Top 5 Bollywood stars who made successful transition from television to big screen

On 14th June 2020, just 4 days back, Sushant Singh Rajput shocked the whole nation, and we still can’t believe it. Without any filmy background only a few actors have sustained in Bollywood. In fact there are many such artists belonging to non-filmy families who started their professional careers through modelling, which helped them to earn first break in television and later started receiving film roles.

Though there are many such artists in film industry right now, only a few are lucky to become huge stars with blockbusters and definitely Sushant Singh Rajput belongs to this rare gem of artists. Who are other big stars? Let me list top 5 of them. This post is a humble tribute to one of the most promising actors of new generation cinema, who made a successful transition from television to big screen without any Bollywood connections – none other than our very dearest Sushant.

Let me add, we lost two immensely talented television actors turned film stars this year – Irrfan Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput this year when Corona pandemic hit the nation, and the irony is that both these established stars left us so expectedly at the peak point of their respective careers and would have contributed much more, if they outlived. Irony, or a mere co-incidence?

Shah Rukh Khan

No doubt, SRK tops this list. He started his television journey through TV series Fauji in 1989. Though he started his career with Lekh Tandon’s television series Dil Dariya, which began shooting in 1988, the show got delayed and thus Fauji became his debut show. He played the leading role of Abhimanyu Rai in the Doordarshan show, followed by Circus (1989–90), his most popular TV show. He was also a part of miniseries Idiot (1991), Umeed (1989) and Wagle Ki Duniya (1988–90), before signing his first Bollywood project, Dil Aashna Hai in 1991.

He signed a string of movies same year which include hit movies – Deewana and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, and established as a huge star after the release of movies such as Darr, Deewana and DDLJ. In a career nearing to three decades, he created several new benchmarks when it comes to acting, especially romantic roles and established as the most popular Bollywood actor of past three decades, a rare feat not easy to break by anyone who start journey either through mini screen or big screen. Please go through SRK page.

Irrfan Khan

The second big name in this list is definitely Irrfan Khan, perhaps the most versatile Bollywood actor of present-day generation. He belongs to one of those rare breed of actors who reached super stardom and achieved celebrity status, not for his looks, but purely based on talent. His journey from the days of battles to superstardom was so long, and it took nearly 3 decades. Yet he achieved a feat among Indian actors, which none of his contemporaries could even dream off. No doubt, he was the most versatile lead actor of Hindi cinema present times. Also he is the most successful Indian actor in Hollywood films, and the Indian actor with maximum number of releases in Hollywood. Also read more about the legendary actor.

Before he got his break to big screen, he had already marked his small screen debut. Shrikant aired on Doordarshan during 1985-1986 marked his acting debut in a supporting role. It was followed by two episodes of Bharat Ek Khoj in 1988, Kahkashan in 1991 and Chanakya in 1992. As an actor he was first noticed through his supporting role of “Senapati” Bhadrashal in Chanakya. However he turned a popular actor after he played the prominent double roles of the siblings – Badrinath and Somnath in the fantasy series, Chandrakanta. Since then people started recognizing him, and he played numerous character roles on TV screen. Yet he failed to get good offers from movies, and most of his film roles went unnoticed. He continued working in TV series such as Laal Ghaas Par Neele Ghode, Darr, Star Bestsellers, Sparsh, Bhanvar, Jai Hanuman, Kahkashan etc before he came to prominence through negative shade roles on big screen. Yet it was only a small transition till he played the titular role in Paan Singh Tomar, which earned him National film awards. There was no turning back after that.

Vidya Balan

Just like the struggles of Irrfan Khan, it took a long time for Vidya to get into the film industry. Many of her projects got delayed and shelved (mostly in Malayalam), some got replaced by other artists and she was also framed as ‘jinx’ or ‘unlucky’ by many in south Indian film industry. Yet when she got the first movie, Parineeta in 2005, there was no turning back after that and she went on to become one of the most successful and talented female artists of present generation. Her appearance in a few Hindi music videos helped her a lot to get first break in Bollywood, after struggling for a long time in south Indian film industry to get a break. Now she is one among those rare female stars who played several women-centric roles on screen, which helped her to achieve the title, ‘Lady Khan of Bollywood’.

As a teenager she marked her acting debut with Ekta Kapoor’s sitcom Hum Paanch (First season) as Radhika, a bespectacled teenager. Though director Anurag Basu offered her television role she refused it as she wanted to make it big on big screen. But at that time she was not at all aiming for a Bollywood debut, and was trying to get a break into Malayalam films, her mother tongue. When many of the signed projects got shelved, she appeared in TV ads and music albums, which finally brought her into the world of cine buzz. She marked her debut with Bengali film Bhalo Theko (2003), before moving to Bollywood. Also read more about Vidya.

Sushant Singh Rajput 

After Shah Rukh Khan, among popular heroes of present times, the success story of Sushant Singh Rajput, who came from a small town of Bihar is really inspiring. In fact his magical journey from a model to a background dancer to a TV actor to a big Bollywood star has inspired millions of youngsters from small towns and villages to pursue their acting dreams. Read a few more interesting facts about Singh and a short bio.

