(L to R) Tabu, Shahid Kapoor, Tillotama Shome, and Vijay Verma.
Top performers of 2023 who turned heads, made headlines.
Image: AFPKonkana Sen Sharma’s ‘The Mirror’ was the standout segment in Netflix anthology Lust Stories 2. Amruta Subhash, who made her debut with the National Award-winning film Shwaas, stood out for her role as Seema, a house help, in the narrative that explored the politics of intimacy, desire and the class divide. She works in Marathi and Hindi films, television, and theatre, and is also a trained singer.
Image: AFPBest known for his role as Delhi Police Inspector Hathiram Chaudhary in web series Paatal Lok, Ahlawat delivered another performance that will be remembered for a long time—of a mathematician who helps his neighbour cover up a murder in Jaane Jaan. A Film and Television Institute of India graduate, Ahlawat is also appreciated for his performances in box-office successes like Rockstar and Gangs of Wasseypur.
With four OTT releases, Sobti has had a busy year. While he was lauded for his performances in Jaanbaaz Hindustan Ke, Asur 2 and the lighter Badtameez Dil, it is in Kohrra as a cop investigating a murder that Sobti dazzled. The actor, who rose to fame for his role as Arnav Singh Raizada in Star Plus’s romantic drama series Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon in 2011, has also completed shooting for two other web series this year—Donali and Bawandar.
Image: Getty ImagesDevaiah, known for his bad guy roles, started the year with a turn as good cop Devi Singh in web series Dahaad. But when the chance to take up the role of 4-Cut Atmaram—a hired assassin in a Sanjay Dutt-style get-up—turned up in Netflix’s Guns & Gulaabs, he was too intrigued to not take it up. And a lot of people were glad he did.
Image: Getty ImagesJim Sarbh received accolades for his role as Adil Khanna in the web series Made in Heaven. But playing scientist Dr Homi Bhabha to perfection earned him an Emmy nomination this year. The actor, who has been part of films like A Death in the Gunj, Gangubai Kathiawadi and Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway, has also regularly appeared in theatre productions.
Kay Kay Menon
Image: Getty ImagesIn 1999, when Menon made his box office debut with a lead role in Bhopal Express (a movie on the Bhopal gas tragedy), it went mostly unnoticed. This year, the 57-year-old earned accolades for his performance in Netflix’s The Railway Men, a series based on the Bhopal disaster. He also delivered strong performances in Bambai Meri Jaan and Farzi on Amazon Prime Video, and had a big-screen release with Love-All.
Image: Getty ImagesThe actor played the role of Jagruti Pathak, a journalist caught in the nexus of the police, the underworld and the media, in the series Scoop. Her performance won her an award for best lead actress at the Busan International Film Festival’s 2023 Asia Content Awards and Global OTT Awards. Her other recent credits include Prime Video series Hush Hush and ZEE5 film Lahore Confidential.
Kareena Kapoor Khan
Image: Getty ImagesThe Bollywood star made her OTT debut this year with Sujoy Ghosh’s thriller Jaane Jaan, and was also appreciated for her lead role in Hansal Mehta’s The Buckingham Murders, which was screened at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023. Though Kapoor Khan will return to commercial cinema The Crew and Singham Again in 2024, her OTT choices this year speak volumes about her intent to focus on artistic merit alongside stardom.
Image: Getty ImagesShe bagged the Filmfare OTT award for ‘Best Actor, Series (Female)’ for Netflix’s Trial by Fire. She received unanimous appreciation for her sensitive and gritty portrayal of a woman who lost her children in the Uphaar cinema tragedy in 1997. This year, her upcoming film Privacy made its world premiere at South Korea’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.
Image: Getty ImagesWhile she had big screen roles in Atlee’s Jawan and Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur, it was her lead role as a cop in the OTT film Kathal that marked Malhotra’s standout performance in 2023. She also has the lead role in the film Mrs, a remake of the well-regarded and sensitive Malayalam film The Great Indian Kitchen, which premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
Image: AFPHe made his digital debut this year with Raj and DK’s web show Farzi. He also starred in Ali Abbas Zafar’s film Bloody Daddy, which premiered on JioCinema. Both projects were the most-watched in their respective categories. Kapoor has also announced his next film, Deva, which is scheduled to release on the big screen in October 2024.
