Joined: 26 November 2009
|A handful of young TV stars has shot from obscurity to fame almost overnight, says Sushmita Biswas|
Life has taken a complete U-turn for television actor Sushant Rajput. Ever since he started playing Manav, the hero of the soap Pavitra Rishta on Zee TV he has become a celebrity who can't leave his home without attracting crowds. Sushant is slogging on the sets for about 16 hours a day but he has no regrets. He laughs, "It feels great to receive all the adulation but my responsibilities have multiplied 10 times. People's expectations have skyrocketed which means more hard work for me as an actor."
Or take a look at actress Hina Khan, 20, who's playing the female lead, Akshara, in Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai on Star Plus. The soap, about a young girl born in a conservative Marwari family, has already garnered eyeballs (with a high TRP of 4.2) and has brought her much adulation and fame. "For me acting happened by chance because like my character in the serial I come from a conservative family. It was difficult to convince my parents about my choice. Today, it feels great to have been accepted by so many TV viewers and I have absolutely no complaints," she says.
Sushant and Hina are part of a new crop of young actors who've shot to fame almost instantly on the small-screen. These newcomers include college students, theatre actors and would-be actors from all types of backgrounds. And their moment of glory has come sooner than expected because, as a huge battle erupts on the small screen, entertainment channels like Zee TV, Star Plus and Colors are launching a clutch of new serials to pull in the viewers.
Cut to 26-year-old actor Angad Hasija who was an interior designer in Chandigarh before signing up for the serial Sapna Babul Ka… Bidaai on Star Plus. Luck smiled on him when his mother forwarded his photographs to a modelling agency in Chandigarh. He came to Mumbai to audition for the role and was rejected outright. He recalls, "I had long hair till my shoulder and sported a muscular look. Director Rajan Shahi rejected me because he felt that my image somehow didn't gel with the character." However, Angad smartly learnt from his mistake and returned for another audition with cropped hair and was quickly signed up to play Alekh in the serial.
Some of the new stars have almost become role models across the country. Take 24-year-old Ratan Raj-put, the petite actress who plays Laali in the serial Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo on Zee TV. She has become a heroine to many young women in small towns. Flying high on the success of her serial (which is the second big hit soap on the channel after Pavitra Rishta with TRPs ranging between 3.4 and 4.6) Rajput says, "The television industry has a short shelf life and I want to make the most of it in this short span of time. We have to slog but when our hard work is translated to good TRPs it feels great."
Many youngsters have hit it lucky quickly because TV soap producers are always on the lookout for fresh faces. The uncharitable explanation for this is that the producers want to keep costs to a minimum and don't want to shell out large amounts for established actors. But it's also true that they like getting fresh faces to give their serials a newer, fresher feel. "It's a fallacy that producers take rank newcomers to cut down costs. This is not true because working with a newcomer can be risky because you need to train them to get the right camera angle,'' says producer-director Rajan Shahi, who has made hit serials like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Sapna Babul Ka…Bidaai. He adds: "As a director, I love to work with new people because they bring a fresh perspective to a scene. They bring a refreshing change and are willing to learn."
The channels too have figured out ways to cut the risk factor when they experiment with newcomers. Says Vivek Bahl, executive creative director, STAR India: "Sometimes there are issues like acting capabilities but most people learn very quickly on television given the day-to-day workload. We also try and help them out by organising workshops."
One youngster who has benefited from the constant hunt for new stars is 19-year-old Pratyusha Banerjee who was selected as the new Anandi (she stepped into the shoes of Avika Gor as the grown-up bride in the serial Balika Vadhu on Colors). Pratyusha was one of the three hopefuls who were chosen through a nationwide SMS campaign to play the grown-up Anandi. She says, "I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I have a big responsibility now. To take this already successful soap to greater heights is challenging." Banerjee was born and brought up in Jamshedpur and is doing a distance education course to complete her graduation.
Says Ashvini Yardi, head of programming, Colors: "She has the right mix of innocence and maturity."
