New Delhi: As Vicky Donor zoomed past a three hundred percent ROI Box Office collection and Bittoo Boss too, made impressive inroads, there is a new buzz in B-town circles. Maybe, just maybe, the myth that TV stars (despite their undisputed talent and popularity) can never ever make that breakthrough to become even halfway acceptable movie stars, is about to be exploded after all.
Both Ayushman Khurana (Vicky Donor) and Pulkit Samrat (Bittoo Boss) leading men in the respective projects come from TV. Samrat struck gold way back in 2006 as Lakshya Virani in Ekta Kapoor's 'Kyun Ki...' A flood of offers followed from the small screen but the young man stayed put, waiting for the right - you guessed it - movie break. This came when Director Supavitra Paul (inspired by Band Baaja Baraat?) was looking for a new, fresh face to fit the bill for his project BB, chanced upon the lad.
Playing a (superficially) similar role to Ranvir's in BBB, a wedding photographer who freaks out, high on life, singing, dancing, romancing and flirting, Samrat confessed he couldn't have asked "for a better launching pad!"
With the sole exception of SRK (Fauji) nobody came riding on TV and struck it big, Vidya Balan, included.
Ayushman's was a different track. Winner of the MTV Roadies title, eight years ago, he didn't, sensibly, drop everything and rush into B-town looking for his pot of gold as many would.
He finished his education and then hit the RJ button and later proved to be a hugely popular (India's Got Talent; Just Dance) anchor. It was during this time that he felt the first stirring of "being an actor" and believed that giving it a shot wouldn't be such a dumb idea after all.
Since he had no Godfather and refused to beg, he waited for a script and a director who would discover him, have faith in him and back him to go the distance. He couldn't be luckier! The talented Shoojit (Yahan) Sircar, blowing convention to the wind, was convinced that for his bold, experimental, new-age theme relating to sperm donation, Ayushman's boy-next-door looks "would work well as today's audiences are open to appreciate new faces."
Sircar could well be right, because who clicks with the movie audiences and why, remains one of god's most enduring mysteries… but history is not on his side.
Take a look. With the sole exception of SRK (Fauji) nobody came riding on TV and struck it big, Anupam Kher and Vidya Balan, included. Who in hell remembers Kher's TV flashes – excellent as they were – in the early eighties or Ms Balan's stuff in the serials she appeared in? Don't lie, okay? Mahesh Bhatt's Saransh and Pradeep Sarkar's Parineeta did the trick.
This is not to cast any aspersions or suggest doubts over their individual talent – or the amazing shows earlier on they and their fantastic colleagues regaled us, in those charming, innocent, Doordarshan, B/White, pre-satellite era. Who can forget Humlog, Buniyaad, Yeh To Hai Zindagi, Khandan, Rajni, Nukkad, Idhar Udhar, Malgudi Days, Wagle ka Duniya (to name a few) that brought us so much joy and got us glued to the screen – not to forget the biggest Sunday morning blockbusters – Ramayan and Mahabharat.
It was an embarrassment of riches too on the acting front with tons of fine NSD and theatre actors showcasing their staggering talent – Aloke Nath, Anita Kanwar, Pankaj Kapur, Shafi Inamdar, Swarup Sampat, Rajesh Puri, Kiran Juneja, Abhinav Chaturvedi, Arun Govil, Satish Shah, Neena Gupta, Jayant Kripalani – and enriching those precious, memorable and eagerly awaited moments for all of us.
Loved in private, mobbed in public and frequently commanding equal (if not more) attention than many movie stars, these TV hotties really held their own when their serials were on air.
Media, on cue, zoomed into the scene providing them solid coverage across the entertainment section of mainstream publication and magazines. Advertisers too, forever on the lookout to hawk their stuff to consumers and identify newer, more engaging and rewarding channels/avenues to connect their brand with their target group, zeroed in on some of the more popular TV stars to play endorsers.
The general feeling was: if these guys could be such huge draws, win such massive fan-following and attract zillions every night to their TV serials, they rock! Some film-makers too, went along this line of thinking and signed up a few of the more popular faces and this is exactly where both the TV stars and film makers goofed, big time.
It's simple. The setting, viewer-mindset, perceptions and expectations of these two mediums are worlds apart. Sure the TV stars are a gifted lot and many soon become household members in terms of closeness and intimacy that emerges from everyday viewing. We follow their fascinating narratives from within the cozy confines of our homes and invest in them a special brand of love and affection – much like the people we know and care for. We easily identify, relate and connect with them, in an indulgent fashion. After all, wo hamare jaise log hai, hai na
The exact opposite happens with movie stars. They live in a perfumed world, king-size, in a style that we can only fantasise about. Sexy, glamorous, superrich and indulging in every fancy they wish to grab, they are the definitive objects of desire, hymned and celebrated with their chloroformed fans and media alike. Every single thing they say or do – even don’t say or don’t do – is splashed breathlessly and sensationally in the papers, often making headlines.
