They have cut their teeth on the sets, watched mommy being fawned over by fans, or observed daddy beat up the baddies onscreen. After years of practice in everything, from acting lessons to compulsory dance classes and even stints as assistant directors, these polished and prepped youngsters are finally being unleashed. Coming days will see a good number of star children making their big screen debuts across the country.
Pranav Mohanlal has already made his father proud down south with his debut film boldly entering the Rs 50-crore club. Shahid Kapoor’s step-brother Ishaan Khatter, the late talent house Sridevi’s daughter Janhvi Kapoor, and of course, the youngest from the Pataudi clan—Sara Ali Khan—are all making the right moves and noises. Ishaan’s much-acclaimed festival circuit film with illustrious Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi—Beyond the Clouds—has just been released. As they compete with one another for the best roles and maximum attention, ensuring lasting stardom like some of their parents is the real challenge. Here’s a closer look at the leading debutants this year.
Debut: Dhadak, July 6
Neelima Azim and Rajesh Khatter
USPs: A fabulous dancer—elder brother Shahid Kapoor says Ishaan is way better than him—the young Khatter lad began his film career as a child actor in the 2005 film Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi! More importantly, he has starred in famous Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s drama, Beyond the Clouds (2017), delivering an electrifying visceral performance. The Hollywood Reporter singled him out for praise, writing that his “noteworthy screen charisma promises well for his future career”.
What drives him: Ishaan wants to be a part of films he can emotionally connect with. “From an actor’s perspective, I would be really happy to work in a film which has relevant content with which I can connect emotionally. I would not like to limit myself to certain kind of cinema or roles. I would be happy to explore as many avenues as possible.”
Can’t wait to see him: Ishaan plays the male lead in Dharma Productions’ Hindi remake of Marathi blockbuster, Sairat. The original had won accolades for its shocking theme of honour killing told via a beautifully woven love story. Dhadak, directed by Shashank Khaitan, is set in Rajasthan and interest is already high in both Ishaan and the film.
Word of advice: Dad Rajesh, an actor himself, reveals, “I just say one thing to him: to be himself. That’s most important. Whether you are into any profession, you just need to be yourself because that is what will count eventually. I don’t believe in advice but I believe in sharing my experiences with him. I believe in youngsters drawing their own conclusions out of that.”
Debut: Dhadak, July 6
Famous Parents: The late Sridevi and Boney Kapoor
Production status: After a first schedule in Rajasthan which began last December, the film is currently being shot in Kolkata. Various key locations of the city are set to feature in this schedule. Filming was on hold post the sudden demise of Janhvi’s mother, the legendary Sridevi.
USPs: Janhvi was born to the limelight, grabbing attention as she graced the cover of People magazine with her famous mother in 2012. While mama Sri would have preferred her to get married, the acting bug had already bitten. Trained at Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, Los Angeles, and a fantastic dancer, the young beauty is already a huge hit for her fashion choices.
Can’t wait to see her: She has struck gold already with a mentor in Karan Johar, who has been grooming her in every aspect of the game. Additionally, the role of the young and plucky heroine, who elopes and matures into matrimony only to meet a grisly end, is a dream role for Janhvi. It offers ample scope for both dancing and performance, and all eyes will be trained to see how the legendary Sridevi’s daughter acquits herself. Huge pressure, yes, but then she is her mother’s daughter and will rise to the occasion!
Word of advice: Sridevi, before her untimely death, had advised her daughter about doing the right thing—“Do hard work, give your 100 per cent, hard work always pays.” Sri had also warned, “She has to face the pressure. When she has decided to enter Bollywood, she has to go through all this.” Dad Boney vouches, “Janhvi has her own individuality. Fortunately, she is not trying to be (like) her mom. She is trying to be herself, which is good.”
Production status: Two weeks after the demise of her mother Sridevi on February 24, Janhvi resumed shooting for her debut. Images shared by director Shashank Khaitan showed four new pictures from the sets of the film in Kolkata. The lead pair was spotted shooting outside Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, in trams and on the streets.
Debut: Telugu remake of 2 States, 2018
Famous Parents: Dr Rajasekhar and Jeevitha
USPs: A trained dancer proficient in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, the multi-talented Shivani is also an accomplished musician. She is well-versed in keyboard, veena and the guitar. No greenhorn when it comes to films, Shivani has been assisting her mother, Jeevitha Rajasekhar, and is knowledgeable about filmmaking. As she puts it, “I’ve prepared for this my whole life!”
Can’t wait to see her: Shivani makes her debut in the Telugu remake of 2014 Bollywood hit 2 States. The film will see her stepping into the role played by Alia Bhatt, in this Venkat Reddy directorial. The remake will be made peppier in terms of presentation, while maintaining the tone and retaining the emotions of the original. Shivani will also make her debut in Tamil cinema soon. She has been finalised as the female lead in a romantic film starring Vishnu Vishal and will mark her debut in Kollywood. Should things go to plan, Shivani’s will be one of the biggest debuts in South Indian cinema, as she will be introduced in two parallel industries.
