Be it the serious-minded music aficionado or the casual reveller, live entertainment holds a similar draw for both. The entertainers who provide this special ingredient are both revered and reviled — depending on subjective tastes — thus have to be ready for both. But central to their sense of fulfilment are opportunities to display their talent, a sense of recognition and developing their skills. And, it takes a special person to make it… as well as to last in this profession.
“The traits one should have (to be a successful entertainer) are confidence, determination, dedication and focus and more than anything, a person should know what s/he is doing,” says Kailash Kher, renowned playback singer who can attest to the struggle that is part and parcel to success in this industry. Before making it to Mumbai, Kher had succumbed to his parents’ wishes and started an export-import business, which was a failure. The passion for music was, however, lasting and the dedication thereof is what has helped him attain his present position of fame and respect.
Industry veteran Sikandar Khan concurs: “One should have vision, imagination, determination, work ethics, adaptability, an understanding of one’s audience, a passion to entertain, a positive attitude, innovativeness, self-confidence, discipline, and an ability to create a friendly atmosphere” to make it as an entertainer. Khan, popularly known as the ‘voice of Amitabh Bachchan’ due to his fantastic impressions of Big B’s voice, is currently director-events of Star Beats Entertainment, a Mumbai-based entertainment company that specialises in events that feature Bollywood stars.
Khan also suggests people should get to know the industry well, and work out how they intend to entertain that is, get their act together. Being a very competitive place, opportunities are scarce and rarely present themselves. So, don’t keep industry people guessing about your potential — give them a good presentation of your talent the first chance you get.
The entertainment industry reacts to and acts like a mirror to society, so it’s important to be aware of current events and topics, Khan adds.
Given that judgment of one’s talent is dependent on the subjectivity of people who are established in the industry, one must learn to accept a level of cynicism and deal with disappointment.
“In every career, there are hurdles and there are lows and highs. A beginner has to be ready for both failure and success, especially in the creative field. According to me, what we call failure is also the gateway to success,” encourages Kher, who was ‘discovered’ while doing advertising jingles before he became the new voice of Sufi music.
Say you have the talent and resilience to make it as an entertainer. Apart from fame, what kind of money can one expect in the profession? “My belief is that there is no set formula for earning more or less money. Only your hard work, sincerity, honesty, dedication, devotion and, on top of that, destiny can decide how, why, how much and when one can earn,” says Kher.
Khan says, “Earning money has no limit in the field of entertainment. It depends on how popular and entertaining the entertainer is and the number of assignments one has in hand. To maximise one’s earning one should be unique, talented and a popular entertainer. Build a big network of clients by giving one’s best performances so that one remains visible in the entertainment market,” says Khan.
Kher has a unique take on people looking for advice. He cautions people to listen to their heart alone and not to look for advice from here and there in the hope of fast-tracking one’s journey to success. “My advice is there shouldn’t be any advice because most confusion arises because of imperfect advice. If you want to really grow in any career, please experience it on your own. Be your own guide and be your own guru,” he says.
What's it about?
A wide variety of skills can support a career as an entertainer. If one sings, one could be called to display one’s talent at parties, marriages and corporate events. As an actor, one could channelise one’s skills into doing impressions of famous personalities (film star impressions have always been in demand in India). Stand-up comedians are also seeing renewed interest thanks to television programmes that profile such talent. Dancers are also in huge demand for entertainment events. Singers and actors can also do voice work for dubs and advertising jingles
6am: Wake up and do your yoga routine/ riyaaz as a singer
8am: Head for the studio for voice work on advertising jingle
Noon: Have lunch and head to rehearsal for show
1pm: Start rehearsal with other artistes at venue
4pm: Get some rest, follow up on payments
7.30pm: Enter make-up and costume up for show
8.30pm: Present one’s act on stage
10pm: Have dinner and head home
While struggle is part of making it as a successful entertainer, one can sustain oneself by doing various jobs where one’s key talent is utilised.
Having made it, the sky is the limit to what one can earn
. High standards of fitness
. Acting/ singing/ comic skills
. High sense of professionalism
. Networking skills
. Mental strength
. Gel with the audience
How do i get there?
Evaluate your talent and hone it with the help of professionals or through assignments. Actors should build an acting resume, if necessary starting with student productions and then, along with a good covering letter, circulate the portfolio to directors, producers etc. Singers should take on voice work and jingles to build their resume. Getting an agent does help to find regular work
Institutes & urls
. Film and Television Institute of India, Pune
. Whistling Woods International, Mumbai
. Gandharva Mahavidyalaya,New Delhi
. Asian Academy of Film & TV
Pros & Cons
Hard struggle before one makes it
Fame and money
Takes time to establish oneself
Dependence on networks
Fulfilling to display one’s talent and be appreciated
Can have lean periods
Taxing work schedules
Family life may suffer
Delayed payments are common
Can take an emotional toll
This glamorous industry is on a roll
A veteran shares his outlook of the entertainment world
What are the challenges in getting established in this career?
The challenges depend on which category you choose, for example, if you are an actor you should meet the requirements from a director’s point of view, for the script he is working on. If one wants to make it as a singer, one should have that tonal quality to attract and compel a music director. Overall, I can say that in today’s world, being talented is not enough — you should have extraordinary talent so that you can be recognised.
What is the industry outlook?
The industry is on a roll, thanks to growing corporatisation. Every corporate now has a direct or indirect connection with the industry whether it is a stage concert, company show, award function or even a film.
This glamorous entertainment world has been very successful in attracting the interest of the masses in increasing levels, which has in turn resulted in new performers and creators of entertainment coming up with new concepts and ideas to make the industry larger, day after day.
What would be the one thing you would like to change about your industry?
The change in the industry cannot be brought about by one person. Having said that, this industry is the best industry because there are no differences among industry folk — you can say we belong to one religion and that religion is entertainment. The only thing I wish is that the industry would be free of hypocrites — people who tend to spoil the industry’s name through their unethical actions, which in turn leaves a bad impression on people’s minds.
Are there specific challenges that women joining the profession should be aware of?
In today’s world, both men and women are equal — whether they are performing or non-performing artistes. If they are performers, then my answer would be, they should build their resumes through any and every opportunity they get (student films etc for actors) and follow ethical ways of reaching their goals. I would advise women to be careful about who they trust in this industry because a lot of people here pose to be friendly, caring and helpful but aren’t, except for a few who are very rare and maintain their sense of professionalism no matter what.
Sikandar Khan, director-events, Star Beats Entertainment interviewed by Pankaj Mullick