New subjects also demand fresh faces. So what do the directors look out for when they hire newcomers? "Firstly, they should suit the role of the character as we have in mind. They should be extremely committed in their work because in television there is no scope for slackness or lack of professionalism," says Bahl of STAR India. Sukesh Motwani, fiction head, Zee TV agrees: "Since we are experimenting with new faces, we are on the lookout for actors who can give the right expression and who have a certain sensitivity. There has to be honesty in their work."
The youngsters, of course, come from varied backgrounds. Sushant, for instance, cracked the IIT exams but ultimately joined Delhi College of Engineering. He then ventured into more risky territory by opting to dance in Shiamak Davar's academy in Delhi in 2004 and then chucked his engineering to do theatre under Barry John in 2006. Finally, he headed to Mumbai and took intensive training in theatre under theatre actress Nadira Babbar and studied martial arts under Allan and Amin and dance under Ashley Lobo. He even assisted director Mohit Suri in Raaz 2 before being selected to play a cameo in Ekta Kapoor's Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil on Star Plus.
But being a star of one hit serial is not enough to make it big in this industry. Almost all of the youngsters are aware of the fact that the journey has just begun and that they have to put in heaps of hard work. Sushant, for instance, is working about 16 hours a day and so are most of the others. Director Shahi says that it's crucial that newcomers should be patient and sincere in their work. He recalls, "I remember the first day of Hina's audition. She had an endearing quality and had a certain grace which worked in her favour. As for Angad, I rejected him for the 'cool dude' image he portrayed on the first day of the audition. But I was amazed at his transformation when he came back for the second time. His dedication and perseverance are his strong qualities."
But breaking into the industry is still a tough proposition — as even the luckier ones like Dhruv Bhandari will agree. He is the son of actor Mohan Bhandari and has made his mark as Yuvraaj in Rakt Sambandh on Imagine which is not doing badly. To prepare for his entry into acting, he took lessons in theatre, dance, diction and the martial arts in Mumbai. "I started meeting people from the television industry last year when the economic slowdown happened. There were offers coming my way but I was unsure about them. Finally, when this role came up, my father gave a final nod," he says. But he has the advantage of having his father back him and he will be sharing screen-space with his father in the serial. "I consult and discuss my projects with my father and he advises me how to better my acts," he adds.
There's also actress Ragini Khanna who plays Suhana in Ravi Ojha's serial Sasural Genda Phool on Star Plus which is a remake of hit Bengali soap Ogo Bodhu Sundori on Star Jalsa.
However Ragini, who is the niece of actor Govinda, doesn't like to cash in on her uncle's popularity. "His career is an inspiration to every actor but I shy away from mentioning his name. I want to make it on my own and I am grateful to get a chance to work in this serial. I am happy doing my bit on television which has given me the celebrity status," she says. Though she was always interested in the performing arts and trained in classical music, acting wasn't what she wanted to do. Ragini was inundated with offers after her debut serial Bhaskar Bharti on Sony which made her a star overnight in 2009.
But are these actors worried about what will happen to them once their show goes off-air? Many of these newcomers are clear about their future plans. Sushant Rajput wants to make a career in short-films and he plans to do a filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy. He says: "I will take a sabbatical from television after Pavitra Rishta and concentrate on making short films. The scripts for my three short films which I will direct are still being worked out. After my course I will come back to India and assist some film director to get hands-on training in the craft."
On the other hand, Ragini has recently finished shooting for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's next film Mad, Madder Maddest which will release in November. She will also be seen in a reality show called Meethi Chhoorii on Imagine. Hasija, who appeared in the dance-based reality show Zara Nachke Dikha, on Star Plus is open to doing more reality shows in the future. Offers are coming in thick and fast for Ratan Rajput in films but she says, "I am open for meaningful roles whether on television or in films. But I want to do one thing at a time and I am not in a hurry."
However, in this fickle world of glamour, failure often lurks around the corner. Shahi has a word of caution for these newcomers, "They need to keep their heads firmly on their shoulders because too much too soon is happening with them. They should be prepared to slave for 30 days in a month without any breaks. It's a tough world out there and very often we have seen actors cracking up due to pressure and throwing tantrums. He adds: "Therefore perseverance is the key and the trick is not to be carried away by the glam and the gloss but to keep your feet firmly on the ground."
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