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CE Year in Review 2023: Promising debut performances of the year- Cinema express

CE Year in Review 2023: Promising debut performances of the year

Several films introduced fresh faces this year, and from their first films, we know they’re here to stay. So, here’s a list of the potential-filled debut performers of the year

Published: 28th December 2023
CE Year in Review 2023: Promising debut performances of the year

2023 has undoubtedly been the year for debutants. Tamil cinema’s best films of the year, including Por Thozhil, Good Night, Dada, Yaathisai, and Ayothi, among others, came from first-time filmmakers. Interestingly, this year has been no less of a present for debutant actors in Tamil cinema. Several films introduced fresh faces this year, and from their first films, we know they’re here to stay. So, here’s a list of the potential-filled debut performers of the year.

Preethi Asrani (Ayothi)

In Mandhira Moorthy’s Ayothi, Preethi played the role of the deceased woman’s daughter, Shivani. Being an elder sister, Shivani also had to take up the responsibility of being her brother’s second mother. While Preethi aced her part as a timid and naive Shivani all throughout the film, she also had one strong scene to show her full potential. In a scene where her father insists on following rituals even during a tough time, she strongly calls her father out for mistreating her mother when she is alive and requests him to at least let her rest in peace. That scene in particular, and her portrayal of an innocent grieving motherless teenage girl, got her name out, as she deserves.

Sahasra (Chittha)

The find of the year in this list is undoubtedly baby Sahasra, the mainstay in Chithha. Chithha is incomplete without someone to call Siddharth’s character that, and Sahasra as Sundari ensured that we can say the same about her as well. With child sexual abuse at the core, most of the film depended upon Sahasra’s performance. While she was just as adorable as any young kid in the initial scenes of the film, it was in the scenes of abuse that he true talent came to light. Be it the actual scene of abuse, or when she goes on ranting ‘Chittha… Chittha..’ In her semi-conscious state, her talent made us forget that she was a mere child dealing with such a difficult subject. Sahasra took upon herself a heavy subject for her debut and has now proven that lighter themes are perhaps a cakewalk.


Nimisha Sajayan (Chittha, Jigarthanda Double X)

We’ve seen Nimisha Sajayan in important films like The Great Indian Kitchen, Nayattu and Malik, in Malayalam. In Chittha, her Tamil acting debut, she essays the role of Shakthi, a woman with a past, who wants to give life another chance. While her performance only demanded subtlety through the course of the film, her monologue right at the end of Chittha sealed the deal for what many victims have always wanted to convey to their loved ones. Cut to her sophomore Tamil performance in Jigarthanda Double X, in which she plays the bold and loud-mouthed Malayarasi, the only one who doesn’t fear her don husband. With two contrasting performances, Nimisha has not only established her versatility but has also made it amply clear that she will be seen in many Tamil films henceforth.

Seyon (Yaathisai)

Yaathisai, helmed by Dharani Rasendran, is a representation of debut projects as the film’s entire cast and crew are made up entirely of novices. Out of the lot, rebel King Kodhi, rendered by actor Seyon is arguably the most challenging debut of 2023. Seyon was tasked with portraying a multi-layered anti-hero, and he more than excelled at ensuring that his transition from a grounded leader to a narcissistic dictator was organic. The tougher part was to orate the heavily philosophical monologues in archaic Tamil which he handled with ease, along with the blood-thirsty fight sequences. If given the right chances and guided by the right filmmakers, Seyon has a great future looking forward.


Santhosh (Ponniyin Selvan 2)

Santhosh played the young Aditya Karikalan, a junior version of Vikram’s character in Ponniyin Selvan 2. The film starts with his scenes with Sara Arjun, conveying their story as young Aditya Karikalan and Nandini, and what caused the rift between them. Santhosh’s portrayal of a teenage Karikalan, especially in a scene in which he screams, ‘Nandini’ with pain as she departs him, cemented Karikalan’s emotions and character development for the rest of the film. His poise and gallant demeanour while courting Nandini and taking her on a horse ride, and his melancholic outburst at her departure, in the first 10 minutes of the film, set the path straight for what’s in store for Aditya Karikalan for the rest of the film.

Saniya Iyappan (Irugapattru)

Saniya Iyappan made her Tamil film debut with Irugapattru, which boasted an ensemble cast comprising Shraddha Srinath, Vikram Prabhu, Vidharth, etc. Despite the film being a multi-starrer, Saniya stood out with her performance as Divya. As the wife of Arjun (Sri), Saniya had the task of portraying what constant mental abuse can do to a person, and her presentation of the character ended up as a tear-jerker. Her rendering was apt as it did the deed to convey the message about red flags in marriage, bad mental health, and the importance of therapy to overcome the same.


Rakshana (Margazhi Thingal)

Margazhi Thingal was a film of firsts for Rakshana and Shyam Selvan who made their acting debut, and for Manoj Bharathiraja who stepped foot into direction. Of the debutants, Malavika Induchoodan, stage-named Rakshana by Bharathiraja, ended up being the best find. Margazhi Thingal was told through the perspective of Malavika’s Kavitha. The film, which starts as a coming-of-age romance, goes to darker places with honour killing. Rakshana’s play as a happy youngster in love, and an angry granddaughter betrayed by her grandfather, were equally filled with potential. The film ends with a frame of the actor, looking at herself in the mirror. Her expressions in that one shot, speak plenty of her talent.  
Malavika Manoj (Joe)

Rio Raj’s Joe was a character study of the character from his college days to his adulthood. His character is defined by his family and friends, but mainly by his two life partners. In the first half of Joe, we see Malavika Manoj play an innocent and adorable Sujithra, who cries when someone proposes to her and speaks Tamil with a mix of Malayalam. While her character is cut off with the interval, the way she lived as Sujithra onscreen, made us wish she travelled all throughout the film’s screen time. The way she expressed anger and difficult emotions such as the pain of separation, is etched to our minds even after we leave the theatres.


Hridhu Haroon (Thugs)

Choreographer Brindha Master’s sophomore directorial Thugs introduced Hridhu Haroon into Kollywood. The actor, who had previously earned praises for his performance in the Hindi series Crash Course, put his body through a lot of work to physically transform for Thugs, which was a remake of Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil. Hridhu was seen as the hot-headed youngster Sethu in Thugs, but he was equally a romantic who was ready to go to any lengths for love. The ease with which he performed stunt sequences made us forget that he is still an up-and-coming actor. Interestingly, Hridhu played an entirely different and opposite character in Mumbaikar this year, proving that he’s a budding talent to look out for.

Divyansha Kaushik (Michael, Takkar)

Amid an ensemble consisting of Vijay Sethupathi, Sundeep Kishan, Gautham Menon, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, and more, was a newcomer who was the main catalyst in Michael. Divyansha Kaushik was the titular Michael’s impetus, and her portrayal of the hot-headed and free-willed Theera, who was caught between the rock and the hard place was what fuelled the film. In the latter half of 2023, she was also seen as seen as the spoilt Mahalakshmi in the long-delayed Takkar. She was equally good in the film as a mysterious girl recovering from bad parenting. While she incidentally got comparable roles in both films, Divyansha has a lot more to come, provided she is not typecast.

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