graduate from Gwalior came down to Mumbai, eventually starring in his debut Pyaar Ka Punchama, which tanked at the box office. Ever since, he has transformed into one of the 10 most saleable stars in Bollywood. His recent work saw him brilliantly fill into Akshay Kumar’s comic timing in Bhool Bhulaiya 2.
6. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Aishwarya Rai was crowned Miss World in 1994, throwing her into the world of glamour. She debuted with the underwhelming Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya against Bobby Deol. However, she has evolved into an international glamour icon, a Cannes staple and an actress in various languages. Her recent project in Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan: I that has the fans excited.
7. Ayushmann Khurrana
In 2012, television VJ Ayushmann Khurrana made his debut with the celebrated Vicky Donor. From being the face of youth to a widely regarded flagbearer of every minority, Khurrana has had a rollercoaster journey from his debut to Anek.
8. Katrina Kaif
In 2003, Katrina Kaif had a less-than-stellar debut with Boom, her character was called Rina Kaif. The actress has been lauded for her work ethic, fashion and dancing skills over the years. Her 2021 venture Sooryavanshi was a Box-office blockbuster.
9. Pankaj Tripathi
The stellar actor did a number of small and uncredited roles in the beginning of his career. From being a small part of the iconic “Kaua Biryani” scene, he is now a giant. He blew up and deserved his share of the credit due to the OTT boom in India. His recent work in Sherdil: The Pilibhit Saga received the accolades that only Tripathi can create.
10. Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone had a dream debut in Om Shaanti Om, she starred in a double role opposite Shah Rukh Khan and directed by Farah Khan. The movie is a staple in pop culture. In 2021, her role as Gehraiyaan was lauded for starting and encouraging conversations around trauma, mental health and sexuality, all things that the actress is passionate about in real life too.
11. Ali Fazal
Debuting in an iconic movie, like 3 Idiots, as a special appearance was Ali Fazal’s start in Bollywood. In the 13 years ever since, he has become a staple of Indian pop culture, OTT platforms and also Hollywood. His recent role as Ipsit in Netflix anthology, Ray, received compliments.
12. Vidya Balan
Vidya Balan was an ‘outsider’ who played a dorky character in Hum Paanch. She became a household name until her Bollywood debut, Parineeta. She is now Bollywood’s most refined actresses, Vidya Balan carved a niche with her acting skills. Her recent movie, Jalsa, received widespread acclaim for Vidya carrying the movie on her able shoulder.
13. Nawazuddin Siddiqui
From a number of uncredited small roles, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has had an inspiring and beautiful journey from an extra to an iconic part of Bollywood. In his recent project, Heropanti 2, critics applauded Nawaz for being the only good thing about the franchise.
14. Manav Kaul
From a strange debut in 2003 with Jajantaram Mamantaram, Manav Kaul has received his share of projects and fan fare. His recent movie, Jalsa, was critically and commercially celebrated.
15. Irrfan Khan
Late actor Irrfan Khan is an iconic legend in the history of Indian cinema. He started on television and struggled due to his unconventional looks. After multiple serials, art-house films and years of unending struggle in Mumbai, he made a breakthrough with Haasil, where he played a negative role. His last movie before his untimely demise was Angrezi Medium.
The actors did not need big names to set their feet in a highly competitive industry, only talent.