Jan 13, 2009

Columnists - Rajesh Kamat CEO Colors - From Matinee to Prime-Time

Boundaries are blurring and changing the landscape of Indian film and television industry for ever, says Colors chief executive officer Rajesh Kamat.

Those were the days when young boys and girls bunked school to go to the nearest cinema hall to catch a glimpse of their heartthrob singing and dancing on the silver screen. Those were the days when red carpets were rolled out at premieres of major movies, where shutterbugs flashed and stars descended on earth to give their admirers an opportunity to mingle with them. Those were the days when cinema was larger than life and cine-stars were worshipped like gods.

And here we are today, the click of a button away from meeting the hottest film star of the season. Dial a number, get selected and voila! The next thing you know, you are sharing the stage with Shilpa Shetty or maybe Aamir Khan! The blooming television industry in India has made the impossible possible. Matinee stars are the new prime time stars!

Chitrahaar stars

The advent of television in India was followed by the monopoly of Doordarshan for a long time. There was a time when families got together in the evenings to watch their favourite serials on TV. We still reminisce about Humlog and Buniyaad, and of course Chitrahaar - our weekly dose of filmy music. That was the how the TV stars came to our living rooms every week.

From small to big and back again

But as the television industry grew and more and more channels came in, the picture started changing. And then, it changed completely. Today what we see is a reversal of sorts. Shah Rukh Khan who started his career with TV serials like Fauji and Circus slowly rose to the epitome of fame as the King Khan of Bollywood.

And then, the unthinkable happened. He returned to television! However, this time, he was a superstar, calling the shots on a game show on TV.

Was Shah Rukh bigger or the TV screen? Undoubtedly, it was the charisma of the small screen that had pulled the superstar to it. Many others have treaded similar paths and have created a place for themselves on the small as well as the big screen.

The business of TV

Television, in today's day and age is no longer just a medium of entertainment. It is serious business. It gets you visibility and instant stardom. With the proliferation of TV networks in the deepest part of the country, reaching out to a million people was never easier than this. For film stars, it serves as an impactful publicity vehicle!

Film stars began their TV career endorsing soaps and cars and biscuits in advertisements. But today, it has more-or-less become mandatory for a TV channel to have a big movie star on at least one of their shows in order to break through the clutter.

I'm lovin' it!

But no one's complaining. The audiences quite clearly love it. The kind of response received by reality shows and celebrity hosted game shows is unparalleled. And the advertisers are only too keen to put in money into a show that they know will produce such a response.

And actors? Well, for some, like Akshay Kumar, being on television is now a part of their yearly work-plan - great visibility and unprecedented reach. For some actors who have seen their days of glory and had faded from the marquee, look at television as the perfect platform to get back into the limelight without having to take on the dreaded character roles.

Amitabh Bachchan made his grand comeback to a life in the limelight with the astoundingly successful Kaun Banega Crorepati which catapulted the superstar right back into the big league!

The new demigods

The rise of the small screen also gave birth to a different kind of a superstar - the soapstar! So much so that there was reality shows looking for the next TV star! A Tulsi was as important and well known - or maybe better known - than a Kareena. Aspiring actors now look at making a name for themselves on the small screen before hitting 70 mm. The mushrooming of tele-awards that celebrate the success of the television industry is witness to this phenomenon

Small Screen ahoy!

But the magic of the small screen is not just limited to actors. It has even spread to production houses and directors who are now making a beeline to produce content for the small screen. Historically successful banners such as Rajshri Productions and BR Chopra already have a few successful shows running on television, while a lot more are in the pipeline.

On the other hand, directors like Mahesh Manjrekar and Vikram Bhatt are also directing and producing shows for the prime-time slot. Oppositely, Ekta Kapoor, the queen bee of the small screen, is dabbling both into producing serials and into producing films!

Redefining TV!

Perhaps, it's time for us to rewrite some definitions. The big screen is still big, larger than life. But, the small screen is probably growing bigger - not just in size but in popularity, reach, glamour and returns on investments. What was once prime-time is the new matinee slot!

And going forward, the picture gets even more interesting. Film banners today are making a lot of low budget films, sometimes, keeping in mind, only the television audiences. Television channels battle each other to get their hands on the biggest blockbuster of the season for their television premieres.

To add to this, direct-to-home (DTH) television services stand to change the picture once again. Pay revenues for both the broadcast and the film industry are poised to grow as consumers, who started "paying" for content (pay TV revenues and multiplex tickets are a case in point), will mature further. What once used to be a family outing to the nearest multiplex, will now change into a family sit down dinner in the den with the latest movie release right there on their televisions and home theatres!

So is it that the magic of the 70mm screen no longer beguiles the country? Far from it! It is, in fact, spilling over to the small screen. Entertainment is becoming seamless. Boundaries are blurring and changing the landscape of Indian film and television industry for ever. It's no longer the big screen and the small screen - it is just 'THE SCREEN'!

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