Yash Raj Films has sporadically introduced new talent since 1985 but the A-listers started coming in only after Anushka Sharma’s debut in 2008.
Yash Raj Films, founded by late filmmaker Yash Chopra, is currently in its 50th year. The production house, popularly known for its romantic dramas and colourful palette, has experimented with its offerings over the years, particularly when Aditya Chopra took over. From stylised action dramas to films set in small-town India, YRF has brought many a flavour to the big screen. Through a series of throwbacks, we will celebrate the legacy of the production house across the year.
Also read: As Yash Raj Films turns 50, listing the production house’s underrated gems, from Doosra Aadmi to Titli
Before the coronavirus outbreak shook the world, YRF was scheduled to launch three new faces in their 50th year in 2020. These includes Sharvari, who was seen in Kabir Khan’s Amazon Prime Video India Original show The Forgotten Army opposite Sunny Kaushal. She will make her Hindi film debut with Bunty Aur Babli 2, opposite Siddhant Chaturvedi.
Similarly, Shalini Pandey, who was noticed in Sandeep Vanga Reddy’s 2017 romantic drama Arjun Reddy opposite Vijay Devarakonda, will make her Hindi film debut opposite yet another YRF find, Ranveer Singh, in the comedy Jayeshbhai Jordaar. And Manushi Chhillar, Miss World 2017, will make her long-awaited screen debut opposite Akshay Kumar in Chandraprakash Dwiwedi’s historical drama Prithviraj.
Now, a major chunk of the credit must go to the recurring casting director of the production house, Shanoo Sharma. She joined YRF in 2011, that coincided with an infusion of fresh blood into the studio. While introducing new directors was a norm since 2000s, the 2010s saw a surge in new faces, some of whom subsequently became A-list stars.
The A-list wagon
YRF had introduced new faces since 1970 but those were few and far between. None of them, despite making promising debuts, went on to register themselves as A-list stars. Yash Chopra can be credited with his share of finds like Poonam Dhillon and Saif Ali Khan but their debut films Trishul and Parampara were produced by Gulshan Rai and Firoz A Nadiadwala respectively, not YRF.
The first major star to debut in a YRF film turned out to be the game-changer Anushka Sharma, who was cast opposite Shah Rukh Khan in Aditya Chopra’s 2008 directorial Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. She played the role of Taani, a submissive homemaker who finds herself in a marriage without will and finds an unlikely partner in a dance class.
Anushka maintains the film changed her life as she went on to become an A-list star and a producer herself, under the banner of Clean Slate Filmz. “Adi (Aditya Chopra) used to say that we have taken you because you can stand on your own against anyone. Yash ji had also said the same. For a young person like me to hear that was a huge confidence booster. The only reason I was so confident when I did the film is because I was so prepared. Confidence comes because you work so hard,” she said to Press Trust of India.
Anushka’s three-film deal with YRF (a banner ritual since then) included Parmeet Sethi’s 2010 directorial debut Badmaash Company and Maneesh Sharma’s cult romantic comedy Band Baaja Baaraat. She was later seen in YRF films like Sharma’s 2011 heist drama Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Yash Chopra’s 2012 romantic drama Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Ali Abbas Zafar’s 2016 sports drama Sultan, and Sharat Kataria’s 2018 film Sui Dhaaga: Made in India.
Ranveer made his debut in the lead role opposite Anushka in Band Baaja Baaraat. The film catapulted Ranveer into the A-league, inviting comparison with the flavour of the season, Ranbir Kapoor, who was interestingly the first choice for the role.
Ranveer played Bittoo, a brash Dilli ka launda, who collaborates with Anushka’s character to start a wedding planning business, but ends up falling for her. He made the body language and accent of Bittoo so memorable that it took a while to let it sink in that Ranveer was actually a born and raised in Mumbai.
It is common knowledge that Karan Johar was doubtful about Anushka’s prospects before the release of her debut film, but Aditya Chopra kept a check on Ranveer’s expectation as well. He told the actor, “You’re not the most good looking guy. You have to do some good acting if you want people to like you.” Of course, Ranveer then went on to feature in YRF films like Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Ali Abbas Zafar’s 2004 buddy crime drama Gunday, Shaad Ali’s 2014 action comedy Kill Dil, and Aditya Chopra’s 2016 romantic comedy Befikre.
Interestingly, Parineeti was a public relations consultant in YRF before she was spotted by Shanoo for one of the four love interests of Ranveer’s character in Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. She stood out for her spoilt Delhi girl portrayal, and went on to do Habib Faisal’s 2014 action romance Ishaqzaade as the female lead.
Parineeti, who was already shooting for Ishaqzaade when her debut film released, was called by Yash Chopra, who thanked her for being part of his film. Parineeti was later seen in several YRF films like Maneesh’s 2013 romantic drama Shuddh Desi Romance, Habib’s 2014 food film Daawat-e-Ishq, Kill Dill, Akshoy Roy’s 2017 directorial debut Meri Pyaari Bindu, and the upcoming Dibakar Banerjee film Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.
Arjun was supposed to make his debut in a film produced under Y Films, a subsidiary of YRF. But Aditya Chopra then cast him instead as Parma, the male lead in Ishaqzaade, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s iconic play Romeo & Juliet. Arjun was subsequently seen in YRF films like the 2013 crime drama Aurangzeb, Gunday, and will appear in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.
