The year that is about to end will go down in the history as one that reorganized entertainment as never before in our lifetime. With cinema theatres shut down owing to the pandemic, home entertainment became important, and with television in India having crossed its saturation point long ago, digital was the way to go.
OTT brought its own storytelling culture and, in turn, a new set of actors who would fit into such stories.
Not surprising, screen 'heroes' have been wholly different this year. This has been the year of Pratik Gandhi's Harshad Mehta and Abhishek Banerjee's Hathoda Tyagi. It is a year that will go down as one when Pankaj Tripathi's menacing Kaleen bhaiya became a pop icon of sorts, and Sushmita Sen as Aarya Sareen gave crime a wonky twist as never before.
Let's have a look at the actors who made their presence felt, and continue to stay alive in the minds of the audience, primarily owing to their work in the OTT space this year.
Hansal Mehta's biographical drama, "Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story" has turned around Pratik Gandhi's career. Primarily an actor in Gujarati theatre and cinema, no one quite kept track that Pratik had worked in a couple of Bollywood films such as "Mitron" and "Loveyatri".
Being Harshad Mehta changed all that. The role made him an overnight sensation. By his own confession, Pratik had thought the shoe would not be binge-able, given its business jargon-heavy dialogues. Yet it went onto become a sleeper hit, and Pratik, essaying "Big Bull" or "Amitabh Bachchan of Dalal Street", was an overnight star.
"I will continue with more zeal and excitement. There are good projects coming my way and I hope to add more memorable characters in 2021," he told IANS.
From her intense avatar in "Mirzapur 2" to her suitable stint in "A Suitable Boy" to the comedy affair in "Lootcase", Rasika dominated the OTT space this year and wowed viewers with her diverse roles.
This year, her web series "Delhi Crime" became the first Indian show to get an International Emmy. Now, she will soon be seen in the next season of "Out Of Love", which revolves around marriage, infidelity and insecurity.
CHANDAN ROY SANYAL
He made waves all those years ago playing Shahid Kapoor's buddy in the 2009 release, "Kaminey", and after doing the odd role in many Bollywood films for long, finally came on his own playing the vile Bhopa Swami in Prakash Jha's "Aashram" this year.
To Chandan's advantage, the series had two seasons in quick succession within the same year, letting the actor stay in popular imagination with assuredness. As the right hand man of the nefarious Kashipur wale Baba, played by Bobby Deol, Chandan has become a talking point character of the popular show. Fans can't wait for season three.
After dominating cyber space with his viral videos, Jitendra arrived in the OTT scene with the hilarious satire series "Panchayat", which has emerged as one of the surprise blockbusters of the year, and one of the most watched shows of 2020 on Amazon Prime Video.
Jitendra was lauded for his portrayal of a young secretary of a Panchayat office in a remote village, a job he is forced to take up owing to circumstances. Also starring Neena Gupta, Raghubir Yadav and Chandan Sanyal, the show will get a second season.
He has been on the fringes of Bollywood with roles in films such as "Rockstar", "Gangs Of Wasseypur", "Raees" and "Raazi", but it was the role of an underrated police officer Hathiram, in "Paatal Lok" this year that brought him to the limelight.
"People are admiring a police officer's character who is fighting through a corrupt system trying to prove his self-worth and seek justice in a post-truth world. I even received messages from people saying that they could very well relate to the character and the struggle. It feels great to see your work being appreciated by people. It gives me a renewed sense of vigour to do more such brilliant work," Jaideep said after the success of the show.
You might forget his appearance from "Mirzapur", but you cannot ignore the deranged serial killer Hathoda Tyagi in "Paatal Lok". During lockdown, he entertained people with his sinister roles on OTT shows like "Paatal Lok" and "Kaali 2". He has shared that the role and success of "Paatal Lok" kept him busy through lockdown, and diverted his attention. He is also seen in the anthology film, "Unpaused".
He doesn't belong to any particular box. He doesn't come with the conventional idea of a hero or a villain, yet he manages to outshine the GenNow brigade and emerge as the unlikely star of the OTT world. This year, he has showcased his brilliance as an actor in projects as diverse as "Mirzapur 2", "Ludo", "Extraction", "Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl" and ", "Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors".
"It finally feels like this is my time and may it never pass. I want to give the audience one memorable film after another, one great role after another. Entertaining the world has been my long standing wish and I want to do one helluva job at it," he said.
For OTT addicts, he is Munna bhaiya of "Mirzapur", and that goes on to show the popularity of his role in the world of "Mirzapur". He got a headstart with his role of Liquid in the 2011 release, "Pyaar Ka Punchnama", but it was Munna bhaiya in the web-series "Mirzapur" that made him a household name, over two seasons. While season one of the show happened earlier, this year's second season brought his character to the centre of the story. Diveyenndu also impressed in web series "Bicchoo Ka Khel" recently.
The year marked Sushmita's comeback in the acting space, in a powerful role. She made her comeback through the web series "Aarya", which is about how her character Aarya is pulled into the narcotics business when her family is threatened. Now, Sushmita looks forward to the second season of the show.
His career in films had hit a plateau of sorts, and the web series "Asur" happened earlier this year. The psychological thriller series clicked, and Arshad was suddenly back in the limelight, winning accolades of fans.
"Digital media has been fantastic for actors. I can talk for myself, as far as experiments and risks are concerned. I am not experimenting or risking anything, I am finally getting to do the work I have been longing for and enjoy doing," he told IANS.
Amit Sadh created a unique record this year. He had three releases in the same weekend. The films "Shakuntala Devi" and "Yaara", and the web series "Avrodh: The Siege Within" opened on July 30, barely 20 days after "Breathe: Into The Shadows".
Amit, who has found success on television as well as the Bollywood screen, is focused on an OTT sojourn for now. His next release is the series "Zidd". He also has a series titled "India Strikes: 10 Days".
After "Lipstick Under My Burkha", Aahana found a way into the digital space, and has been exploring it since then. Her year started on a dramatic note with "Marzi", which navigates the fading line between power, deception, and trust. She then went into the zombie zone with "Betaal".
Aahana's upcoming OTT tryst is Rohan Sippy's sitcom show "Sandwiched Forever", where she stars alongside Kunal Roy Kapoor. She also has a series coming up based on the French show "Call My Agent", also featuring Soni Razdan, Rajat Kapoor, and Ayush Mehra.
The actor has got a second chance to prove his skills, thanks to the digital domain. And he is making the most of it. He was seen as Dean Vijay Singh in the digital film "Class Of '83", and in the successful series "Aashram" by Prakash Jha. His role of a fraud godman in the crime drama "Aashram" has been lauded by all.