Are Bollywood Filmmakers Still Biased Against TV Actors?

Bohni Bandyopadhyay
·4-min read

Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Balan and Sushant Singh Rajput are often cited as success stories who started their careers with television and then proved their mettle on the big screen. Actors beginning their careers on the small screen often harbor Bollywood dreams, but not everyone gets to fulfill them. One of the biggest roadblocks is the factor that artistes who appear on daily soaps are considered ‘overexposed’, and not worth the money invested in a film.

Actor Gurmeet Chaudhary is extremely popular among the TV audience thanks to multiple soaps and reality shows. He was once asked by a producer, why would the theatre audience pay money to watch him on the big screen, when he is available for free on TV. “When I was working in TV, film producers used to say people watch you on TV for free, for films they have to buy a ticket, so why would they? Sushant Singh Rajput and I were stars on TV at the same time. Sushant proved himself on the big screen and only then producers and directors started wondering who is the next best on TV. From there I started getting offers,” says Gurmeet.

Having done 3-4 films already, Gurmeet is yet to get the kind of roles where he can use his full potential. “I do one film every year, and with good people and production houses. But I am yet to receive those kinds of offers for which I was brought to films from TV. The film industry is yet to discover my talents,” he adds.

Actress Mouni Roy started her career with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, and participated in several reality shows. Despite venturing into films with Gold, RAW and Made in China, she continues to be super popular on the small screen, thanks to the stupendous success of the Naagin franchise. Talking about whether the Bollywood visibility she is getting now was a long time coming, Mouni says, “My TV shows gave me a lot so I am very grateful for them as well as the films that I have got, whether it’s Gold, RAW, Made in China or Brahmastra. I won’t say that I never wanted to do films. I am very hungry actor and I want bigger, better work. I hope and pray that this is not it and I get a big project, an author-backed role, something where I get to do a lot more.”

Finding prominent roles on the big screen can be a struggle if you are from the TV industry. Many consider it a risk not worth taking. Mrunal Thakur decided to quit the popular show Kumkum Bhagya when she was at the peak of her TV career. She was not taken seriously by casting directors when she began auditioning for movies. Rather, she was rather called “an idiot” for trying her luck in films. “There were a lot of people in the industry, especially casting directors, who said, ‘She is an idiot for quitting a number one show on television and venturing into something that is never going to be her cup of tea’,” said Mrunal. She has since appeared in films like Love Sonia, Super 30 and Batla House.

Actress Hina Khan has time and again spoken about the various prejudices Bollywood has against TV stars. Post her success with Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Bigg Boss 11, Hina ventured into Hindi films. She has starred in Vikram Bhatt’s film Hacked, walked the Cannes red carpet for her film Lines, but the real Bollywood deals are yet to happen for her. “I have tapped into a different medium, where some people accept us, some people don’t. But I’m still making efforts and whatever projects I do, I make sure they’re different from the other and they are loved. I make sure my performance is 100%, so that producers see me and say, this girl can act, let’s give her another project. That’s the journey for us as television actors when we step into different mediums. It’s not that easy, we are not starkids, our struggle is different.”

The success stories are outnumbered by the ones struggling for acceptance in the big world of Bollywood. TV stars come armed with a dedicated fandom from the small screen audience, but are mostly stuck in the fringes of filmdom, hoping for a big break which may or may not happen. While Shah Rukh Khan remains a beacon of hope for many, unless filmmakers value talent over background, the gap between films and television will not be bridged.