Perspective | What attracts Big Screen actors towards the Small Screen; Money or Audience reach?

Now the Bollywood film industry has a new contender. It is none other than our Indian television industry which is  booming to such an extent that Bollywood celebrities are keenly eyeing this medium as well. They are  no more confined only to the 70 mm screen and a majority of them are making their presence felt  on  the small screen either as TV hosts for reality shows , as actors in serials and even making special appearances  for their film promotions.

These big screen actors certainly grab eyeballs in films but what is it about the small screen that  attracts them to it. There is no doubt that greater star value, small screen breaks, no hectic schedules and new audiences do wonders for big stars.  In fact some have even made their debuts on the small screens as hosts or judges during the early days  in their career. Today actors and film-maker’s involvement in television has doubled with their active participation on the new shows.

Looking  back at how all this started, the first A-list Bollywood actor who entered the world of television in a big way was Amitabh Bachchan with the first season of Kaun Banega 

Crorepati (KBC), and the trend followed  with Aamir Khan in Satyamev Jayate, Madhuri Dixit in Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa 5, Salman Khan in Bigg Boss , Shah Rukh Khan in Kya Aap Paanchvi Class se Tez Hain?, Hrithik Roshan in Just Dance, Akshay Kumar in Khatron Ke Khiladi season four, Sanjay Dutt in Bigg Boss season five, Karan Johar in Coffee with Karan, Preity Zinta in GWR: Ab India Todega, Priyanka Chopra in Khatron Ke Khiladi season  three amongst many others.

As these big stars augment TRPs for the channel, the money they are paid also grows exponentially. Today Salman Khan is the highest paid actor for television shows followed by Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan , Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt while Amitabh Bachchan has signed three seasons of KBC for Rs. 100 crores.

To understand what attracts our Bollywood celebrities towards small screens, is it the money factor or better audience connectivity and how well  it has worked in the  past,  we interacted with actors and experts from the media industry to get their views on this.  Adgully spoke to Kamya Punjabi, actress, Fazila Allana, SOL Productions Pvt. Ltd., Kunal 

Roy Kapur, actor, Saurabh Tewari, Nautanki Telefilms, Gaurav Gera, actor, Shashi and Sumeet Mittal, Founder Directors  of ShashiSumeet Productions Pvt. Ltd. who shared their respective views.

Kamya is of the opinion that money and audience reach both go hand in hand since today  the television industry  is vast. “I don’t want to talk much about money but yes audience reach is there, the reason largely being  that television today reaches out to masses and classes, ranging from urban to rural India. Hence if audiences cannot afford to watch a  film, they would  love to watch their favourite actor making a special appearance on their television sets through the shows. It’s the best medium to connect with audiences and that makes Bollywood stars want  to be part of the small screens.”

Whereas Fazila says, “It works both ways as they get good money for the show they do and since they are already known celebs they easily reach out to their fans through small screens.”

Kunal sharing his input adds , “It’s a great exposure for us as it’s  not just limited to few hours but to a whole season and moreover films last in theatres for just a week. So for connecting with their audience and reaching out to them  television has been the best medium. Where money is concerned, yes I would  say that the  remuneration in small screens is great too.”

“Today loads of shows such as Big Boss, Khatron Ke Khiladi etc. with Bollywood actors that we see on television are adapted formats and  the concept of Bollywood actors working in the television industry is fast picking up. This concept has worked well in Hollywood and to some extent is doing well in India too,” shares Saurabh Tewari.

Continuing further  he said, “ Yes, definitely television proves to be the best medium to reach out to your fans and audiences but it is also a fact that television industry is not dependent on stars but on the contrary  helps in creating stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Sushant Singh and others.”

Gaurav Gera avers, “It works out both  ways as we get good money and it’s quick depending upon the number of shows we do . Audiences remember their actors better  through television with the upcoming trend of seasons on various shows.”

The duo Shashi and Sumeet were very firm in their opinion on the subject of discussion. They said, “Without doubt, we would say  it would be audience connect. TV connects the hearts of people across the length and  breadth of this country in a sustained manner and this only grows by the day. Being on the small screen definitely augments the star power of big screen actors. The small screen, is not so 'small' anymore.” 

So, coming to year 2013 we have Anil Kapoor doing his Indian TV debut '24'. Madhuri Dixit and Karan Johar judging dance reality show 'Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa', we have Abhay Deol in Connected Hum Tum, Chitrangada Singh in Channel V’s Gumraah Season 3, Riteish Deshmukh too judging India’s Dancing Superstar and Mitun Chakraborty judging seasons of Dance India Dance and at present DID Supermoms. Also on the anvil are  Salman Khan’s Big Boss and Amitabh Bachchan’s KBC.

Kamya added to say, “Yes the shows in the past have worked well and in future it will work well too  and if the  show doesn’t work well then it all depends upon the concept. Television is big enough today and that’s the reason actors use it for promoting their films.”

“Whether the actors reach out to audiences or not depends upon the audience and the concept and television is the best medium which gives them this opportunity,” said Fazila.

For Kunal television has  proved out to be the best medium for connectivity as he has utilized this medium to promote his films.

“It all depends upon whether  actors are doing fiction or non- fiction shows. Fiction shows are  not based upon stars but more on content whereas non-fiction shows need celebs as well as a great concept. Yes, it has definitely worked out well for non-fiction shows,” added Saurabh.

Gaurav Gera seconds  Saurabh Tewary’s view and says, “Yes, I agree that it has worked for talk shows, and reality shows and of course for promotions as well.”

Shashi and Sumeet said, “In non-fiction shows, the participation of big screen actors is a huge draw for the show and adds immensely to the TRPs. Their presence is a big driver for the show. The same holds true for Bollywood actors making guest appearances in fiction formats as well. These days it is a popular trend to have big stars making appearances on 

fiction shows to promote their films  and  this is only a validation of my earlier point on the audience connect that TV offers today.  We had Amir Khan on one of the episodes of Diya Aur Bati Hum to promote Satyamev Jayate, where he spoke about honesty which made perfect sense to our story as it resonated with Sooraj who despite all odds stands by Sandhya, always.”

Taking into consideration the views expressed by  our industry experts we can conclude   that, for Bollywood actors foraying into the television industry  two  factors viz. money and audience reach go hand in hand  but ultimately and  most importantly their fate rests with   the audience sitting before their television  sets  who have to accept their presence  and help them to make it big on this small medium.

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