Bollywood stars switch channels to TV

We saw Anil Kapoor make his TV debut with the fiction series 24 last year. Now, get ready to watch not only Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan, but also the likes of Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chadda and many others, showing off their histrionics on television. While there are rampant rumours about Kajol being interested in Rensil D’Silva’s TV show, we will also see directors Ashutosh Gowariker and Mahesh Bhatt helming projects on the tube. Let’s not forget Aamir Khan Amitabh Bachchan,  and Salman Khan returning to host their respective shows.

Content vs stars
TV producer Siddharth P Malhotra says, “More than being about film stars making appearances on TV, this year will be about good content. The telly audience is very different from film viewers. That’s why shows like Diya Aur Baati Hum, Saathiya, Yeh Rishta etc do well. With the actors making an entry into television, the challenge will be to provide progressive content which also appeals to the urban audience.”

Salman, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and many others took TV seriously and lent the medium certain respect and credibility. But today, everyone wants a share of the TV pie. Producer Rajan Shahi says, “Not just actors but producers, writers and directors too are keen on working on TV projects. Earlier, there was a perception that film celebrities looked down upon TV. But over the years, this has changed thanks to stars like Amitabh Bachchan taking the medium seriously. But a star’s image will not help a show as TV is all about characters.”

Was 24 a game changer?
Deepak Dhar, head of a production house feels 24 was a breath of fresh air on Indian television. He says, “24 was surely the trigger. It was high-impact, finite fiction which proved that film stars can be a hit on TV too”, adding “It is encouraging that a lot of film stars are looking at TV in a different manner, and not just to judge or host shows but to act in them.”

Money matters
Big stars on board, means big bucks. Not only does the budget of the show rise, but the fee that the actor charges too is quite high. At about Rs. 1.2 crore an episode, the total cost of Big Boss 7 was Rs. 110-115 crore. Kaun Banega Crorepati cost Rs. 50 crore, 24 cost Rs. 75-80 crore. Sources claim that a 10-second ad slot on Bigg Boss was sold for Rs. 2-2.5 lakh while shows like 24 had an automobile company sponsoring them.
A source says, “The cost of a show is proportional to the kind of content, although there is no thumb rule. The more the costs, the more viable it is for broadcasters.”

The advertising space of expensive shows is sold at a higher price too. Deepak says, “Celebrity starrers are premium projects. Advertisers fight for them. They would love to get on board and won’t mind paying the price.”

Siddharth says, “For a show like 24, the cost per episode was around Rs. 1-1.5 crores while of a regular show it’s usually in the range of Rs. 8 to Rs. 12 lakhs. To recover that kind of money you need the show to perform well.” However, all said and done, there seems to be room for both finite fiction and daily soaps to co-exist on TV today, giving audiences a variety to choose from. (All figures approx; according to industry sources)

Sushmita and Aishwarya on TV?
While there have been reports of Ekta Kapoor trying to rope in Sonali Bendre or Tabu for a women-centric show, sources claim that Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Madhavan and Sharman Joshi also have been approached for various adaptations of international fiction shows for popular channels. Sources claim most stars are interested as they have seen how Anil Kapoor fared on TV, usually they get stuck at money. While some want Rs. 10-15 lakh a day, there are others who don’t shy away from asking for Rs. 50 lakh per day.