Winning the ‘National Crush’ crown

The new trend of ‘democratisation’ of the entertainment industry, with the audience having a say in awarding ‘star’ status, has made many talented actors more hopeful that they will get due recognition with time

The newly-anointed national crush Taaha Shah Badussha is fanning the flames of fame. The actor came into the spotlight for his portrayal of Tajdar, the determined noble who sacrifices himself for the country’s freedom in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi.

Within days of the series premiering, Taaha Shah’s social media following jumped 200 per cent from a few hundred. “I take this as a win for all the 15 years I have put in. I’m glad to get the love and recognition that I had desired over the years, and have not been able to achieve. It is very humbling,” he says.

Reason to hope
Taaha’s story is the classic example of talented hopefuls who get lost in the labyrinth of Bollywood’s hyper-competitive ecosystem. Some relentlessly persevere, awaiting that big break or role which will shift the spotlight on to them, while some give up on the dream. Taaha made his debut 13 years ago with Luv Ka The End, but it wasn’t until Heeramandi that people got to know of his existence. “The OTT platform has given an opportunity to people who could have gotten lost. There is so much content being made daily and for some to get recognition is a blessing. But this is not something that can be foretold, it cannot be predetermined, it’s all in the audience’s hands. I’m glad we all are getting the little boost we didn’t have initially,” he says.

Advantage outsiders
In the past six months, the audience and the film industry have rediscovered a plethora of unnoticed talent and faces.
The term ‘national crush’ marks the arrival of a star chosen by the audience rather than the carefully curated image generated by the film industry. And it’s no coincidence that they are all outsiders with no ‘access cards’ to Bollywood’s closed doors.

Trupti’s breakthrough
It began with Triptii Dimri in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal in December 2023. The actor made an impact in her limited screen time and was hailed as the new ‘national crush’, taking over the mantle from crowd favourite Rashmika Mandana.
Triptii’s 2018 debut in Laila Majnu went unnoticed, and the film barely lasted a week. Despite appearing in Bulbul and Qala, it was Animal that made her a notable name..
Today, Triptii has a roster of films, including Bad Newz with Vicky Kaushal, Bhool Bhuliyaan 3 opposite Kartik Aaryan, and Dhadak 2.
Both Taaha and Triptii say that despite having no work at times, they remained hopeful that something good would come their way.

‘Laapata’ no more
The other current favourites are the Laapata Ladies trio. Twenty-three-year-old Prathibha Ranta, who also was in Heermandi, is busier than ever. And her co-stars Nitanshi Goel and Sparsh Srivastava are the new toast of the screens after several stints in television.
Director Kiran Rao says she was never inclined to cast ‘stars’ or well-known names. “My script and story were such that fresh faces and talent were needed, and I would not have compromised on that aspect,” she says.
In an industry driven by family connections, will this trend favour others waiting in the wings? Despite rising social currency, Taaha acknowledges the struggle persists. “We have to work doubly hard, otherwise complacency sets in. The nature of this business is such that a small dose of success makes you think ‘now things need to come to me.’ It is not so, we have to work even harder to network. The 15 years of struggle have made me hungry; if people don’t come to you, you go to them,” he says.

Setting the stage for talent
A casting director says this is a healthy sign.” The verdict rests with the audience. The film industry is often called undemocratic and capitalistic in its workings, which it is and will be. Today, mid-budget films led by non-mega stars draw crowds. Audiences endorse talent and call out those who lack skill, as Taaha highlights: “The audience is choosing who they want to see on screens.”

"There is so much content being made daily and for some to get recognition is a blessing. But this is not something that can be foretold, it cannot be predetermined, it’s all in the audience’s hands,” Taaha says.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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