Jaya Bachchan in Guddi

Jaya Bhaduri (Guddi)

Before Jaya Bhaduri , acting was all about... well, acting!

You had to teach them the finer and cruder points of the craft so that they could get noticed.

Jaya was the first natural actress of Hindi cinema. From her loud giggle to her multitudinous expressions, there wasn’t a single artificial bone in her being.

Her debut films -- Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Guddi in which she played a star-struck teenager and Sudhendu Roy’s Uphaar (based on the same Rabindranath Tagore story as Madhuri Dixit’s debut film Abodh) -- proved her to be an actress of extraordinary talent.

Shabana Azmi in Ankur
Shabana Azmi (Ankur)

For self-explanatory reasons, actors who start on the offbeat track never get the exposure they deserve.

Shabana Azmi was the exception.

She singlehandedly changed the many prejudices about women. With her uneven features and far-from-perfect figure she revolutionised the Indian film heroine. Shabana was the definition of woman power and she blew the screen apart with her very first release.

Playing the deglamorised Hyderabadi wife who’s seduced by her feudal lord, she elevated oppression into a high art.

Rishi Kapoor
Rishi Kapoor (Mera Naam Joker)

It’s easy to be a debutant, but tough to convey the turmoil and inadequacies of a young adolescent.

14-year-old Rishi Kapoor played the pivotal part of young Raju in Mera Naam Joker.

Anxious about his burgeoning sexuality, madly besotted with his English teacher, Rishi’s Kapoor’s Raju won him his first and only National Award.

Dimple Kapadia in Bobby
Dimple Kapadia (Bobby)

Her performance as the bindaas Bobby Braganza won many hearts. The spontaneous display of callow emotions were all worked out by Raj Kapoor. Dimple just had to follow him blindly.

She was the first actress to win the Filmfare Award for her debut.

Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna
Zeenat Aman (Hare Rama Hare Krishna)

Not an extraordinary performance, but an outstanding presence.

As the bereft and bereaved Janice, Zeenat Aman represented the desi side of flower power.

Her brash, sassy attitude, brought with it a westernised outlook to Hindi cinema. Coy became the cussword when she reigned. Till when Hema Malini and Sridevi brought the demure look back into vogue.

But Zeenat’s chutzpah and unabashed cleavage-exposing sensuality treated the audience to new experieces.

Aamir Khan in QSQT
Aamir Khan (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak)

'Who’s the boy next door? Ask the girl next door!' The blurb took off like a meteor catapulting Aamir Khan’s to unprecedented teenybopper glory.

The clean-cut attitude combined with an oven-fresh market appeal, accentuated by the song Papa kehte hai badaa naam karega, made Aamir the love of every girl's life!

He had earlier been seen as a child artiste in his father’s Madhosh and his uncle’s Yaadon Ki Baraat.

Manoj Bajpai in Satya
Manoj Bajpai (Satya)

This was not exactly a debut film for Bajpai, as he had done cameos in Mahesh Bhatt’s Tamanna and Ramgopal Varma’s Daud.

But for all practical purposes, Satya was the beginning -- which later proved to be the end.

Nothing that Manoj did thereafter could compare with the gruff-and-tough mobster Bhiku Mhatre.

That’s what happens when your debut turns out to be larger than life.

Hrithik Roshan in Kaho Naa.. Pyaar Hai
Hrithik Roshan (Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai)

What’s it about future stars that goads them into doing fleeting stints as child artistes?

Jaya Bhaduri did a role in Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar years before Guddi.

Hrithik was seen as the central character in his father’s production Bhagwan Dada directed by his Nanajee J Om Prakash.

14 years later, Hrithik burst on the scene, sweeping all previous debut makers under the dread carpet. His impact was lethal and unprecedented.

Kay Kay
Kay Kay Menon (Bhopal Express)

Here introducing the most riveting actor since Naseeruddin Shah!

Those of us, who have been watching Kay Kay closely on television, are startled by his range growth and screen energy. Not since Naseer have we seen an actor who can seduce the camera so effortlessly.

He made a quiet, but intense entry in Mahesh Matahi's Bhopal Express.

Kerala-born, Bombay-bred Kay Kay has proved his range by playing the idealistic prime minister in the television serial Pradhan Mantri and the scummy sociopath in Anurag Kashyap's Paanch (yet to be released) with equal intensity.

Now watch out for Kay Kay in Hansal Mehta’s Chhal where the actor plays a slick and subtle underworld don and has performed his own action stunts.

Good guys finish last!

Kareena Kapoor in Refugee
Kareena Kapoor (Refugee)

Here's one of the things for which we shall always be grateful to JP Dutta -- introducing the most extraordinarily camera-friendly Kareena Kapoor.

Not since Jaya Bhaduri have we seen such a confident -- some would even say cocky -- debutant.

From the minute she walked into the screen, Kareena simply took over.

No questions asked.


Text: Subhash K Jha
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