Words of advice: Full marks to Dr Rajasekhar, who has been staunchly backing his daughter. “There is no wrong in letting our daughters do what they aspire,” he pointed out. “There is a lot of hypocrisy in our industry. Many are okay with shaking a leg with some other’s kids and even look to play with their lives but when it comes to their own children, especially girls, they should not even come into the open. Well, when my daughter expressed her desire to act, I gave her my consent and asked her to finish her graduation first and then take up acting as a hobby but not full time. Even my younger daughter wants to make it into acting.”
Production status: The project starring Shivani and Adivi Sesh went on the floors recently. It was launched with a glitzy event with bigwigs such as SS Rajamouli, Raghavendra Rao, Krishnam Raju and Subbarama Reddy in attendance. The first schedule ended on April 19. The second schedule will happen in May in Kolkata. The third is set to happen in the US.
Debut: Aadhi (Malayalam), Jan 26
Famous Parents: Mohanlal and Suchitra Balaji
USPs: Pranav actually needed convincing from his father Mohanlal, Malayalam cinema’s biggest action superstar, to consider cinema as a career option. He agreed to take the plunge only on condition that he would decide his future course of action after considering the results of his debut! Along with a deep interest in literature, he is also a trained musician. Before facing the camera, he also assisted Jeethu Joseph on two films. Another definite plus is his humble nature and ease before the camera. As Sijoy Varghese, Pranav’s co-actor, puts it: “I thought he might have the attitude of a big hero’s son but he was totally opposite. He’s like a younger brother, like a very ordinary man and very humble. As an actor, I rate him highly because he does not show the initial discomfort of an actor.”
Impressive debut: His performance in action-thriller Aadhi as the budding musician, who is wrongly blamed for the death of a billionaire’s son, came in for considerable praise. While some deemed his parkour stunts in the Jeethu Joseph-directed movie even better than Matt Damon’s work in the Bourne series, others pointed out that his brilliant performance ensured that father Mohanlal’s legacy continued. His speed and agility in stunts were an instant reminder that talent is in the genes. His second film has been announced—to be directed by Arun Gopy and produced by Tomichan Mulakuppadam. It will begin filming in June 2018.
Word of advice: Veteran actor Mohanlal had some special advice for his son. Being an actor, he told Pranav, was almost similar to playing trapeze without a safety net. A player can only survive if audiences are ready to support him. He also shared with the lad that he should follow the Buddhist ideology of finding his own way.
Debut: Student of the Year 2, Nov 23
Chunky and Bhavna Pandey
USPs: To be selected by Karan Johar, from amongst thousands of hopefuls, is more than half the battle won already. This lovely lass didn’t bag her debut only on the basis of her very pretty face or famous surname. Apparently, she auditioned in front of Karan, SOTY 2 leading man Tiger Shroff and director Punit Malhotra. Reading out Alia Bhatt’s lines from Student of the Year, she breezed through with panache. Already a part of the NextGen glam set, along with Shah Rukh and Gauri’s daughter Suhana Khan, and Sanjay and Maheep Kapoor’s daughter Shanaya, she is no stranger to the celeb scene.
Can’t wait to see her: Ananya will essay one of the lead roles opposite Tiger Shroff in the upcoming campus caper and she will be B-town’s Next Darling, by the looks of it. She has already made a sensational start, making her society debut at the annual Le Bal des Debutantes in Paris, alongside the likes of Maharaja Padmanabh Singh of the former royal family of Jaipur, and Reese Witherspoon’s daughter, Ava Phillippe. What’s more, US film magazine Variety featured her in a spread presenting stars of the future, so there!
Word of advice: Proud daddy Chunky shared, “Ananya finished her studies, and a couple of months ago, she did tell me that she wants to get into films. Nowadays, you cannot tell your kids what to do. In fact, you have to listen to them. As a parent, give them great education and values, and they will decide what to do in life. I would like to tell her that it’s important that you don’t imitate anyone else’s success story. You have to make your own story, and I would love to be known as Ananya Pandey’s father.”
Production status: Headlined by Tiger Shroff and two heroines—Ananya Pandey and Tara Sutaria—shooting for SOTY 2 has begun. Part 1 of the franchise, launching Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan, had been shot in Kashmir, Dehradun and Thailand.
‘Chiyaan’ Vikram and Shailaja Balakrishnan
USPs: The London-educated Dhruv has made sure to learn the ins and outs of the industry before taking the plunge. During his school days, he had made many popular YouTube videos. More significantly, he directed a short film, Goodnight Charlie, a thriller against child abuse.
What drives him: Well before his debut film could be announced, Dhruv had admitted that as a star kid, it was reasonably easy to get a break in films. However, he added, “but this is not something I am proud of”. He shared, “I wish I could enter the industry solely based on how much talent I have and not because of my last name. But having said that, I will also have the pressure of carrying on a legacy that my father would pass on to me, which is scary, but also y biggest motivation.”
