2005 — Nayanthara: Back in 2005, who would have thought that Nayanthara would be hailed as the ‘Lady Superstar’ of Tamil cine industry today? She made her debut in Tamil with Ayya, in which she essayed the role of an innocent village belle. She surprised everyone when she was cast opposite Rajinikanth in just her second film. Ever since, there has been no looking back for her!
Nayanthara gave hit after hit and reached the peak of her career in almost no time. It came as a shock to her fans when she announced that she was quitting films in 2011. Atlee, another debutant director brought her back to the spotlight with Raja Rani and the rest is history.
2005 also marks the debut of the handsome Arya, who has carved a niche for himself in the industry. Interestingly, Arya and Nayanthara starred together in three films, which became blockbuster hits.
2006 — Tamannaah: It is quite unconventional for a heroine to play a negative role in her maiden acting venture, but Tamannaah defied the odds when she portrayed a negative character in Kedi. Though the film did mediocre business, it opened up new avenues for her. She is one of the few in K’town, who successfully juggles content-oriented films and commercial ventures.
Her hard work bagged her films in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Speaking about her film journey, Tamannaah says, “When I came into the industry, I just wanted to be an actress and did not have any long-term goals. Looking back, I am proud of what I have done so far and I don’t have any regrets. At the end of the day, you cannot go back and change what you have done. I take each day as it comes and I enjoy what I do.”
Another remarkable find in 2006 was Anushka Shetty. Though she concentrated more on Telugu films, she came back to Tamil in 2009 with a bang through Arundhati. She is probably the one actress among the latest crop to have acted in a record number of women-centric films!
2007 — Vetri Maaran: Coming from the school of legendary director Balu Mahendra, Vetri Maaran has done Tamil cinema proud through his directorial ventures. He made his debut in 2007 with Polladhavan, starring Dhanush and Divya Spandana. Even though he takes his sweet time to helm the films, he always makes an impact when he comes out with them!
He bagged the national awards for his subsequent films Aadukalam and Visaranai. The icing on the cake was when Visaranai was selected as the Indian entry for the 89th Academy awards. “I have been learning the art of filmmaking through my movies — in the hope of making a good film one day. I have always wanted to make films and it is a great feeling when you start a new project every time. I feel like I am a medium for my movies to make themselves,” asserts the director.
2008 — Kajal Aggarwal: Having given up her career as a marketing executive, Kajal made her mark in the industry with her acting prowess. She made her debut in director Perarsu’s Pazhani, opposite Bharath. Initially, her projects didn’t fetch her the much-needed break, but that did not deter her. Magadheera in Telugu by SS Rajamouli was the turning point for her career as it opened new doors for her in Tamil and Telugu as well. Today, she is one among the few actresses set to share screen space with both Ajith (in Vivegam) and Vijay (his untitled 61st film) in 2017.
2009 — M Rajesh: Director Rajesh’s debut film, Siva Manusula Sakthi,starring Jiiva and Anuya, became a trend setter for comedy dramas. The director’s movies were perfect entertainers and he lured the audience with his quick wit and slapstick humour.
Rajesh, opening up about his film journey, says, “It is a learning experience with every film, and I get to understand how the audience and critics feel about my flicks. When I started off, I used to have smoking scenes and I could understand the adverse effect it had on the audience. So, since Oru Kal Oru Kannadi, I’ve stopped showing smoking scenes. It feels great to implement such factors after analysing. I never thought I would make it big in the industry. When I got the opportunity to direct SMS for Vikatan Talkies, all I wanted to do was not to let them down and give a good film. In eight years, I have earned great friends who are like my family.”
2010 — Vijay Sethupathi: Vijay Sethupathi’s growth as an actor is an inspiration to many young talents who aspire to make it big in Kollywood. Today, he is one of the go-to actors in the industry, who is extremely busy churning out hits. After his stint as an accountant with a private firm, Vijay Sethupathi did supporting roles in Pudhupettai, Naan Mahaan Alla and many more films. His first project as a hero was Seenu Ramasamy’s Thernmerku Paruvakaatru, which was critically-acclaimed. Then came Pizza, which catapulted him into a different league.
Like in his films, Vijay Sethupathi comes across as a easy-going person, whom we would love to see on screen and be happy about his achievements.
Also, another find was Samantha Ruth Prabhu, who marked her debut with Atharvaa-starrer Banaa Kathadi. It was Gautham Menon’s Neethane En Ponvasantham, that paved way for her eventful journey in K’town. Little did we know that she would grab the limelight in different industries and be part of great blockbuster hits in Tamil and Telugu.
