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Bollywood is investing in fresh talent to ready a new generation of A-listers.
They are known for producing big-budget mass entertainers and casting top stars such as Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar as leading men. Therefore, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment's announcement of launching Jackie Shroff's son — Tiger — as the protagonist in their next, Heropanti, shows their willingness to subscribe to what is now becoming a norm: investing in fresh talent.
A number of films this year by some of Bollywood's biggest production houses will see newcomers take the lead. UTV's soon-to-release ABCD – Anybody Can Dance is the launch vehicle for television's dancing stars Dharmesh Yelande, Prince and Salman Yusuff Khan. UTV, which introduced Rajeev Khandelwal in Aamir (2009) and Kalki Koechlin and Mahie Gill in Dev.D (2010), will also release Kai Po Che! later this month with TV star Sushant Singh Rajput in the lead. Yash Raj Films (YRF), under its Y Films arm, has Mere Dad Ki Maruti lined up for a March release, with one-film-old Saqib Saleem and debutant actor Rhea Chakraborty, a former VJ. Their Aurangzeb has Salma Agha's daughter Sasha opposite Arjun Kapoor. Besides, YRF is introducing Vaani Kapoor in Maneesh Sharma's next, which will have Singh Rajput in it.
Even Excel Entertainment, which has often told stories of friendship and youth but with stars such as Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan, has placed its bet on newer faces for Fukrey. After a dud launch in Bittoo Boss, Pulkit Samrat will play the protagonist alongside Ali Fazal and Manjot Singh. Sajid Nadiadwala, apart from Heropanti, has announced the screen adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's 2 States with Arjun Kapoor and Imtiaz Ali's Highway with Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt.
This trend, however, is in stark contrast with what was earlier Bollywood's belief: stars rake in the moolah. The driving force, explains Ashish Patil, VP–Business & Creative, YRF, stems from the shortage of talent. "There is too much riding on few actors. And the same A-listers cannot do every film that comes their way. The idea is to create new stars," he says. Rakesh Mehrotra, marketing head, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, adds that talented newcomers are best suited for script-driven, low-budget films.