By: ASJAD NAZIR
A GROUND-BREAKING year saw glass ceilings being shattered, greater heights reached, horizons expanded, and new paths created globally.
There was also fresh creative work, international crossovers and exciting new artists announcing their arrival. Top south Asian talent from diverse fields were at the forefront of the moves being made and blazed a trail for others to follow.
Eastern Eye celebrates these amazing individuals with the annual countdown of the top 50 global Asian stars.
50. Asees Kaur: The Indian singing star once again spent the year skilfully combining film songs with popular standalone singles. She also won her second Filmfare Award in a row for Best Female Playback singer, and continued to set the stage on fire with stunning live performances.
49. Romesh Ranganathan: No comedian came close to the hardworking British star in 2022. From hosting popular TV shows and acting, to performing standup comedy in soldout arenas and a Netflix special, he was everywhere, and entertaining multicultural audiences of all ages every step of the way.
48. Helly Shah: The talented actress broke ground for Indian television stars at the Cannes Film Festival with a winning redcarpet appearance. She filmed her feature film debut while her short movie Zibah qualified for an Academy Award and appeared on the official Oscar streaming site. The popular TV star also lit up music videos and is fast becoming a style icon.
47. Asim Riaz: He starred in music videos, released rap records, and collaborated with DJ Snake, but the highlight of the year for the self made star was creating his own lane without anyone’s help. He also generated heat across social media thanks to his huge fan base and showed outsiders that hard work can be rewarded.
46. Shae Gill and Ali Sethi: Two of Pakistan’s bestkept secrets came out into the open after their perfectly crafted duet Pasoori premiered on popular music show Coke Studio. The most viral Asian song of 2022 popped up everywhere around the world, including on Ms Marvel. It also led to both singers seeing their fan following skyrocket.
45. Humayun Saeed: The Pakistani actor had a film success with London Nahi Jaunga, but his
biggest moment of 2022 was landing a key role in globally popular Netflix series The Crown. His performance as Dr Hasnat Khan not only brought him to new audiences, but also opened
more doors for Pakistani talent internationally.
44. Sumbul Touqeer Khan: The youngest artist in this year’s list has become a powerful youth icon. The 19year old went from an impactful performance on hit serial Imlie to diving into the deep end with reality TV show Bigg Boss 16. The actress has built a solid foundation for a big future and made herself one to watch.
43. Anoushka Shankar: The sitar maestro once again led the way globally when it came to taking classical Indian music across new horizons. She headlined soldout concerts, did cool collaborations and carried on being a powerful role model. Her acclaimed album Between Us added to her many masterpieces and she rounded off the year with two Grammy nominations.
42. Charithra Chandran: The British actress came to prominence on season two of Bridgerton and gained a nomination in the Rising Star category at the National Television Awards. She has been signed up to play the lead role in new drama series Song Of The Sun God and has big projects on the way, including comedy film How to Date Billy Walsh and TV series Pillow Talk.
41. Ayesha Singh: The talented TV actress entertained audiences in popular soap Ghum Hai
Kisikey Pyaar Meiin. The 26-year-old star showed an acting maturity way beyond her age with a multilayered performance that powered the series towards 700 episodes.
40. Hadiqa Kiani: The Pakistani pop icon con tinued the acting journey she started in 2021 with another winning performance in acclaimed drama serial Pinjra. The unstoppable 50-year-old also won multiple awards and performed soldout concerts. But even bigger than all these achievements was her inspiring humanitarian work after the devastating Pakistani floods.
39. Shehan Karunatilaka: The Sri Lankan author came to global prominence after winning this year’s Booker Prize for his novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. The stunning story about a dead photojournalist trying to expose the brutalities of the Sri Lankan civil war by travelling between the afterlife and the real world, brought him international acclaim.
38. Arooj Aftab: The New York-based singer and musician became the first female Pakistani to win a Grammy for Best Global Music Performance, along with getting a Best New Artist nomination. She also has a Best Global Music Performance nomination for next year’s Grammys. She lit up the live circuit and got a prestigious Pride of Performance award from the Pakistan government.
