During Rajeev Khandelwals days as a television star,he was often invited to events where he had to dance to film songs. The actor,hugely popular in early 2000s for his character Sujal in the tele-series Kahiin Toh Hoga,would think: if film actors were never going to mouth his lines from a television show,why should he dance to their songs? There was a clear divide between film actors and their television counterparts.
That divide is blurring. Film stars today promote their movies on television shows and small screen actors are making headway in Bollywood such as Sushant Singh Rajput (Kai Po Che!,Shuddh Desi Romance),Mona Singh (3 Idiots) and Pulkit Samrat (Bittoo Boss,Fukrey) among others. Khandelwal too,made his big screen debut in 2008 with Aamir and has since done films such as Shaitan and Table No 21.
That the television landscape is now being viewed as a hunting ground for Bollywood talent became the topic of discussion for Screen Big Picture,held on Saturday afternoon at Express Towers. Apart from Khandelwal,other participants included actors Smriti Irani (Tulsi in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi),Amit Sadh (after starting on TV with Kyun Hota Hai Pyarrr,he made a film debut in Kai Po Che!),producers Saurabh Tewari of Nautanki Films (Madhubala Ek Ishq Ek Junoon) and Rajan Shahi of Directors Kut Productions (Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin and Kuchh Toh Log Kahenge),and general manager,Star Plus,Nachiket Pantvaidya.
Khandelwal,however,noted that television has always served as a talent pool of technicians,writers and actors for films and is only now being recognised as a source of talent for the big screen. Added Tewari,Anurag Kashyap,Anurag Basu and Tigmanshu Dhulia started their careers with TV and then graduated to films. With around 100 films having released in just six months,filmmakers had to turn to TV for talent. After all,how many films can you make with the Khans and the Kapoors?
A stint in television often serves as a training ground for an actor before entering the film industry. TV made me realise the worth of hard work and discipline. From rattling off several lines at one go to working long hours,I can do it all now, Sadh points out.
Shahi believes that the surfeit of channels and shows has further helped actors reach out to the audience. With a variety of shows that they are part of,actors are no longer known only by their on-screen characters.
With the television industry being five times the size of the Indian film industry,the small screen has no reason to feel inferior. The divide between the two mediums doesnt hold today. Talent has its own identity and it should be able to move freely across mediums, Pantvaidya said.
The downside to this flow of talent,Shahi observed,is when actors leave TV shows half-way. Producers and channels put in a lot to develop an actors on-screen image but often,they use a movie offer as a means to dictate their own terms of working, he said.
Irani,however,believes that often the switch is not so much about earning more money as for an opportunity to try something new. In 2011,I acted in a Telugu film and a Bengali film as they both offered me the chance to do something different. At the same time,I was committed to the TV industry when I was part of it because it respected and accommodated my point of view. The TV audience judges you for the character you play and not for your looks alone,which is not the case in films, she said.
(For the full transcript,check out the Screen issue dated August 9)