A brilliant student with terrific academic records and interest in astrophysics, he initially wanted to become a scientist and enrolled for his engineer studies. He enrolled in Shiamak Davar’s dance classes and slowly his interest shifted from physics and engineering to acting and films. Initially he performed as a background dancer of film award functions and movies, and also started modelling career and earned his first television role, Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil in 2008 which earned him initial recognition. Later he got a major break through Pavitra Rishta in 2009, where he was casted as protagonist opposite Ankita Lokhande.

The show’s success earned him direct entry to Bollywood and Kai Po Che in 2013 marked his big screen debut. In his brief career of 7-8 years, he had only 10 releases, excluding one Netflix release, Drive and one yet to release movie, and registered 8 hits, thus establishing as one of the most promising young actors in the decade of 2010s. No doubt this immensely talented actor with innocent looks and amazing dance skills would have offered much more to Bollywood in the past 7 years if several film production companies had not played bad politics to side line him in the industry. Most heart breaking part is that he fell as prey into their false trap and we, Bollywood fans also lost a great talent. It’s not at all easy for a movie buff to digest this truth, even in years to come.  Sorry Sushant, we never knew you were suffering inside with your sweet smile on face.

Ayushmann Khurrana

One of the most cashable actors of present times, he was once a star anchor and host of small screen. He won the second season of reality television show MTV Roadies in 2004, and very soon became an anchor on MTV. MTV Fully Faltoo Movies, Cheque De India and Jaadoo Ek Baar are some of his popular shows as an anchor, and he also hosted award nights. He marked his screen debut with Vicky Donar in 2012, and earned fame as an actor and playback singer. Mostly associated with midcaps and small budget movies, he mostly played small town boy and most of his films registered box office success. Now everyone might have forgotten that he was once a TV anchor a decade back.

R. Madhavan

Let me take the privilege and add one more celebrity to this list. There are many female south Indian stars who later established a career in Bollywood – Sridevi, Aishwarya Rai etc. But male actors of South Indian cinema are not that much welcomed in Bollywood. I don’t know why. Only exception is R. Madhavan- a chocolate hero of Tamil movies since early 2000s, who later earned equal number of fans in Bollywood also. Do you know he was a part of one of Doordarshan series, Sea Hawks before marking his debut through south Indian films.

His first TV show was Yule Love Stories, followed by his lead roles in Banegi Apni Baat, Saaya and Ghar Jamai. He also worked as a television anchor in Tol Mol Ke Bol, before getting his first acting break through a brief role in Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996). However he continued working in south Indian films, and got his first break to Bollywood through Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein in 2001. The role got noticed though the movie was a flop. Later Rang De Basanti in 2006 gave him a major break to Bollywood. One of the rare Indian heroes with pan-India appeal, his good looks also helped him a lot to earn a lot of fans across the country. Till now he has appeared in 7 language films.

Let me mention a few more names before I conclude

Yami Gautam

Yami Gautam appeared in a few TV shows such as Chaand Ke Paar Chalo, Raajkumar Aaryyan and Yeh Pyaar Na Hoga Kam, before she started her film journey through south Indian films. She made an impressive debut in Bollywood through Vicky Donar, aside yet another popular TV star, Ayushmann Khurrana. Though she is not equally successful as her co-star, she also owns a few hit films to her credit like Kaabil, Badlapur, Sanam Re, Bala and Uri: The Surgical Strike.

Mandira Bedi played the protagonist in India’s first ever soap aired on Doordarshan in the mid-1990s, Shanti and later she became a part of many TV shows and also became a TV host of ICC World Cup, before moving to big screen. Similarly Mona Singh of Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi played the memorable role of Kareena Kapoor’s sister in 3 Idiots. However her career in Bollywood was not so great and she returned to small screen. Gracy Singh also appeared in a series named Armaan, before she got her first break to Bollywood through Lagaan.

Popular actor Aditya Roy Kapoor of Aashique 2 fame started his career as a VJ of Star V, before joining films. Amar Upadhyay – best known for his work in Dekh Bhai Dekh and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Prachi Desai – best known for her appearance in Kasamh Se and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, Karan Singh Grover of Kasautii Zindagii Kay and Dill Mill Gayye fame, Anita Hassandani Reddy of Kabhii Sautan Kabhii Sahelii fame, Rajeev Khandelwal of Kahiin To Hoga fame etc are a few more names which need special mention.

India’s screen Krishna, Nitish Bhardwaj is an established television actor, who also appeared in a few movies in the early 1990s. During his second innings in Bollywood, he played Soha Ali Khan’s father in Kedarnath. Kapil Sharma, Ram Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Pulkit Samrat, Eijaz Khan, Aamna Sharif, Gurmeet Choudhary, Jay Bhanushali, Hansika Motwani, Rannvijay, Sameer Kochhar, Karan Kundra, Indraneil Sengupta, Manish Paul, Tushar Dalvi, Shruti Seth, Sanaya Irani, Sara Khan, Aman Verma, Sudesh Berry, Ankita Lokhande, Mohit Raina, Karan Patel, Barun Sobti, Ketki Dave etc are a few more successful TV stars, who later did a few memorable roles on big screen too.


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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