Image: Getty ImagesAfter her OTT debut in 2020 with Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy on Netflix, this year, she delivered a terrific performance in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Khufiya, a spy thriller based on Amar Bhushan’s espionage novel titled Escape to Nowhere. In early 2023, she was also seen in Aasmaan Bhardwaj’s Kuttey on Netflix.
Image: Getty ImagesThis year was a busy one for Gabbi, who received accolades for her perfomances in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Jubilee and Vishal Bhardwaj’s Khufiya, which released on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix respectively. She was also seen in an episode in Modern Love Chennai and played a leading role in Bhardwaj’s Charlie Chopra and the Mystery of Solang Valley, an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel The Sittaford Mystery.
Image: Getty ImagesShe says OTT platforms have helped her work reach many homes, especially in India. In the last two years, the actor has earned recognition after delivering exceptional performances in shows and movies like Sir and Delhi Crime Season 2. In 2023, she got appreciated for her roles in The Night Manager and Lust Stories 2.
Image: Getty ImagesThe Gully Boy star has had a fantastic year. He delivered stellar performances in back-to-back with OTT releases like Dahaad, Lust Stories 2, and Jaane Jaan. He was last seen in Sumit Saxena’s cop drama Kaalkoot on JioCinema. The 37-year-old actor recently bagged a Filmfare award for his performance in Dahaad.
Abhay Pannu / Nikkhil Advani
Producer Nikkhil Advani and director Abhay Pannu released Season 2 of Rocket Boys this year, the story of the extraordinary scientists Dr Homi Bhabha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai. The show was well-received. Advani, in a previous interview with Forbes India, spoke about how a key motivator for the show is to give India’s youth role models beyond cricketers and Bollywood actors.
Image: Getty ImagesThe filmmaker had two hit OTT releases this year—Scoop, which told the story of a journalist’s murder and the unfair conviction of his colleague; and Scam 2003–The Telgi Story, focussed on the mastermind of a counterfeit scandal that rocked the country. Mehta, a National Award winner, is known for his gritty, well-researched and realistic portrayals of India, especially through his non-fiction outings.
Konkona Sen Sharma
The actor-director has broken ground with her fresh approach to cinema, offering a female gaze to portray sensitive women-led stories. This year, she returned to direction after a seven-year-gap, with a short film called ‘The Mirror’, part of the Lust Stories 2 anthology. Starring Tillotama Shome and Amruta Subhash, it featured themes of female desire, class and power, and many critics called it the best short of the anthology.
Image: Getty ImagesVikramaditya Motwane’s Jubilee recreated Bombay’s jazz era, depicted by an ensemble cast of Aditi Rao Hydari, Wamiqa Gabbi and Aparshakti Khurana, among others. Featuring a visually grand universe with understated performances, Motwane’s series was well-received, and offered an inside look at the finer points of movie-making, and the politics that underline it.
Raj & DK
Image: Courtesy NetflixIt’s been a busy year for filmmaker duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK. Their Netflix show, Guns & Gulaabs, released in August, a thriller dark comedy with Dulquer Salman and Rajkummar Rao, centred on drug cartels. They also directed the well-received Shahid Kapoor-starrer Farzi, another thriller with black comedy weaved in, about the world of counterfeits. The duo will direct the Indian spin-off of Amazon Prime’s global spy franchise, Citadel.
Category coordinators: Rucha Sharma, Anubhuti Matta, Monica Bhatija, Naandika Tripathi, and Pankti Mehta Methodology Forbes India Showstoppers, in its second year, is a list of 70 achievers who have outperformed in their respective fields—cinema (theatrical release), OTT, music and sports. The timeline considered is January 1 to November 30, 2023. Three months ago, a team of journalists and senior editors at Forbes India started putting together a long list of close to 150 names of actors, filmmakers, musicians, singers and sportspersons, through primary and secondary research. They arrived at the final list of 70 in the first week of December after internal deliberations. For cinema and OTT, the factors under consideration were quality of work, appreciation (critical acclaim and popularity), level of challenge and diversity in roles, pipeline of projects, and box office success. For sports, it was achievements this year, while for music, it was popularity across mainstream genres in 2023.