37. Jameela Jamil: The US based British actress became the first Asian to play a super villain in the Marvel cinematic universe, with a terrific turn as Titania in hit series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and also voiced Wonder Woman in the animated film DC League of Super-Pets. She combined that with her activism and popular podcast.
36. Faisal Shaikh: It is impossible to escape the impact of social media influencers like Shaikh, who have bigger followings than most celebrities. The online star with nearly 29 million Instagram followers and more than 32 million on TikTok, crossed over to TV with memorable appearances on Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi in 2022.
35. Samantha Ruth Prabhu: Whether it was her
performances in Tamil black comedy Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal and Telugu action thriller Yashoda, eyecatching photoshoots, reacting to negativity or being honest about her health problems, there was power in everything the actress did this year. She is looking forward to more exciting projects, like her Hollywood debut.
34. Shah Rukh Khan: He may have only made cameo appearances in 2022, but the actor generated feverish excitement as he shot for his come back films Pathaan, Jawan and Dunki. The 57year old regularly sent social media into melt down and remained in demand globally, including with big brands, proving that his big screen break hadn’t lessened any of his magic.
33. Vijay: The king of Tamil cinema entertained audiences with his film Beast and got amazing attention without really trying. The man affectionately known as Thalapathy Vijay saw his superstardom send social media into overdrive. The announcement of forthcoming projects continued to create a buzz and other celebrities chased after him for collaborations.
32. Adeel Akhtar: The British Asian artist got a well deserved Best Actor nomination at the BAFTAs for his brilliant performance in Ali & Ava. He continued to add to his impressive body of work in diverse projects including the films Enola Holmes 2 and Save The Cinema, and TV mini series Sherwood. He opened more doors for Asians with colour blind roles.
31. Rubina Dilaik: The boss lady of Indian TV made a memorable impact on popular reality
shows Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi 12 and Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 10. She also made her film
debut and was among the south Asian celebritieswho trended most often globally across social media. She won hearts with her humble nature and saw her fanbase continue to surge.
30. Amitabh Bachchan: The oldest person in this year’s list, the unstoppable 80-year-old
played contrasting characters in five frontline Bollywood films and made his Gujarati cinema debut. He continued to host India’s most popular quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati and kept many millions of his social media followers engaged.
29. Rupali Ganguly: Hit drama serial Anupamaa remained one of the most watched TV shows on the planet, rocketing past 750 episodes and topping TV ratings in India. This was largely thanks to the terrific performance by the actress in the title role, for which the 45-year-old won a Best Actress award at the Indian Television Academy Awards, along with getting other nominations.
28. Kumail Nanjiani: The trailblazing Pakistani American carried on his impressive momentum of recent years by being part of various projects and crossing further frontiers in Hollywood. This included a key role in Star Wars spin-off series Obi-Wan Kenobi and playing the lead in highprofile mini-series Welcome to Chippendales.
27. Nia Sharma: It was impossible to ignore the actress, affectionately known as the lioness, this year. She breathed fire into reality TV show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 10, burned brightly on social media and is named Eastern Eye’s hottest Asian woman on the planet for 2022. She also won hearts with her fearless approach, hard work and ability to keep it real.
26. Priyanka Chopra Jonas: Slowing down for motherhood didn’t stop the actress from being the most famous Indian on the planet. She generated news headlines throughout the year and has multiple projects bubbling away, including a lead role in forthcoming Hollywood film Love Again. One half of an international power couple, she once again achieved global popularity.
25. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan: The Hollywood star headlined another season of hit Netflix se-ries Never Have I Ever, voiced animated films and is looking forward to her debut film Netherfield Girls. The success of the talented actress was summed up with a Radius Award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television for her global impact and breaking Asian stereotypes.
24. Sophia Ali: The Pakistani American hit top gear with a starring role opposite Tom Holland
and Mark Wahlberg in Hollywood blockbuster Uncharted. The actress also returned for season two of her popular Amazon Prime series The Wilds and played a key role in independent movie India Sweets and Spices.
