Hosting television shows is passe. However, acting in TV serials is not. And that is exactly what Bollywood stars are turning to do on the small screen. For an enormous price, of course.
For instance, Hindi cinema's heart-throb, Karisma Kapoor is said to be charging Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million) for 260 episodes on Sahara TV. The price for Sridevi's small screen appearance is not known.
Film and television industry sources say that TV producers draw out yearly contracts with the film stars.
In fact, sources claim that irrespective of which software company is producing the show, the film stars are paid directly by the TV channel.
The proposition to work for a TV channel is further made attractive by the fact that, more often than not, the film stars are paid their fee in advance.
Also, a film star's price tag is invariably far bigger than a regular TV star's. For a popular daily show, a TV star is paid anywhere between Rs 7,500 and Rs 10,000 per episode though he's likely to get upwards Rs 15,000 per episode for a weekly half an hour show.
However, it is not money alone that may be drawing film stars to the small screen. "The shows are already looking glossy and TV is becoming a parallel medium to cinema," says one TV producer.
"It is the power of television that is drawing the stars. Today, nobody can ignore the small screen," he adds.
However, UTV's chief operating officer, Manish Popat, believes that the whole function is based on the buoyancy of the channel.
"Today, Star TV does not need stars to act in its serials. Whereas in their pursuit of bringing viewers in, smaller channels may need star value," he adds.
Sahara's creative director, Akashdeep, feels it is worth the gamble to rope in film stars. "There is no denying that the stars have the power to bring in the viewers for the first time," he says.
And the initial television rating points of the many game shows that were hosted by stars prove his point.
For instance, even the shows like Sawal Dus Crore Ka and Jeeto Chhappar Phaad Ke, that fizzled out later opened with healthy TRPs. While SDCK clocked a TRP of close to 15 in some markets, JCPK enjoyed a TRP of 19.
Manish Goswami, managing director of Siddhanth Cinevision, however, says that these stars can create a buzz only initially. "But ultimately it will depend on the content," he adds.
Interestingly, in the soap titled Karishma: The Miracle of Destiny, Kapoor plays a double role spanning over three generations, metamorphosing from a 22-year-old girl into a 67-year-old grandmother.
Sahara's Akashdeep says that the actress is playing shades of some of her top 10 film roles in this serial.
Meanwhile, Sahara that has also roped in Sridevi, and will feature her in a comedy titled Hamari Bahu Malini Iyer. The serial is being directed by Satish Kaushik.
Sources say the show, ready for release in May, is loosely based on Here's Lucy.Some of the other film stars who have appeared on small screen include Sharmila Tagore, Bhagyashree, Farha, Rajesh Khanna, Rajendra Kumar, Prem Chopra, Shammi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Hema Malini and Poonam Dhillon.