Currently, we are largely influenced by social media—from Facebook to Instagram—and follow digital creators or influencers for quirky and trending content. Some social media influencers have also left their mark in the cinema industry.
After spending years creating digital content on a myriad of subjects and earning a massive and fiercely dedicated fan base—some social media influencers have displayed their prowess as digital content creators. In the last few years, many influencers embarked on their maiden journey into the world of Indian cinema—to carve out their acting career. The evergrowing digital world is expanding rapidly, and social media influencers are constantly looking for new approaches to achieve stardom.
For filmmakers, casting social media influencers helps attract their loyal fan base. Here is a list of social media influencers who made their acting debut—transitioning from the digital platform to the silver screen.
Prajakta Koli worked as a radio jockey and rapidly rose to fame through her popular YouTube channel, ”Mostly Sane.” Her YouTube videos are based on everyday life scenarios, and she plays different characters.
Koli featured in a short film titled "Khayali Pulao," which focuses on women empowerment, and this acting gig helped her bag a lead role in the romantic drama “Mismatched.” The audience loved her on-screen chemistry with her co-star Rohit Saraf.
She also made her maiden journey into Bollywood with Dharma Productions’ “Jugjugg Jeeyo”—a comedy-drama in which she played the character of Ginny—alongside Varun Dhawan, Neetu Kapoor, Kiara Advani and Anil Kapoor. Koli also worked alongside Vidya Balan in Neeyat—a Prime Video Original.
Ankush Bahuguna is another celebrated name amongst social media users and influencers. He has an enormous fan following on YouTube and other social media platforms—particularly Instagram. Since he is a ‘Pahadi’ guy—he often creates content on topics that people hailing from the hills or from Pahadi households can associate with. His mom also features in some reels to add a dash of relatable humor. Apart from his social media fame, Bahuguna has also featured in “Badboli Bhavna”—a short film on Amazon MiniTV, and other TV series like “Arranged Patchup,” and “Chalo Koi Baat Nahi.”
Dolly is an established entertainer, and her online venture jump started with "Spill the Sass"—her blog—a treasure trove of pocket-friendly style tips and tricks. Her ability to craft cool outfits from her regular wardrobe appealed to her expanding fanbase. Soon, Dolly started curating video content, and her witty humor instantly grabbed the audience’s attention.
She eventually went beyond the digital world and partnered with some big names of B-town like Taapsee Pannu, Sara Ali Khan, Priyanka Chopra, and Sonam Kapoor in various video productions. Dolly’s acting debut is marked by "Bhaag Beanie Bhaag"—a comedy series. She played the protagonist’s (Swara Bhasker) best friend, and in the second season, she is expected to return.
Our beloved Billi Masi (Kusha Kapila) is a popular name, and several Bollywood celebs frequently collaborate with her to promote their brands, films, and series. Kusha’s maiden OTT appearance is marked by “Ghost Stories” in 2020—directed by Karan Johar. She also featured in “Behensplaining”—the Netflix India YouTube show—and “Lol: Hasse Toh Phasse”—a comedy reality show. Kusha bagged a major role in the second season of Masaba Masaba in 2022, playing the protagonist’s manager, Nicole.
Shirley Setia rose to instant fame after people showered her with immense admiration for making Bollywood music covers and posting them on her YouTube channel. The YouTube sensation made her acting debut with “Maska,” alongside Boman Irani and Manisha Koirala. Apart from that—the singer was also cast in “Nikamma,” alongside Shilpa Shetty and Abhimanyu Dassani in the lead. Shirley also made her debut in the Telugu film industry with “Krishna Vrinda Vihari.”
From reigning on YouTube and Instagram to making it big in Bollywood, these social media influencers and their desire to make their name in the glitzy world of cinema have borne fruit.