My friend Aanand Rai whom I’ve known from the time he made a little-seen crime thriller Strangers, was Ravi Rai’s kid brother to begin with. Today he has grown into a formidable producer director and talent scout, known to push the envelope far enough to make a difference to Indian cinema per se. Aanand Rai is known to believe in fresh fertile talent.
Be it actors, writers or technicians, he is ever-willing to give talent a chance. Here are 5 artistes in Bollywood who owe their initial recognition to Aanand Rai. Aanand Rai of course shrugs off any claims to promoting new talent. “It’s all done with a selfish motive. The greed to get more and more talent into my films. ”Look at what the greed has got us!
- Kangana Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu: I wish Kangana had not fallen out with Aanand Rai after the two Tanu Weds Manu films. Just see what the two films did to Kangana’s career! She and her devoted fans may attribute her success to Gangster which came before the two Tanu–Manu films , and Queen which came after the first Tanu–Manu film . Fact is, Ms Ranaut discovered her image as the fearless smalltown woman with a heart of gold and a tongue so sharp it can slice onions and men’s egos, in the two Tanu–Manu films. Aanand gave Kangana an image that has carried her to where she is now.
- Swara Bhaskar in Tanu Weds Manu : Before she played the second lead in Aanand’s Tanu Weds Manu and Ranjhana Swara was trying to find her bearings in an industry without a godfather. Aanand Rai’s cinema made audiences sit up and notice Swara. Some thought she should have played Tanu. The thought didn’t go down well with Kangana’s fans.Aanand then cast her as the lead in Neil Battey Sannata which also launched the promising directorial career of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.
- Dhanush in Raanjhanaa: The Tamil superstar was happy being the lion of his own Tamilian jungle. Dhanush had turned down any number of Bollywood offers before Raanjhanaa. He said yes, to Aanand because they are brothers from different mothers. Dhanush is now doing Aanand’s Atrangi Re with Akshay Kumar.
- Mohammad Samad in Tumbadd: Samad was only 12 when he shot for this film. He was 18 when it finally got released. He was exceptional in this esoteric powerful film that Aanand Rai produced.20-year old Mohammad Samad who left such a strong impact in Tumbadd, played the central character in the Netflix series Selection Day. Playing underprivileged characters comes naturally to Mohammad Samad. He is the youngest of 6 siblings in a family from Roorkee in Hardwar. His father own a grocery store. Mohammad who made his acting debut at age 12 in the National award winning film Gattu is now acknowledged as a talent of substance.
- Jassi Gill in Happy Phir Bhaag Jayegi: Jassi Gill as a sad lonely dumped Sardarji in China singing Karaoke in dimly lit clubs to Sunny Deol songs who suddenly finds more excitement in his life than he had bargained for, is absolutely delightful. He is the loser who has nothing to lose except boredom, out on an extended adventure binge with a girl who has everything to lose but is determined not to. Says Aanand, “Whether it is my writers Himanshu Sharma and Kanika Dhillon, or actors like Jimmy Sheirgil and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, I believe in talent.”