The new television serial, Saraswatichandra, on Star Plus, marked the debut of Bollywood film producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali – famous for films such as Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Black – into the television space.
Sanjay Leela Bansali with the lead actors of his TV show Saraswatichandra, Gautam Rode and Jennifer Winget
Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India, said, “Sanjay has added his Midas touch to this great love story with stylised production, elaborate sets, brilliant colours, compelling cinematography and well-directed storytelling.”
“The higher penetration of TV, digitisation that affords for more variety in programming and attracting audiences to paid formats, are all making TV a strongly attractive proposition to viewers and in response, to big production entities and mega actors,” said film trade analyst Amod Mehra.
While Bhansali may not have pioneered the Bollywood-TV straddle, he reflects the heightened pace of film biggies –producers and actors – moving into television as an added opportunity.
Reportedly, Amitabh Bachchan will star in a TV serial produced by his company ABCL, to release later this year. Eros International and Endemol have a strategic alliance to produce three films and create high-end scripted content for TV. Recently, Yash Raj Films launched YRF Television, which has joined hands with Sony Entertainment Television for five new prime time shows. Disney-UTV has dedicated arms for film and TV productions.
“Television’s reach to a large, diverse audience is unmatched. It is the medium with which audiences engage every single day – it is a part of their daily lives,” said Shankar. “Movies in theatres are consumed at a much lower frequency. Also, not all stories can be told in a three-hour window.”
Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Productions, which was in TV right from inception, triggered the Bollywood-TV straddle. The company is now creating reciprocal relationships for its films and TV shows. Its new film, Ek Thi Daayan, will find promotion in its new mini-series, Ek Thi Naayka, on Life OK.
“We sometimes use television as a medium to promote movies, and movies as a medium to extend the talent available, and grow the company’s strength,” explained Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures. “Bollywood is the final destination, but television also provides a revenue stream. Also, the Bollywood popularity enables good negotiation power in selling satellite rights to channels.”
Television production and distribution house Endemol India, known for reality shows, has announced plans to transform its hit show, Bigg Boss, into a big screen film – a horror comedy based on the experiences of the people in the Bigg Boss house.
“Television provides the basic bread and butter, where average profit margins range between 10-12% of production cost, much lower than those of movie productions, which are over 30-40%,” said Abhishek Rege, COO, Endemol India.
The idea of being in so many homes on TV screens every day is attractive for big actors. Amitabh Bachchan anchored Kaun Banega Crorepati to huge success. The success of Satyamev Jayate last year was in no small measure due to the presence of Aamir Khan. Straddling both media gives an actor a much bigger platform for exposure.
Unlike earlier when TV actors ditched the medium the moment they got film breaks, they are now staying with both. Ram Kapoor of Bade Acche Lagte Hain remains with TV while also acting in films.
The channels themselves are getting very savvy in promoting new shows. Shankar said: “We won’t be averse to the idea of a similar (Saraswatichandra)
venture if we come across compelling concepts and storylines.”