Train to Bollywood

Sunil Khanna.  

DREAMERS WISHING to make it to film posters and the small screen are legions in a society like ours.

A few make it, many who can't, just watch films with a vengeance all their lives.

So, when Sahara Manoranjan came up with the idea of launching `Mr and Miss Bollywood' to pick actors and actresses from the lanes and bylanes of many a city to feature in films and TV soaps, it understandably found a flood of names too eager for audition.

Tailed in Zee TV with `India's Best - Cinestars Ki Khoj'. On track are now STAR Plus's `Indian Superstar' and MTV too is likely to follow suit, all of them knowing well that such an initiative is a sure-shot clincher.

A media blitz with banners such as `Aisa Chance Aur Kahan?' and `Taiyaar Hai' on street sides and TV promos, particularly the ones by Zee TV, prompted many to fill those forms and take part in this game of luck and labour. Though STAR has for the time being put the project on hold, both Zee and Sahara are quite upbeat about their plans.

"We have just completed the first and second round of auditions. It has got a tremendous response. By July end, we should be able to name the winners," says Alan Mans, president, Films, Percept D'Mark, the company handling the project for Sahara Manoranjan.

"Thirty talented individuals will be short-listed, out of which top six are to be signed in for lead roles in films and the rest of the 24 for TV serials," says Alan.

Just completing the finals last week, Zee TV president Sunil Khanna too says the response was overwhelming that "there were youngsters queuing up outside audition venues." But, out of hundreds of participants trying their luck in cities like Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Baroda, Jaipur and Bangalore, two names are to float up to play lead roles in a film alongside Priety Zinta, Salman Khan, Bhumika Chawla and Shah Rukh Khan.

"We have big plans for this project. Earlier, the Essel Group has made movies like Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. This time the group with Padmalaya Films is to produce a feature film with these new talents," Khanna promises.

Sahara has a similar strategy, adds Alan. "Sahara, directly or indirectly, has about 48 film projects on the floor which is a great platform for these chosen candidates. Then, it has plans to launch tele-serials which is now a good launching pad." Besides, he says, directors such as Ken Ghosh and Mahesh Bhatt have already agreed to work with the fresh faces.

Also, to guide the process, Percept has formed an advisory board comprising names such as Mahesh Bhatt, Ken Ghosh, Karan Johar, Raveena Tandon, Asha Parekh, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Smita Thackeray, Ashok Sailan and Manish Malhotra. "We have also roped in Ernest & Young to see that the results are fair," Alan adds.

While he promises to show behind-the-scenes episodes on Sahara Manoranjan "most probably by July end" and a host of road shows hosted by film personalities, Khanna is all set to harbour TRPs by featuring a show on it on Zee network. "We will be telecasting the selection process through a 16-episode show. In the final round, two candidates, one male and one female, will be crowned as India's Best Cinestars," says Khanna.

While agreeing with both Alan and Khanna that the entertainment sector in India is witnessing a massive growth and such launch-projects are only the beginning, it is time, one feels, that reality TV in this part of the world has become indeed a reality now.