2011 — Shruti Haasan: Having the ‘Haasan’ tag to your name puts you under a lot of pressure. Needless to say, Shruti Haasan has emerged as a strong lady, who has carved a niche for herself in the Tamil, Telugu and Hindi industries. With 7 aum Arivu being her debut venture, she has proved that one can successfully manage her career as an actress and a musician. Her Tamil films speak oodles about her choice of projects she wants to be part of. Having teamed up with leading stars in Tamil and Telugu industries, Shruti has been part of blockbuster projects that makes her one of the most sought-after actresses.
2012 — Sivakarthikeyan: Sivakarthikeyan’s transition from a mimicry artist to a happening actor in Kollywood is something to talk about. In every stage of his career, he faced several hurdles until he tasted success as an actor through Marina. Though his initial films didn’t give him much recognition, it was his collaboration with Dhanush, which depicted his mettle as an actor. Ethirneechal branded him as a commercial hero — and he capitalised on the same with determination. Ten films on, Sivakarthikeyan is now a part of Mohan Raja’s prestigious project (probably the biggest film in his career), in which he is paired opposite Nayanthara!
Another debutant who made heads turn was director Pa. Ranjith. His films are centered around about Dalit politics and are always compelling to watch. Ranjith made it to the top league when he directed Thalaivar Rajinikanth for Kabali.
Today, he is one among the few directors who has got the opportunity to work with Superstar consecutively. Karthik Subbaraj is another addition to the list of promising directors from this year. His films Pizza and Iraivi were fresh and progressive.
2013 — Nalan Kumarasamy: The year 2013 saw a resurgence of quirky films and spearheading the lot was Nalan Kumarasamy’s Soodhu Kavvum. A dark comedy based on an extortion gang, the Vijay Sethupathi-starrer went on to be one of the best films that year, and is still spoken about for its originality. Just like the characters in his films, Nalan is laid-back, funny and quick-witted.
He has since worked as one of the directors in X: Past Is Present, and teamed up with Sethupathi again in the 2016 film Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum. His films have comedy interlaced in the characters, settings and situations, making them realistic, yet bone tickling funny.
The young director is also known for supporting young aspiring directors — he also distributed Uriyadi in 2015, another film by a young aspirant, which went on to be a standout offering. “I am in a better place than what I imagined when I started my career as a filmmaker. Initially, I was a little apprehensive, but I have found my rhythm. One and half years ago, I felt stressful, but I have understood the craft better and started working on my next script. With more exposure, I feel confident and I have specialised on script writing and film theory. Since film appreciation has also increased, I feel happy to be in the place I am in. It is a gradual learning process and there is no end to it,” Nalan shares about his journey.
2014 — Dulquer Salmaan: It is safe to say that Kollywood was long anticipating this dreamboat’s debut in Tamil. Just three years old in cinema, Dulquer Salmaan made an entry in Kollywood with Vaayai Moodi Pesavum. The cute film, about a fictional flu spreading across a quaint hill town, made audiences leave the hall with a smile, and they sure took Dulquer back with them in their hearts! He played the role of a man with a golden heart, who wouldn’t just stop talking. Dulquer was already the rage in Mollywood then, and being the son of superstar Mammootty added to the hype around him.
But through his sincere performance, Dulquer proved that he is not just any other star kid who had it easy. His second film — Oh Kadhal Kanmani directed by Mani Ratnam, gave him the image of the ideal boyfriend any woman would want. While his focus is definitely on Malayalam cinema, the actor chooses his scripts carefully and has a couple of Tamil projects in the pipeline.
2015 — Keerthy Suresh: The year saw yet another star kid’s arrival in the K’town scene. Although a few films old in Malayalam, not many knew about Keerthy Suresh, yesteryear actress Menaka’s daughter. She debuted in Idhu Enna Maayam, a film which went rather unnoticed. Yet, Keerthy was the actress whom everyone was talking about in 2015. Without even a single release that year, Keerthy managed to become the busiest actress in town! By signing a dozen films, she managed to make an identity for herself rather quickly.
Her next release Rajini Murugan, saw her play a lovely small-town belle — and through the film, she captured the hearts of young men across TN. Known for her expressive acting chops, Keerthy has been part of successful films both in Tamil and Telugu over the last year. She will soon be bringing the life of legendary actress Savithri, to screens in a bilingual next year.
2016 — Ritika Singh: Who would have thought that an MMA fighter — a national champion at that — had it in her to become a great actress? Sounds impossible, right? But, Ritika Singh pulled it off with ease and style when she debuted in Tamil and Hindi with Sudha Kongara’s Irudhi Suttru (Saala Khadoos in Hindi). Even though she played a role close to her real life persona, she put up a powerhouse performance.
The 22-year-old actress has proved that with determination, nothing is impossible. She has now given up her boxing career and is into films full-time. By playing a journalist in her second venture Aandavan Kattalai, she captured a special place in the hearts of people, and is now acting with Arvind Swami and Telugu superstar Venkatesh.
(Compiled by Janani K and Niveda Manohar)...