30 artists to watch out for picked by 30 leading artists of the film industry

A new year brings renewed hope. The possibility of new beginnings and adventures yet to unfold. New talent brings the same frisson of excitement – all those stories waiting to be told. It seems fitting then to bring the two together.

Presenting the FC Hotlist, in which leading names from film industries across India pick an artist who they think has potential. The list features directors, singers, composers, editors and more. It’s a gallery of stars, waiting to explode. Remember, you heard it here first!

Mani Ratnam

Filmmaker

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Viraj Singh

Cinematographer

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Viraj Singh

Cinematographer

Viraj Singh shot the AR Rahman documentary, Harmony. His compositions are clean and his camera movements are smooth and gentle. Both the extreme wides and the details of the closes are done with the same kind of attention. His work is consistent across the entire project. Worth watching this young DOP grow.

Imtiaz Ali

Filmmaker

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Joi Barua

Musician

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Joi Barua

Musician

Keep a ear out for this guy. He is the one who brought Assamese into the otherwise very Punjabi ‘Mauja hi Mauja’ (Jab We Met) and ‘O Meri Laila’ in Laila Majnu. He is a composer who brings together the best from the East and West. His music warms the heart.

Tharun Bhascker

Filmmaker

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Saanve Megghana

Actor

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Saanve Megghana

Actor

For my next film, which is with Netflix, I wanted to audition and find someone new (like I always do). There was this girl, called Saanve Megghana, who came in and auditioned for a very small role. My assistants had done the audition and told me that the girl had a spark. I called her in and auditioned her for the lead and she aced it. She’s done very small roles in Telugu films but I’m placing my bet on her. If she chooses well, she will be the female Vijay Deverakonda.

Srijit Mukherji

Filmmaker

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Gairik Sarkar

Cinematographer/editor

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Gairik Sarkar

Cinematographer/editor

Gairik Sarkar is one of the most exciting young voices in cinema today in India. He has shot Ek Je Chhilo Raja, Typewriter and most recently Bob Biswas and edited Teen. His frames are exciting and bear his unmistakable stamp and as an editor, his sense of rhythm is exemplary.

Mira Nair

Filmmaker

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Shreya Dev Dube

Cinematographer

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Shreya Dev Dube

Cinematographer

Shreya teaches me new ways to see.

Vishal Dadlani

Composer

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Dhruv Visvanath

Singer-songwriter

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Dhruv Visvanath

Singer-songwriter

He is the most incredible guitarist-singer-songwriter I have heard in a long time, and he has had just one credit on an OTT show. But if I were to pick a single talent to send out to the world immediately, someone definitive who can find his own space, I'd pick Dhruv.

Anurag Singh

Filmmaker

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Rupinder Inderjit

Filmmaker

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Rupinder Inderjit

Filmmaker

Rupinder wrote the 2019 film Surkhi Bindi and is currently directing his first feature. He has also written the dialogue for Kaali Khuhi. He is a good writer with a good understanding of both rural and urban Punjab. I think he has the potential to be a good director. Definitely someone to watch out for.

Vetri Maaran

Filmmaker

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Prasad Ramar

Filmmaker

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Prasad Ramar

Filmmaker

His second feature, tentatively titled Turn On, hasn't been released yet (his first, Enakkul Oruvan, is the Tamil remake of Lucia). This one explores the sexual frustrations of small-town boys and girls; we haven’t seen much representation of these boys and girls in Tamizh films. The film gives a fairly good representation of women in the subject. All of this is done with the excitement and anxiety of youth. The film also attempts a restrained docu-fiction style.

Anurag Kashyap

Filmmaker

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Mohammad Muneem

Singer-songwriter

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Mohammad Muneem

Singer-songwriter

He is from the band Alif, whose song featured in Laila-Majnu. His music has a lot of range. He writes his own songs and also has a great voice. He is socio-politically aware, which comes across in his music.

Nithya Menen

Actress

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Vishvak Khanderao

Filmmaker

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Vishvak Khanderao

Filmmaker

When Vishvak came to narrate a film, around the interval I stopped and asked, ‘Did the production house that sent you understand the film? Did they get how you were going to shoot the film?’ I was blown away by the script. He exhibited a talent in narrating the story and it was brilliantly written. By the end of the narration I agreed to partially produce the film. I see him as someone who’s got a lot of potential and I look forward to seeing more of what he does.