23. Kartik Aaryan: The outsider who has inspiringly established himself in the top tier through hard work, headlined the year’s first Bollywood blockbuster Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. He also delivered a winning performance in Freddy and has a huge number of projects on the way. The refreshing alternative to nepotism represents the future of Hindi cinema.
22. Sargun Mehta: The Punjabi cinema queen continued to conquer the big screen with suc-cessful films including Saunkan Saunkne, Moh and Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne. The actress carried on being a trailblazer and expanded the horizons of a rapidly growing industry. She also formed a formidable producing partnership with her actor husband Ravii Dubey.
21. Arijit Singh: The musical maestro held onto his crown as the most streamed Indian artist on Spotify. The hardworking singing sensation carried on mixing up marvellous songs with a huge number of stunning stage performances around the world. And he did it all without chasing the spotlight or courting any kind of fame.
20. Kamal Haasan: The 68-year-old cinema icon made a stunning comeback with smash hit action thriller Vikram, which set several records, including being the highest grossing Indian film at the UK box office. The legendary actor showed quite comprehensively that he still has plenty of star power as he signed more projects and proved that age is just a number.
19. Rashmika Mandanna: The talented actress took her first steps towards becoming a major pan-Indian star with film successes like Sita Ramam and Pushpa: The Rise. She has set herself up for a huge 2023 with forthcoming films that include Mission Majnu (Hindi), Varisu (Tamil) and the hotly anticipated sequel Pushpa 2: The Rule (Telugu), all of which will be dubbed in diverse Indian languages.
18. Deepika Padukone: The undisputed queen of Bollywood enjoyed big endorsement deals, massive media coverage, fabulous photoshoots and eye-catching red-carpet appearances, and she also worked on movie blockbusters. The amazing actress remained a fashion icon and continued to advocate for better mental health.
17. Riz Ahmed: The British Asian actor has been a beacon of light in Hollywood and shone brighter in 2022 by winning a Best Live Action Short Film Oscar at the 94th Academy Awards for his film The Long Goodbye. He signed more major movies, continued with his activism and carried on creating space for new talent to flourish.
16. Sajal Ali: The actress represents empowered young Pakistani women and is inspiring a generation. Although she made her presence felt on television and in music videos, one of her big moments was attending the premieres of her debut English film What’s Love Got To Do With It? at film festivals around the world. She is becoming a shining global beacon for her country.
15. Armaan Malik: The firm fan favourite had a fabulous year filled with hit songs in a number of languages. By mixing up amazing movie songs with standalone singles in various genres, he was able to show off his versatility and talent. The gifted singer won multiple honours including an MTV award, and showed that he represents the future of Indian music.
14. Tabu: In terms of budget versus box-office return, Bollywood only had two big successes in 2022 and Tabu starred in both of them. Contrasting characters in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Drishyam 2 confirmed her status as one of Hindi cinema’s most versatile actresses. The in demand 52-year-old shot for more major projects this year and made an impressive mark in a horribly ageist Indian film industry.
13. Atif Aslam: The most streamed Pakistani singer of 2022 went from ruling the charts to
conquering television with a winning acting debut on Sang-e-Mah. His performance on the Hamlet-inspired hit drama serial received universal acclaim, and started an exciting new chapter for the singing star. He combined that with hit songs and commanding stage performances.
12. Diljit Dosanjh: The biggest Punjabi star on the planet lit up arenas during a world tour. Away from his singing success, he continued to impress as an actor and delivered one of this year’s finest performances in acclaimed Hindi movie Jogi. He also produced and starred in Punjabi comedy Babe Bhangra Paunde Ne, and is lining up big projects for 2023.
11. Mindy Kaling: The Hollywood power player continued to mastermind successful projects which crossed new frontiers, broke barriers, and entertained millions around the world, including The Sex Lives of College Girls and Never Have I Ever. She added to her film, TV, and streaming site achievements with a Tony Award for Broadway show A Strange Loop, which she produced.
10. Allu Arjun: It may have been released in December 2021, but Telugu film Pushpa: The Rise showed its real power in January and became the first Indian blockbuster of 2022. This included the Hindi dubbed version massively outperforming Bollywood films and kickstarting a trend for other regional language hits. The centre of the whole thing was the superstar actor, who spent this year generating big headlines and inspiring a global craze.
