Why Big Bollywood Stars are flocking to television
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:04 IST
Television has been seeing a number of new players venturing into the field of production, with established filmmakers and actors, too, showing a keen interest. Deepali Dhingra takes a look at this growing trend

Amitabh Bachchan had already taken the plunge. Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan had also done it. So it was only a matter of time that Aamir Khan too, succumbed to the lure of the small screen.

But when the intellectual actor stepped into television, he took it one step further -- by producing the show himself. Satyamev Jayate was not just Khan's launch vehicle for being in front of the camera on the small screen, but the first television show for his production company Aamir Khan Productions as well.

The first season received a positive response from critics and audience alike, and work on the second season of the show is already underway.

This year, a number of new players are expected to join the expanding world of television. Big B, who has successfully hosted quite a few seasons of Kaun Banega Crorepati and is all set to host another season, is joining hands with Endemol India to co-produce a fiction series to be aired on Sony Entertainment Television.

With this show, he will revive his television production company Saraswati Creations that has earlier produced shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh. The creative director of the show will be Anurag Kashyap. Anil Kapoor has acquired the rights of the American series 24, of which he was a part and is producing its Indian version for Colors.

With Satyamev Jayate, Aamir Khan made his foray into small screen as a producer last year

And while Bachchan and Kapoor are still in the process of bringing out their television shows, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has already made his television debut with the serial Saraswatichandra that airs on Star Plus.

There were rumours that Anurag Basu will be making an Indian adaptation of the hit American series Prison Break, but the director recently denied it. But he did admit to a leading daily that he is working on two ideas for the small screen.

Anurag Kashyap will be the creative director of the show that Amitabh Bachchan is co-producing with Endemol India

Anurag Batra, media entrepreneur and observer, comments, `There is intense competition between broadcasters today. The business model of broadcasting is increasingly being led more by subscription revenue and demand for quality content is going up.`

According to trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the linesbetween television and films are blurring. `If you notice, a lot of talent from television is coming to movies and talent from movies is diversifying to television as well,` he says, adding it's a great move on the part of actors, most of whom already own production houses, to diversify into television production.

`TV is not small today. It is a huge medium to reach out to many people,` he observes.

The show Saraswatichandra marked director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's debut in television production this year

Reaching out

Initially, when actors turned to the small screen, it was for hosting game shows or reality shows. And while nearly all the big stars, including Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Hrithik Roshan, Madhuri Dixit, Ajay Devgn among others, made an impact on the idiot box, it was Amitabh Bachchan's larger-than-life presence on Kaun Banega Crorepati as its host, which paved the way for many Bollywood actors to make their foray into the world of television.

These stars were able to create a fanbase for themselves, that may not have existed for them earlier. And now, it is TV's far reaching impact, that is prompting filmmakers and actors to take their stories even farther.

Bhansali, who made his debut in television production with the love story Saraswatichandra, based upon the Gujarati novel by the same name by Govardhanram Tripathi, believes that the small screen is no longer small.

`The small screen is actually bigger than the big screen,` he said at the press conference of his show, held a few months back. `Its audience is double or triple of that of cinema.

So I felt, that if I have to reach out to people in their homes with my dreams and stories I want to tell, then TV is the right medium. Working for television is as important as is for cinema,` he said.

One of India's most talented actors, Anil Kapoor has gone a step further to acquire the India rights of American series 24, in which he played Kamistanian President Omar Hassan during Season 8 of the show. And for him, it was the prospect of telling a great story that prompted him to acquire the rights from Fox and 24 producer Howard Gordon.

`For me, it's all about storytelling,` says Kapoor, `I loved the story, the writing and the scale of the show and I felt that this story should be told here as well.`

The actor admits that he was initially apprehensive, as his work here in India has always been related to films. `But I really enjoyed the experience of working for the show and ultimately, I have to act. It might be any platform. I felt that it's as good or better than any film I've done,` he adds.

Moolah matters

The prospect of reaching out to a large audience is definitely one factor that has worked as an incentive for these players to venture into production. But the importance of the economics cannot be ignored. The fast-paced growth of the Indian television and broadcast industry is ensuring that it's a lucrative business for those who want to venture in it.

Anil Wanvari, founder and CEO of indiantelevision.com says, `If one goes by figures, you're looking at a television industry that is about Rs 30,000 crore, whereas cinema is around Rs 8,000 crore to 10,000 crore.

Cinema is a dwarf compared to television.` Bachchan himself, on the press conference of his new show on Sony, admitted tothe fact. `From what I know, and maybe I'm wrong, but commercially the turnover of television is much more than cinema.

We have 460 channels and I think there are some 800 applications for more channels pending with the government. So you can imagine how big TV has become,` he had said. Although Wanvari is not sure whether the quality of content will go up with the entry of these big players, it definitely means more investment into the medium.

`Even the productions they are doing require that kind of investment. Balaji and other production houses have been doing a good job but now, these people are coming with big picture ideas. Take the example of 24, it requires that kind of investment and Anil Kapoor's vision.

The point is, we will get to know how they fare in the long term, but since there is more money going into the medium, there should be better products.` he says. And while Kapoor admits that commerce is important, it is not a priority for him. `I have never followed commerce; commerce has followed me,` says the actor. Kapoor says that his decisions have been purely based on instinct.

`Even when I have done films, I have done them because I have liked the story, the role and the people I'm working with. I'm fortunate that the movies I have done and the characters I have played became successful. Commerce has never been on my mind while considering them,` he says.

Whether or not it's the lure of the big bucks that's attracting new players into the market, the fact that established filmmakers and actors are looking at television as a medium to feature their content, spells good news for the audience. The idiot box, may no longer be that idiotic!

Filmi folk and their TV connect

Anurag Basu worked as an assistant director on Tara and later, directed shows like Saturday Suspense, Koshish...Ek Asha and Love Story.

>> Leena Yadav of Teen Patti and Shabd fame has produced and directed shows for Star Bestsellers. She has also directed shows such as This Week That Year, Say Na Something to Anupam Uncle, and Kahin Na Kahi Koi Hai

>> Shah Rukh Khan's production house Red Chillies Entertainment has a television programmes division under the name of Red Chillies Idiot Box.

They co-produced Living with a Superstar-Shah Rukh Khan with Discovery Travel and Living, popular teen drama Ishaan, celebrity-based chat show Up Close & Personal with PZ with actress Preity Zinta as host, Tere Mere Beach Mein with Farah Khan as the host and many others.

>> During the '90s, Tigmanshu Dhulia directed and produced many television programmes, including Krishna's Dream for UK Channel Four, Kahani Ek Kanya Ki for Doordarshan, and Hum Bambai Nahin Jayenge for BI Television. He also helmed Just Mohabbat and Naya Daur.

Hollywood too has experimented with tv...

Steven Spielberg acted as executive producer for the television series seaQuest DSV; a science fiction series starring Roy Scheider. Other major television series Spielberg produced include Band of Brothers, Taken and The Pacific.

>> Ridley Scott and his brother have produced CBS series Numb3rs, a crime drama and The Good Wife. According to some reports, Scott has teamed up with Discovery Channel for a new scripted drama based on The Wallace and The Bruce books by late Scottish historian Nigel Tranter.
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