OTT might be the rage right now, but Bollywood stars simply cannot get over its obsession with television. From Amitabh Bachchan to Salman Khan to Sunny Leone, the busiest of our filmstars keep returning to the small screen, to host shows, make special appearances on soaps to promote films and also as mentors or judges on reality TV.
The most popular and enduring example has to be Amitabh Bachchan, who remains committed as host of “Kaun Banega Crorepati” despite his busy schedule in Bollywood. Big B has hosted the show over consecutive seasons through two decades, except for season three when Shah Rukh Khan took his place. With KBC 12 currently on air, Big B has lost none of the edge.
Unlike OTT, which is still carving its space in the popular psyche, television gives a big advantage to Bollywood stars. Given the recurring nature of hit shows, returning every year with a new season lets celebrities like Big B or Salman maintain their brand power as family icons, and take the image right into the living rooms.
Salman Khan, for instance, has been hosting ‘Bigg Boss’ for years now, and has emerged as the big draw for the show, more than the contestants about whom the programme is actually supposed to be about. Viewers eagerly wait for the weekend episodes where Salman appears, to share his opinions on the participants’ actions in the Bigg Boss house. Top Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Shilpa Shetty and Arshad Warsi have also served as hosts of ‘Bigg Boss’, though Salman has come to be the mascot of the show over the years. It is something that sustains his mega-popularity even during phases of the calendar when he might not be in the news for his films.
There is more to come. ‘Indian Pro Music League’ will be launched early in 2021 and it will be big in terms of Bollywood presence. It will have six teams owned by Bollywood stars like actress Shraddha Kapoor along with her father Shakti Kapoor and brother Siddhant Kapoor. The other owners are Rajkummar Rao, Govinda and wife Sunita, and Riteish Deshmukh with wife Genelia D’Souza Deshmukh, representing different regions of India and battling out in a musical championship.
“TV in India is still the dominant medium as it has the largest viewer base and it continues to grow year on year. Even during the pandemic, TV viewership has seen significant growth as compared to other mediums. OTT, on the other hand, might have made a good mark and is popular among a certain segment of the audience, but its penetration as compared to television is still less,” Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18, told IANS.
She added: “Even from the advertisers’ standpoint, big-ticket shows like ‘Bigg Boss’, ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, that have a mass appeal, are best suited for the television audience and will continue to reign on the medium.”
“We have Salman Khan hosting ‘Bigg Boss’, Madhuri Dixit as a part of ‘Dance Deewane’ and we will also continue to have (director) Rohit Shetty for ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’. Apart from that, we are also looking at exploring new concepts and will rope in more Bollywood actors as they deem fit,” Sharma pointed out.
If Bollywood stars Salman has come to be a trademark of sorts for ‘Bigg Boss’, Sunny Leone has become strongly connected with the brand power of ‘MTV Splitsvilla’, which she has been associated with since 2014.
“For actors in showbiz, a project might not always be about the money, it might be for just loving the show itself. And I have always believed that in entertainment being a part of multiple layers of the entertainment business makes you successful with time and professionalism. Brand building happens over time and consistency. So if you love the project regardless of the money, it will show on camera. The happiness always shines through on reality TV. I am always happy to be a part of ‘Splitsvilla’ and will do so until the next person who is hungrier than I am, replaces me,” Sunny told IANS.
There are many other examples on how TV supplements Bollywood stars fame. Shilpa Shetty has stayed popular as a reality TV host over the years judging various reality shows including “Nach Baliye” and “Super Dancer”. Last year, Kareena Kapoor Khan made her TV debut as a judge of “Dance India Dance”. There are the Bollywood celebrities who have appeared fiction shows – such as Anil Kapoor in “24” and Amitabh Bachchan in “Yudh” or “Rann”.
“It is a two-way process. TV is the greatest medium watched by the maximum populace while the celebrities with the mass appeal featuring on it can create maximum impact given their popularity. Having said that, Bollywood personalities while in films are portraying a character vis a vis on a reality show, the viewers get to see them more up, close, and personal allowing them to strike the right connection. Whist on reality shows, more people are tuning in and watching them for a minimum of five days a week for two-three months at a stretch which is way more screen time in comparison to movies,” summed up Manisha Sharma of Viacom18.