Vaani’s performance in her debut film, a supporting character in Shudh Desi Romance, remains her best till date. Later, she was seen as the female lead in films like 2014 Tamil flick Aaha Kalyanam, Befikre, and most recently Siddharth Anand’s 2019 espionage thriller War. She will next be seen opposite Ranbir in Karan Malhotra’s dacoit drama Shamshera.
Bhumi, a former assistant to Shanoo, auditioned for Sharat’s 2015 romantic drama Dum Laga Ke Haisha. She was asked to gain weight tremendously to play Sandhya, a plus-sized wife to Ayushmann Khurrana’s character.
The film not only solidified Bhumi-Ayushmann as a dependable onscreen pair but also established Bhumi as an A-league actress. She has not been seen in a YRF film since her debut but has chosen to mix it up with a wide range of banners, directors, and roles. However, she continues to be represented by YRF.
Other noticeable debuts
Farah, actress Tabu’s sister, got her big break in Hindi cinema through Yash Chopra’s 1985 directorial Faasle. She later appeared in several films till 2005 but could never break the glass ceiling like her younger sister did.
Mandira Bedi and Parmeet Sethi were introduced as supporting actors in Aditya Chopra’s iconic 1995 romantic drama Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. They played siblings and the quintessential third vertex in the love triangles involving the protagonists Simran (Kajol) and Raj (Shah Rukh Khan). While they continue to act in films, they have not really made it big in the industry. Parmeet was last seen in Ruchi Narain’s Disney+ Hotstar show Hundred, and Mandira appeared in Sujeeth’s 2019 multilingual action entertainer Saaho.
The Mohabbatien brigade in 2000 saw Aditya Chopra introduce as many as four newcomers, including his younger brother Uday Chopra, Shamita Shetty, Kim Sharma, and Preeti Jhangiani. All of them formed a stellar ensemble, along with Jugal Hansraj, Jimmy Sheirgill, SRK, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Archana Puran Singh, Anupam Kher, and Helen. None of the newcomers are active actors today. Uday works in the backend of YRF, and was last noticeably seen in the Dhoom franchise. Shamita last appeared as a finalist in Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi Season 10.
In 2002, Tulip Joshi made her debut with Sanjay Gadhvi’s romantic comedy Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai. However, she went into oblivion after Anant Mahadevan’s 2004 film Dil Maange More, opposite Shahid Kapoor.
The same year, Sandhya Mridul graduated from television to films with a supporting role in Shaad Ali’s Saathiya. She has appeared sporadically on screen since then, and last appeared in Ajay Bahl’s 2019 courtroom drama Section 375 in films and ALTBalaji and ZEE5 show Mentalhood.
Sagarika Ghatge was lauded for her portrayal of Preeti Sabarwal, an ambitious Indian hockey player in Shimit Amin’s 2006 sports drama Chak De! India, alongside SRK, who played the coach. She has appeared in a few films since then, and is now married to Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan.
Gauhar Khan and Shazahn Padamsee made their debut together in Amin’s 2009 film Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, alongside Ranbir. Gauhar was last seen, in yet another corporate comedy, in the Hindi adaptation of The Office last year on Hotstar. Shazahn, however, was last seen way back in Sajid Khan’s 2012 ensemble comedy Housefull 2.
Meiyang Chang, who rose to fame with reality shows like Indian Idol and Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, appeared in a few YRF films but was the most noticed in Badmaash Company.
Saqib Saleem was introduced in Nupur Asthana’s 2010 film Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge, produced under Y Films. He has since then appeared in several noteworthy films like Karan Johar’s short film in Bombay Talkies, Rohit Dhawan’s 2016 film Dishoom, Remo D’Souza’s 2018 action drama Race 3, and will be seen in Kabir Khan’s sports drama 83 later this year.
Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi got a break in Kanu Behl’s 2014 directorial debut Titli. They later reunited for Amazon Prime Video India Original show Made in Heaven last year. He last appeared in Geethu Mohandas’ critically acclaimed gangster drama Moothon in 2019, and she was noticed in short film Devi earlier this year.
The bad guys from the Mardaani franchise, Tahir Raj Bhasin and Vishal Jethwa, made remarkable debuts when they locked horns with Rani Mukerji’s lead character. Both won awards for their breakthroughs, and Tahir later appeared in Nandita Das’ 2018 critically acclaimed period drama Manto and Nitesh Tiwari’s 2019 blockbuster Chhichhore.
Unlikely acting turns
Filmmaker Karan Johar and costume designer-cum-stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania made unexpected acting debuts as Raj and Simran’s friends in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. This was three years before Johar made his directorial debut with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. He, of course, later appeared in a few acting roles, most notably as the antagonist in Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet. Anaita continues to be an ace stylist, and made only one fleeting appearance as Saif Ali Khan’s love interest Geeta in Nikkhil Advani’s 2003 film Kal Ho Naa Ho.
Stand-up comedian Abish Mathew played Ayushmann Khurrana’s friend in Meri Pyaari Bindu. His role mostly seemed like an extension of his persona off-screen. He has not appeared in any film yet, and continues to be busy with his gigs and show Son of Abish.
All images from Twitter.
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