TV doesn't need stars!
MUMBAI MIRROR 6 September 2009, 08:46am IST
Film stars may have short shelf lives, but TV is tougher. And
actors are finding it tough to cope with the changed rules of the
entertainment game. Lekha Menon reports...
Want to know what direction the draught is blowing in tellyland
currently? A recent study on the most popular TV characters conducted
in five cities - Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Indore - by
Ormax Media, a research and consulting firm for media and entertainment
industry, gives some interesting pointers:
Little Anandi (Balika Vadhu, Colors) was the most popular character across cities with a 16.8 per cent audience share.
(Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Star Plus - 11.9 per cent), and Rajeev
Khandelwal (Sach ka Saamna, Star Plus - 7 per cent), came next.
was the overwhelming favourite for male audiences (15.8 per cent)
beating Anandi to second spot (14.8 per cent). Among females, however,
the child bride ruled the hearts (17.7 per cent).
(Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao, Sony - 2.5 per cent), and Rakhi Sawant
(Rakhi Ka Swayamwar, NDTV Imagine - 5.8 per cent), made it to the Top
10 favourite characters among male viewers.
The verdict is
out: The old has given way to the new even as reality shows give dramas
a run for their TRPs. In the last few months, names like Akshara, Laali
(Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo), Sadhna (Bidaai), Dadisa (Balika
Badhu) etc. have edged out icons like Tulsi, Parvati, Mr Bajaj, Jassi
and Jai Walia. While a change of guard - be it in cinema or television
- is always expected, the changed TV scenario has caused one big
casualty - the superstar actor.
Film stars always had short
shelf lives, but in TV, it appears, the going is tougher. Making it
worse is the fact that more than the star it is the character he/she
portrays who enjoys the real fame. So if the soap ends or the character
is bumped off (with no hope of even a plastic surgery reincarnation),
it spells the end of the road for the star as well. With sensation,
controversy and fights (real or staged) being the new eyeball winners,
no wonder a long list of names - Sakshi Tanwar, Rajiv Paul, Sangeeta
Ghosh, Apurva Agnihotri, Amar Upadhyay, Bakhtyar Irani to give a few
random examples - have been more or less faded in the last few months.
Young and younger
has no such thing as a star now," says Shailesh Kapoor, director Ormax,
analysing the trends revealed by the study. "Most viewers don't even
know the real names of the actors. Unlike cinema, there is no craze
about their personal lives either. Viewers are more interested in the
character they play."
Ironically, while soaps, not so long
ago, would take generation leaps and make 20-something actors sprout
grey hair, the present buzzwords are "young, fresh faces". "TV is all
about your image; if the image is too strong, it's all the more
difficult to break them," says Sandeep Sickand, former Balaji creative
head. "One can't be judgemental, but for new characters to create an
impact, they have to be bigger than a Tulsi or a Mihir."
seems unlikely in the present scenario where suddenly channels have
begun spouting the 'story' and 'concept' mantra, leaving the star far
behind in the pecking order. Subsequently, increasingly new actors with
no image or baggage (and tantrums) are being preferred to portray
central characters. Most of the recent fiction shows on Sony, Colors
and NDTV Imagine have newcomers in the lead.
Recession too has
taken a toll on big budgets and salaries. A Smriti Irani, Sakshi Tanwar
or Ronit Roy could demand upto Rs 40,000 or more per episode during the
'high' phase. But now the cost-conscious producer, whose only objective
is to maximise profits in the given time-slot are turning to freshers
who come for as less as Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000 per day.
are other factors at work. Such as the popularity of the channel, the
time slot, the promotional activities and so on for a role to be
remembered. Little wonder that the space is getting increasingly
crowded for the TV star, despite the proliferation of GECs (general
out-of-work actors, say sources, are turning to other sources of income
to keep the kitchen fires burning. Like turning party crowd pullers for
a sum. A popular TV star who had participated in a dance show for
couples two years ago, helped out a restaurateur friend pull in the
glamour crowd for an event held recently. A senior programming
executive of a leading GEC reveals how surprised she was to receive an
SMS from a star offering some "commission" for a role in the next
serial she was planning. "It was almost an open offer for a bribe.