Remember, entertainment is a huge industry in India and translates mostly to Bollywood stars. TV stars are loved and elicit affection. Movie stars are worshipped and elicit awe! Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar are extremely engaging and together in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, but can they match the firepower of a Salman-Katrina starrer?
Krittika and Sharad Kelkar are real cute in the hospital romance – brilliantly adapted from the 80's Pakistani classic tele-serial Dhoop Kinare - Kuch To Log Kahenge, but can their sparks match the explosion of SRK-Priyanka, Saif-Kareena, even Ranbir-Deepika combine?
The talented Mona Singh of the very popular Jassi Jaise Koi Nahi Serial did share screen presence with Kareena and Aamir in 3-Idiots, but hey, does anybody remember… or care? Point is, they are great in the 21 inch box … but can they ever hope to capture the same magic with their audiences (if and when) they make the transition to the big screen?
Reputed veteran Ad-Screen-TV writer Kamlesh Pandey (Kuch To Log Kahenge) is categorical with a firm 'No'. Elucidates the insightful communication specialist: "We need to get some facts straight. TV is a free medium enjoyed comfortably from home. The characters are true-to-life and homely as are the narratives, with themes and subjects and treatment designed to meet diverse audience tastes.
It's a simple, middle-class arc within which these serials thematically operate. You see these actors everyday – why on earth would you pay money to see these same creatures on the big screen? The difference between movies and TV is the same difference between Army and NCC.” Director Shoojit Sircar begs to differ and counters this sweeping definition with his own take.
"In recent times, one can see and feel the difference in the way movies are conceptualized, made and consumed by the audience. The age of the Star (and only star-driven-projects) is slowly being diluted by good scripts, intelligent story-telling and engaging acting.
In short, performance-led, script-driven movies are finding a market as Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar and Vicky Donor clearly indicate. Three films can't be a fluke, right? What we now need are many more such efforts to keep this momentum going. There is no dearth of fresh talent from TV, theatre and other areas. If intelligently – and fearlessly – cast and creatively put together, these films [and their stars] are bound to shine."
Vicky Khurana agrees. Totally overwhelmed – Ayushmaan's inundated with raves and compliments, flooded with scripts and busy meeting with directors waiting to cast him by the response - he frankly admits that he expected the film to be a critical and nice success, nowhere near the runaway sleeper hit it has become! "The very fact that the film and both me and Yami are getting the attention we are, despite being TV personalities with no Godfather or Bollywood corrections, must mean something, right?"
The charming TV star and model Yami Gautam too after her role in this film can be assured of one thing for sure 'Yeh Pyar Na Honge Kum'. A graceful and pretty presence, Gautam straightaway confessed that aspiration and desperation – for her – was the difference between these two mediums and she clearly belonged to the former category.
"I have been receiving a number of offers from movies for some time now, but except a couple, I declined most of them, because the content and substance didn't appeal to me. I was very happy to wait and as they say – patience pays."
She admits to have been a great admirer of Shoojit’s material – Yahaan and ad films – and was thrilled to have been sought out for the role in VD.
“I love the way he approaches his craft, beautifully blending professionalism and humanism and his eye for detail and nuance is awesome. He was a joy to work with as was the overall experience. Yes, I've been getting my share of attention too. Let's see what the future has in store. One thing however is clear for me: Content has to drive my being a part of any film – nothing else."
Okay – so that’s the long, short and tall of this new and exciting movement gripping B-town. Small budget, non-star, glamourless movies driven by film-makers with self-belief, drive, courage of conviction and ability to deliver in a world dominated by Housefuls, Ek Tha Tiger and Rowdy Rathores. Are these brilliant, bold film-makers and their TV stars flattering to deceive because not all directors will have the honesty, intent, agenda and focus of Shoojit Sircar to confidently go the distance, come what may?
Will we see a deja vu of 2007-8, when small gems like A Wednesday, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Rock-On, Welcome to Sajjanpur and Aamir (with TV star Rajeev Khandelwal) rocked only to evaporate with zero follow-up? Let's choose to move into the future with fresh hope and confidence and give all these wonderful, talented TV professionals the encouragement, motivation and inspiration to continue to break new ground.
More power to their dream.