Television actors making the move to Bollywood have become passé. What is making news, however, is the reverse traffic – big stars descending on the small screen.
You click your remote control, and presto – a line-up of Bollywood stars – present and past – appear on your screen, on show after show. At last count, Urmila Matondkar, Raveena Tandon, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar have appeared or will soon appear on a TV screen near you.
Matondkar plays host on Waar Parivaar, the new show on Sony, while Raveena is a celebrity judge on Chak De Bachche (9X). Akshay is likely to host Fear Factor (Sony) and Salman has been signed for Dus Ka Dum (Sony), on air in June.
Says Siddhartha Basu, one-time quizmaster and now managing director of Synergy Adlabs, "It's inevitable. TV is huge in terms of reach and penetration and if the star can draw the numbers and advertisers, the money is handsome." Not to mention the prospect of reviving a flagging career, for some.
Basu's company has produced shows such as Kaun Banega Crorepati, Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain and Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa. While Amitabh Bachchan played host on KBC to be followed by Shah Rukh Khan, JDJ drew in Shamaik Davar, Jeetendra and Shilpa Shetty.
Over the years, though, only Bachchan, Shah Rukh and Karan Johar (Koffee With Karan) have boosted TRP ratings. Other stars – no matter how big – such as Madhuri Dixit (Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai), Govinda (Jeeto Chhappar Phaad Ke), Manisha Koirala and Anupam Kher (Sawal Dus Crore Ka), Manoj Baipai (Kam Ya Zyada), and Ashutosh Rana (Baazi Kiski) were resounding flops on TV.
Actors, claim the show's producers, are experts in their fields. "Urmila is the perfect host for my show. She knows film music and dance inside out, and can also teach young actors," says Gajendra Singh of Sai Baba Telefilms Pvt Ltd, which is making Waar Parivaar.
Singh is also producing Chak De Bachche. "Raveena is perfect with the kids. With their years of experience, film actors do justice to the role," he says.
Some producers also feel big names help sell a show. Says Sanjay Upadhyay, head of fiction, Sony Entertainment Television, "Stars certainly add value to a show. Madhuri's show may not have done well, but it did leave an impression on viewers. Whereas a fading star may not do much."
Experts like Basu, however, point out that big names may fail for a number of reasons. "Acting and anchoring are different. A show host needs to be articulate and fluent with presence of mind and an ability to think on his/her feet. Some actors have it. Most don't. It's an advantage if an actor has a track record in handling real time start-to-finish events like theatre and emcee-ing."
Another important factor is compatibility. The content of a show should compliment the host's personality. "We chose Suniel Shetty to host Biggest Loser because being a fitness freak he fits the show's profile. With more channels coming up, we will see more big-screen stars on screen," says Kalyana Sundaran, programming head, Sahara One.