Their insecurity is shocking at times," she says.
to stitch up relationships of conveniences. A recent marriage between
two middle-level TV stars, say some, was more a plan to participate as
a couple in the next season of Nach Baliye. "Often, big stars find it
below their dignity to approach coordinators or casting agents. They
try to send feelers to channel executives instead," says a source.
Also, with their market value diminishing from the metros, small towns
have become huge destinations for former stars to attend events as
Some time back, when the going was good, a
number of TV actors also tried to make the transition to cinema. But
not everyone was lucky as Rajeev Khandelwal (who got noticed in Aamir).
Case in point being the 'big' Dharmesh Darshan film Bhanwra, starring
Manav Gohil, Sangeeta Ghosh, Eijaz Khan and Shweta Salve that has yet
to see the light of day. Or Kkusum's Nausheen Ali Sardar whose Three
released last Friday after a lot of delay, to bad reviews.
roles are hard to come by, whether in films or TV. But an actor will
survive, it's the star who is bound by trappings - Smriti Irani
Going with the flow
Keswani, the delicious vamp of Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand and Kahaani
Ghar Ghar Kii, who is now currently seen in Ba Bahu Aur Baby puts it
candidly, "Accept it, fame is short-lived on TV. The ribbon-cutting
offers have gone down! Out of sight is out of mind here."
Hiten Tejwani admits to missing the dizzying heights of fame he saw
with Kkutumb and Kyunkii...a few years back. Currently seen in Palampur
Estate and Kitni Mohabbat Hai, Hiten believes he was lucky to get his
big breaks during boom time. "The scope is limited now; if you have a
show on air, which has a decent role, that's good enough." While the
talented Varun Badola says, "When I started acting, I used to replace
top stars. So you have to be mentally prepared. At least there are a
few serials with good characterisation these days. So a good actor will
find a decent role."
But Ronit Roy, whose Bandini is one of
the few soaps enjoying high ratings these days, brushes off the
allegation that TV stars are out of work. "If you see TRP charts, drama
shows are still on top. Basic emotions are the same, what has changed
now is the packaging. Just make a mark in the shows you are doing and
you'll never run short of roles. I have been lucky Ekta (Kapoor) has
given me strong roles to play - Mr Bajaj, Mihir or even Bhishm
Pitamah." But wasn't the last mentioned role in the flop Mahabharat?
"Some things work, others don't," he shrugs. "But you can't deny the
popularity of Mihir, Tulsi or Jai Walia even now. They are revisited
even on YouTube."
an industry that vouched by the speed with which production houses
churned out serials, now swears by acting, script and sensibilities.
TV's most famous bahu Smriti Irani believes there are "no icons today".
"That's because it's the channels who define the programme, not the
actors. Good roles are hard to come by, whether in TV or films. But an
actor will survive, it's the star who is bound by those trappings," she
Ultimately, what sets an actor
for a long innings on television is reinvention and multi-tasking.
Ashvini Yardi, programming head, Colors says, "In TV, the channel will
always define the parameters. There's a whole strategy involved behind
the success of a show where concept, character, brand positioning etc
matters and then comes casting. But actors need not be one-serial
wonders. The minute they get something strong, they should build on
that. Public memory is short but they will accept an actor in new
Sickand advises stars to not look at TV as an "office
job" - where you do your work, collect the cheque and pay your EMI.
"Look at it as a creative profession. For this is a transition phase
where actually quality work is happening."
advocate the "acceptance" mantra. As Sweta quips, "In my two year-stint
as a vamp, I did everything there was to do. Kill people, make the lead
pair's lives miserable ... Thankfully then I discovered my passion for
photography and painting. So branching out, doing new things and
travelling has helped me remain grounded. The higher you go, the more
sorted you need to be. Why mope over non-happening roles?"
said than done maybe. But there's hope. When the juicy roles in
never-ending soaps dry up, there's always the odd game show, anchoring
or judging stint and theatre to turn to.