Zoya Akhtar

Filmmaker

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Prateek Vats

Filmmaker

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Prateek Vats

Filmmaker

Very rarely does an Indian story come along where you know absolutely nothing about the world. I felt that when I saw Eeb Allay Ooo!, a film about the monkeys that rule Raisina Hill and the humans who work to keep the simians at bay. Caught between the real monkeys that his superiors want him to chase away and the divine god they worship, lies the life of a poor, uneducated migrant. It starts off as a satire; the charm of the film lures you in and then grips you with its consciousness. The dehumanisation of the protagonist stays with you long after. A hard take on marginalised India that disturbs you without ever seeming bitter. It’s the best film on present-day India that I have seen in a while, and Prateek Vats is someone I can’t wait to see more from.

Nandini Reddy

Filmmaker

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Santosh Shoban

Actor

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Santosh Shoban

Actor

I think he’s a natural performer. I’ve watched his performances as a child actor and his earlier films. He’s not got the opportunity to showcase his talent yet but it's going to happen and he’s going to explode. He has a lot of charm that shows on screen and he brings small details to his performance which make his character special. He’s got a great sense of timing, whether it’s humour or emotion. This boy is really going to go places.

Adil Hussain

Actor

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Gaurav Boruah

Filmmaker

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Gaurav Boruah

Filmmaker

He has made a short film on a subject that’s rarely talked about in this part of the country, in Assam, called Silence in the Wind. In a short span of time, he explores a father-son relationship and resolves it with his cinematic language. Each frame is captured with a lot of care. He manages to capture the essence of the relationship. The narrative is artistically and gently told.

Nagraj Manjule

Filmmaker

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Vikrant Pawar

Filmmaker

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Vikrant Pawar

Filmmaker

Vikrant Pawar has made a few short films. He has a strong sense of visual language. In Kaatal, for instance, he speaks about something important that’s hard to explain in words but he has managed to say it through cinema. I think he will go ahead and do great work.

Sudha Kongara

Filmmaker

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Kalidas Jayaram

Actor

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Kalidas Jayaram

Actor

He is not exactly unknown — he is the actor Jayaram's son — but Kalidas is an extraordinary actor. He is sensitive to the nuances of the characters he plays. He draws deeply from his reservoir of emotions, which makes him very real on screen. The way he dials down what’s not him and dials up what is him in any character is unique.

Swastika Mukherjee

Actress

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Sudipto Roy

Filmmaker

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Sudipto Roy

Filmmaker

I have worked with Sudipto in Kia and Cosmos and the short length Tasher Ghawr and he is incredibly talented. He knows exactly what he wants, right from the story to the smallest detail like the colour of the cup the character will be using. He is interested in making all kinds of films and not sticking to one genre. I haven’t worked with anyone who starts involving the actor from the pre-production stage. He had no formal training when he made his first and only feature film. I really think he should be making more films.

Ankur Tiwari

Musician

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Khalid Ahamed

Vocalist-guitarist, Parvaaz

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Khalid Ahamed

Vocalist-guitarist, Parvaaz

If Robert Plant had an Indian avatar, he would be something like Khalid. He has a unique cadence that cuts through everything and hits your heart.

Mahesh Narayanan

Filmmaker

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Kiran Das

Editor

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Kiran Das

Editor

I have been following Kiran's work since Dileesh Pothan’s Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. This new-age editor's approach towards the film is very classical. The rhythm he has maintained enhances the screenplay while staying very close to the film’s realistic approach. He has put a lot of effort in balancing the emotional continuity of the characters without losing the tempo of the film. His selection of reaction shots are so precise that a few frames up or down can really affect the flow of the film. I am eagerly waiting to witness this editor's collaboration with Dileesh for their upcoming feature.

Siddharth Roy Kapur

Film Producer

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Shazia Iqbal

Filmmaker

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Shazia Iqbal

Filmmaker

I recently saw a short film called Bebaak. I was struck by how beautifully the writer-director Shazia Iqbal told such an intimate and personal story while shining a light on a social issue, without ever getting preachy. Her ability to draw you into a world, make you feel a part of it and empathise with her characters is very special. I believe Shazia has a wonderful future ahead of her as a writer-director. In another avatar, she is also a Production Designer, and has worked on Sacred Games and Lust Stories

Ravi Varman

Cinematographer

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Rajesh Shukla

Cinematographer

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Rajesh Shukla

Cinematographer

Rajesh’s sensibilities are unique and he understands the minds of the people he works with. That’s an important talent for a DoP. Working with him, I saw how quick he was to see what we were trying to do. Now when people compliment me about his work, I feel great.