9. Charli XCX: Most pop stars of south Asian origin in the western mainstream quickly crash and burn, but that is not the case for the half-Indian singing sensation. The talented pop icon continued to make all the right moves with superb songwriting, cool collaborations, and this year’s best album, Crash. She performed on some of the biggest global stages and was in a different league internationally.
8. Tejasswi Prakash: Indian television has perhaps the highest viewing figures globally and its golden star this year was Tejasswi Prakash. The actress began 2022 by winning India’s biggest reality TV show Bigg Boss and then headlined the sixth season of the massively successful series Naagin with an impactful performance. She also appeared in music videos, took on internet trolls like a boss and saw her impressive fan base continue to surge.
7. Shreya Ghoshal: From her impressive vocal range and ability to sing in different languages to the sheer volume of hits she has delivered, the queen of Indian music spent another year giving compelling evidence that she really is the finest singer on the planet. When she wasn’t raising the bar with her voice, the talented music star was showcasing big performances in giant arenas around the world. At a time when Indian film music is going through a bad time, she is an illustration of everything that is great about the industry.
6. Yash: Kannada cinema is now firmly on the global map thanks to the success of K.G.F: Chapter 2. The actor helped the superhit film sequel smash box-office records with his stunning screen presence. This included the Hindi dubbed version outperforming Bollywood films. That incredible success turned him into red-hot property and one of India’s biggest movie stars. All eyes are on what he will do next, and producers are lining up to sign him.
5. Iman Vellani: The Pakistani-born Canadian actress flew into the hearts and minds of audi-ences around the world with her path-breaking portrayal of a teenage Muslim superhero in Ms Marvel. The 20-year-old inspired a generation in the ground-breaking Disney+ serial and commenced shooting for her first major movie The Marvels, which will make it an even bigger 2023 for her. In addition to becoming a huge Hollywood star and establishing herself as an amazing actress, the youth icon also blazed a trail for others to follow.
4. Alia Bhatt: No frontline celebrity was busier than Alia Bhatt in 2022. This included a scintillating solo performance in Gangubai Kathiawadi, a starring role in superhero film em>Brahmastra, and signing her first Hollywood film Heart Of Stone. She also popped up in blockbuster RRR, worked on forthcoming film Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani and headlined her critically acclaimed home production Darlings. In between all that she got married (to Ranbir Kapoor), had a baby, launched a maternity wear line, and electrified social media.
3. Simone Ashley: The biggest breakout star of 2023 became a bright global name with a pathbreaking presence in season two of Bridgerton. The British actress quickly became a fashion icon and a regular at red-carpet events globally. She also is a positive role model on multiple levels, from her acting ability to speaking up against skin lightening products and
breaking cultural barriers. She has jumped onto the radar of major Hollywood studios and was named in a respected global list of leaders defining the next generation.
2. Fawad Khan: The dashing actor made a record-breaking return with a terrific performance
in The Legend Of Maula Jatt title role. The hit movie smashed all Pakistani box-office records globally,and outperformed every Bollywood film that was released in the UK. He also made his international debut in superhero series Ms Marvel, winning himself a new legion of admirers and taking Pakistani popular culture to heights not reached before. The actor grabbed headlines, impressed with his acting ability, won hearts, and is also named as Eastern Eye’s hottest Asian man of 2022.
1. Jr NTR and Ram Charan: The blockbuster RRR swept the globe like an out-of-control tsunami and smashed cinematic barriers. That immense power was generated by lead stars Jr NTR and Ram Charan, as both breathed fire into cinema halls around the world and ignited great interest from cross-cultural audiences, including international media. It led to RRR campaigning in all the major categories for the 2023 Oscars and winning honours including the Spotlight Award at the Hollywood Critics Association. The heroes also drew attention to regional language cinema in India, which resulted in multiple movie successes away from the commercial Bollywood space. Both film giants are now looking forward to huge projects, but the impact they have made in 2022 will remain a landmark moment in popular culture