Rashmi Vasudeva analyses how various television stars of today are also working on meaty Bollywood projects, and their successful straddling of both worlds.
A couple of weeks ago, in Star Plus’s popular soap Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon?, a bone-tired but determined Arnav, played by television’s latest heartthrob Barun Sobti, takes on the goons who have kidnapped him, fighting them off relentlessly, even while he is blindfolded and his hands are tied behind.
The camera clearly knows what it should focus on and it does so in style — it caresses Sobti’s bulging biceps, sweeps over his dishevelled locks and zooms in on his smouldering eyes in what is clearly soapland’s very own seeti maro moment.
But the real whistle is being blown by Bollywood for television stars like Barun and several others — the new and, dare we say, lucky recruits, for whom seeking out new pastures does not necessarily mean abandoning their old abodes. These are the brave new trendsetters who are successfully straddling both the television and film worlds — a feat unthinkable a few years ago.
Be it Barun, who continues to play Arnav while simultaneously shooting for his new movie, or Ram Kapoor, who is playing the lead in Sony’s Bade Acche Lagte Hain as well as happily managing significant roles, most recently in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, or the ageless Ronit Roy, who appears every weekend as the upright lawyer in Sony’s Adaalat and certainly has busy weekdays, what with him working in not one but three films, or the cutie pie Mohit Sehgal, rumoured to have bagged a plum role recently, TV actors are hacking their way inside the ‘big bad wood’, even if it means working double shifts and persuading production houses to change storylines.
The surprise success of Vicky Donor, starring Ayushmann Khurrana, another familiar face on television, and the appreciation Khurana has garnered, seems to be working as a big shot-in-the-arm for other aspiring TV stars. The women aren’t too far behind either. Ragini Khanna (of the recently concluded Sasural Genda Phool), Shweta Tiwari (currently acting in Sony’s heartwarming Parvarrish) and Gurdeep Kohli (of Sanjivani fame) have all tried their luck in Bollywood with moderate success and more importantly, continue to pursue their television careers.
Call of the cinescreen
For television stars, who earn very well nowadays, it is no longer pay cheques that attract them to the big screen. Rather, it is the challenge of that longer, meatier role and the temptation to break out of the nerve-racking daily grind of television that demands 12-13 hours of work every day for all 30 days of the month.
But in the past few years, TV actors have become stars in their own right, enjoying their fair share of adulation and exposure. So much so that when the news of Barun being signed as one of the leads for a movie came out, there was an uproar amongst his fans, who feared they wouldn’t be able to see their beloved Arnav Singh Raizada on the small screen anymore. Barun had to go on a clarifying spree to assure his fans that he wasn’t quitting television — plainly demonstrating why abandoning television for films isn’t such a hot idea anymore.
When Sushant Singh Rajput (of Pavitra Rishta fame) quit the long-running serial to work as one of the leads in Kai Po Che!, Abhishek Kapoor’s adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes Of My Life, fans were left disheartened but were consoled by a more-than-able replacement in Hiten Tejwani. Sushant has said in many interviews that he is well aware of the risks he is taking and he isn’t afraid of failure.
Brave words indeed, but many others before him, who have taken the big leap, have had to, sadly, eat them. Take the case of Karan Singh Grover, one-time favourite lover-boy who stole many girls’ hearts with his performance in Star One’s Dill Mill Gayye.
He abruptly quit the show in 2009 with big dreams in his luminous eyes after being offered the lead role in a Vikram Bhatt movie. But the movie got shelved and Karan was forced to return to his old role. But the charm had gone out of the soap and it was soon wrapped up, leaving Karan high and dry. Stories of Amar Upadhyay and Aman Varma’s sputter-stop Bollywood journeys are now part of television folklore.
At a time when film stars are descending on television in hordes and the small screen’s reach as well as impact is only getting wider and deeper, those who quit one medium in lure of the other are in great risk of losing a foothold in both. If television is ruthless, Bollywood is even more so. Getting lost in its wilderness is easy and quick.
This new breed of actors seemed to have grasped this reality well. Hearteningly, they also appear to have the full backing of television production houses, which have to juggle budgets, TRPs and actors’ crazy schedules, but seem to be doing so willingly — for, in television, when opportunities come knocking, accommodation is the name of the game.
Which is why, while Barun Sobti wraps up the shooting of his new film, his screen persona Arnav Singh Raizada conveniently gets kidnapped. A case of television being filmy, very filmy!