Shabana Azmi

Actress

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Pratik Gandhi

Actor

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Pratik Gandhi

Actor

He inhabits the character of Harshad Mehta in Scam 1992 with truth and conviction. He fills it with passion: a person driven with just the right amount of confidence, almost bordering on arrogance. He is an actor to watch out for and I would like to see him in a myriad different roles.

Sudip Sharma

Screenwriter

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Abhishek Banerjee

Writer

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Abhishek Banerjee

Writer

Abhishek has written Pari and is working with me on Season 2 of Paatal Lok. He is a very talented writer, who places a lot of emphasis on the craft. Though not formally trained in screenwriting, he has a great intuitive understanding of the medium. He is the best young writer I’ve met in this industry in the last few years and if he keeps honing his game, I see him writing some wonderful films and shows in the future.

Amit Trivedi

Composer

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Devender Pal Singh

Singer

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Devender Pal Singh

Singer

There are a lot of young talented people around — incredible singers, composers and songwriters, so it’s difficult to choose one. But if I had to pick one name, it would be Devender Pal Singh. I love the way he sings. He has a lot of soul and is also a taiyyar singer. I have taken him in my band and he is a part of my entourage now.

Gautham Vasudev Menon

Filmmaker

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Krishna Karthikeyan

Singer

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Krishna Karthikeyan

Singer

He’s a young, brilliant 18-19 year old singer with a lovely voice and style. I got him to sing a couple of songs for me, and write some lyrics too, in my upcoming film Joshua: Imai Pol Kaakha and in Navarasa (the anthology film for Netflix). Krishna is the future!

Varun Grover

Screenwriter, lyricist

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Nikhil Vijay

Writer

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Nikhil Vijay

Writer

A writing talent that I expect and hope will do great things in the near future is Nikhil Vijay. A lot of people might recognise him from his acting roles (Hostel Daze and a host of comedy sketches in which he mimics Nawazuddin Siddiqui) but his grasp of language and milieu comes alive as a writer in the TVF series Gullak. He is also on the writing team of Saloni Gaur's (another talent I am keenly following) new comedy show Uncommon Sense. I believe his unique comedic voice, capturing the aspirations and failures of middle-class India, will bring out many stories worth telling.

VK Prakash

Filmmaker

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Manoj Kumar Khatoi

Cinematographer

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Manoj Kumar Khatoi

Cinematographer

He’s a DOP to watch out for. There’s a texture and a gloss he brings to the film that is wonderful, as is his composition sense, the way he gets camera movement, and his steadiness. His compositions and textures fall into the category of Anil Mehta, Mohanan and Barun da (Mukherjee). He’s pretty fast. He’s one of the real DoPs we should watch out for, even in advertising. In Bollywood, he has shot a wide variety of films, not falling into any one style or pattern.

Vineeth Sreenivasan

Producer-actor

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Vishak Nair

Actor

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Vishak Nair

Actor

I think Vishak Nair (from Aanandam) will have a great career ahead not just as an actor, but in other areas of filmmaking as well. He is someone who is capable of going across borders and achieving great things.

Hemanth Rao

Filmmaker

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Vidhyaa B Reddy

Filmmaker

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Vidhyaa B Reddy

Filmmaker

Vidhyaa recently made the short, Oh Fish, which went viral on YouTube. I've done a lot of advertising projects with Vidhyaa and I think she will shine because of her insane work ethic and her keen eye for stories. I discuss all my scripts with her. She’s an amazing storyteller and brings a very unique perspective to discussions.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Actor

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Honey Trehan

Filmmaker

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Honey Trehan

Filmmaker

Honey Trehan as a director is a true talent to watch for. In Raat Akeli Hai — his first feature film — he made sure there were no Bollywood cliches. He is uncompromising about the way he paces a film, and that’s what differentiates him even more from a regular Hindi film director.

Sudeep Chatterjee

Cinematographer

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Achal Mishra

Filmmaker

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Achal Mishra

Filmmaker

At the end of Gamak Ghar, we see the family house one last time in misty morning light...the image stayed with me. The house, and the times it has seen through generations, becomes the protagonist in Achal Mishra’s gentle and nuanced debut feature. I look forward to a lot from this sensitive filmmaker. I love the way he finds beauty in the mundane in the most endearing way. The experience was akin to going through my childhood family album.