With internet penetration rising in the country, online content in India has been revolutionized and viewers are spoilt for choice with binge-worthy content across web platforms. Global giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are going out of their way to woo viewers and their Indian counterparts like Hotstar, Zee5, and Eros Now are not lagging far behind. Besides gaining the streaming rights of Bollywood and regional movies, these platforms are also investing heavily in creating their own content. Thanks to the creative freedom and wider reach afforded to filmmakers by these platforms, they have been making a beeline for venturing into the digital space, with full-length feature films as well as serialized versions. This new ecosystem of on-demand content spanning genres has also led to a new breed of talented actresses coming into the spotlight. Here are a few women who have carved a niche for themselves in the digital content space.
In late 2019, Hotstar series Out of Love received rave reviews as it explored how a marriage dissolves in the face of infidelity. Rasika Dugal, who played the role of Dr Meera Kapoor, the traumatized wife of a philandering husband, was catapulted as a stellar actress in the digital streaming space.
An alumnus of the prestigious Film and Television institute of India, Rasika started her acting career in 2007 with the film Anwar, and followed it up with minor roles in about a dozen movies.
But it was in Delhi Crime, the Netflix mini-series based on the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, that Rasika grabbed the audience attention. She effortlessly slipped into the role of Neeti Singh, a rookie IPS officer, and held her own while sharing screen space with veteran actor Shefali Shah.
Rasika was also lauded for her performance in Amazon Prime’s hit series Mirzapur, Made in Heaven and TVF’s Permanent Roommates, all of which garnered positive feedback from the audiences.
Runner-up in Femina Miss India and Miss Earth participant, both in 2013, Sobhita made her debut in Anurag Kashyap’s psychological thriller Raman Raghav 2.0 in 2016. Although she acted in a few more Bollywood and regional movies, she shot to fame in 2019 with the Amazon Prime Original series, Made in Heaven. Her nuanced portrayal of Tara Khanna, a protagonist who has shades of grey, made her a name to reckon with. Soon after, Sobhita was seen in the role of an intelligence agency operative in the Netflix India original series Bard of Blood. Early this year, Sobhita was seen in Ghost Stories, a Netflix original horror anthology film by directors Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap. Sobhita’s role in Anurag Kashyap’s film proved yet again that she could play characters that have layers and complexities with finesse.
Until a few years ago, the idea of an Indian actress amassing a fan following running into millions would have seemed laughably impossible unless her filmography was all big Bollywood projects. In that regard, Radhika Apte has been a disruptor and today she is touted as the reigning queen of Netflix.
Be it her role as RAW agent Anjali Mathur in the wildly successful Netflix thriller Sacred Games, or the lustful college professor Kalindi in the Netflix anthology Lust Stories (which was nominated in the Best TV Movie/Mini series category in the International Emmy Awards in 2019) or as Nida Rahim in the Netflix horror series Ghoul or the unconventionally bold convent-educated widow Binodini in the Netflix series Stories by Rabindranath Tagore – Radhika has never shied away from playing a variety of characters embracing all their idiosyncrasies in the most compelling way. Her repertoire in Bollywood is also impressive with the National Award-winning films like Padman and Andhadhun.
It was with the web series Girl in The City that Mithila shot to fame. Her entry into the big screen was with the role of Imran Khan’s sister in the Kangana Ranaut starrer Katti Batti. Although the film tanked at the box office Mithila’s performance did not go unnoticed. In 2016, she started acting in videos for Filter Copy, a popular YouTube channel, following which she played the title role in Girl in the City. Mithila became a star in the digital space for her honest portrayal of a small town girl who comes to Mumbai to chase her dreams.
She was next seen in Little Things, a show created by Dice Media with its storyline revolving around the intricacies of urban millennial relationship. The show went on to become extremely popular and Netflix bought the streaming rights. Two more seasons were shot, and Mithila had cemented her place as one of the most loved actresses on streaming platforms. She also starred in the Netflix original film Chopsticks opposite Abhay Deol.
Maanvi Gagroo started her career with Disney Channel’s Dhoom Machao Dhoom in 2007. A trained Kathak dancer, this Delhi girl forayed into acting with the movie Aamras in 2009, following which she bagged roles in No One Killed Jessica (2012) and PK (2014). In 2015, she played a minor role in TVF’ hit show Pitchers and was later cast in a lead role in Tripling, a blockbuster comedy web series about three siblings rediscovering their relationship with each other over the course of a road trip.
Maanvi has also shined in the Amazon Prime web series Four More Shots Please as the rich, under confident Bombay girl who grapples with body image issues. Her prowess in handling humour was on display in the recently-released Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan as the brash, perpetually-sunglass-clad Google Tripathi, who rides to her own wedding on a horse.
Handling romance, humour, thriller, and drama, with maturity, these women have breathed a welcome air of change to the new generation audience.