Can’t wait to see him: Dhruv’s first look from Varma created a huge splash with fans (yes, he has loads of them already!) raving over the ‘killer poster’. Directed by phenomenal filmmaker Bala, it is the Tamil remake of Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy, which won huge box office success. Dhruv couldn’t have asked for a better role to sink his acting chops into than the young and brilliant medico titular character, with anger management issues.
Production status: Filming began on March 2, in Kathmandu. The end of the week-long schedule had been announced by Dhruv, as he posted a picture of himself on Instagram, captioning it, “Home bound”. The hunt for the heroine is still on, as the film prepares for its second schedule.
Sara Ali Khan
Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh
USPs: ‘Sara Ali Khan has got the perfect combination of beauty and brains’—this high praise comes the young lady’s way from stepmom, Kareena Kapoor Khan. Sara completed her education at the Columbia University, New York, and is a strong young woman with a mind of her own. Dad Saif reveals that she has always wanted to ‘act’. Sara decided that she didn’t want to be in candyfloss movies as she doesn’t believe in them. “Since it is her independent decision, she is happy to either fly with it or go down with it,” her proud dad pointed out. According to producer Arjun N Kapoor, the young actor is extremely professional and is “giving her 100 per cent” to her debut film.
Can’t wait to see her: Sara debuts with Kedarnath, a love story that unfolds during the course of a pilgrimage amidst a natural disaster. She pairs opposite Sushant Singh Rajput, who plays a ‘pittu’, who ferries pilgrims on his back to the shrine. Kedarnath had been embroiled in a fracas between the director and the producers; however filming has resumed and a release date is expected soon.
Word of advice: Three succinct words from dad Saif: “Read the script!” Her director Abhishek Kapoor also added, “This delightful buttercup has been waiting in the wings and preparing for her run for a while now. She’s finding her groove and building a momentum to unleash all that she has to offer to the world of movies. Stay strong and focused... you’re on your way.” That, she is!
Production Status: After completing the first shooting schedule in the foothills of the Himalayas last year, the Sushant Singh Rajput-Sara Ali Khan-starrer kick-started the second shooting schedule in Mumbai. The vital flood sequences have been shot in a controlled environment on sets worth `7 crore in the city. With the tiff between the producers and the director ironed out, shooting is set to resume in April.
Debut: Kalyanam (Malayalam), Feb
Famous Parents: Mukesh and Saritha
USPs: Elder son of the versatile Malayalam actor Mukesh and veteran actress Saritha, Shravan Mukesh had completed his MBBS from the Ras al-Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University, UAE. He had even begun teaching there. However, when director Rajesh Nair’s offer came his way, he couldn’t resist giving it a shot. After all, as he admits, as a youngster, he got more appreciation for his participation in plays and cultural activities than for studies! Not surprisingly, he impressed Nair on their very first meeting. The director was looking for a fresh face for his romantic comedy and he was floored. The entire crew was impressed by how confident Shravan was in front of the camera.
Can’t wait to see him: Shravan Mukesh recently debuted in Mollywood with the wedding caper, Kalyanam. He impressed as the simple guy who lacks the courage to tell the girl of his dreams that he loves her. It will be interesting to see the films he will choose next.
Word of advice: Despite his sons Shravan and Tejas being interested in cinema, dad Mukesh had insisted that they complete their education before thinking of venturing into films. Back in 2016, he had commented that all the star kids of today were decent and better-behaved than their fathers! “They are ready to work hard and earn their place in the industry without using their star kid label,” he had pointed out. Clearly, not much need for advice here!
Debut: Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas, 2018
Famous Parents: Sunny Deol and Pooja
USPs: Shah Rukh Khan hit the nail on the head, when he wrote to Sunny, “He looks as tough and gentle as you.” The third generation of Deols to have joined Bollywood, and grandson of the legendary Dharmendra, Karan has cut his teeth on films. His strongest asset: dad Sunny who has been working meticulously on crafting a worthy debut for him. Apparently, Yash Raj Films had shown interest in launching the Deol lad, but the protective papa chose to do it himself. “It is a huge task since it is Karan’s first film. I want to give my best to it. I am a bit conscious as I am launching him,” Sunny admits, sounding both highly emotional and thrilled by the responsibility.
Can’t wait to see him: The title of the film borrows from Dharmendra’s famous song from Blackmail. Pegged as a romantic action film, it has been shot extensively in Manali and Delhi, and will include some high-octane action sequences. Karan has undergone considerable prep for his big launch, spending two years to get into the skin of his character. What’s more, he has shot all the stunts himself—just like daddy, no doubles will do!
Word of advice: Sunny maintains, “I don’t give him any advice. He has to be honest to his profession and craft of acting, work hard and enjoy what he does.” And there’s additional support from granddad Dharam, who declares, “He has confidence and I want him to fly with his confidence!”
Production status: After teeing off shooting in May 2017, Sunny Deol wrapped up the Manali schedule of his directorial last November. Posting an image of the snow-clad mountains on Instagram, he wrote, “Left Manali with snow.” The unit then headed to Delhi for the next schedule.