A host of television stars, including Aman Verma (who played the second lead in Tanuja Chandra's Sangharsh) and Amarr Upadhyay (popular as Mihir in Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, who appeared in Dhund: The Fog earlier this year), and directors like Anil Kumar (Kucch To Hai) have not had a successful run in cinema.
But Bollywood seems to be looking at these stars and directors with renewed interest. Showman Subhash Ghai has led the way by signing Suhail Tatari (whose serial Kashmeer is now on air) to direct Chandni Chowk for his banner Mukta Arts.
Three of television's top directors -- Tigmanshu Dhulia, Parvathi Balagopalan and Kushan Nandy -- are ready with their first feature films.
Dhulia, whose Haasil (Hrishitaa Bhatt, Jimmy Shergill) is being talked about in trade circles, thinks television is a breeding ground for considerable talent. "There was a time when television was looked upon as an inferior medium," he says. "Now, when soaps like Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi are stealing away the audience [from the theatres], the film industry has begun to treat actors and technicians from the home- viewing medium as some sort of saviours who can bail the industry out of the doldrums."
Parvathi Balagopalan, who has just completed Rules: Pyar Ka Superhit Formula for actor-turned-producer Milind Soman, feels the time is right to do away with the lines demarcating television from cinema. "When I made Margarita for Zee TV many years ago, people said it was ahead of its time. They probably meant the home-viewing medium was not taken seriously
Kushan Nandy, whose thriller 88 Antop Hill is ready for release, does not think he is migrating from one medium to another. "I didn't think of myself as a TV director, and I don't think of myself as a feature director now. I am a filmmaker, period."
As the walls dividing the two media drop, many filmmakers from television are getting ready to make feature films. These include Anurag Basu (who did Ekta Kapoor's soaps and is now directing Saaya with John Abraham for Mukesh Bhatt) and Neena Gupta (the actress' soap Saans on television was a turning point for soaps on satellite television).
Ashish Chowdhary, who started 10 years ago at the age of 18 on television, has bagged a parallel role to Ajay Devgan in the action thriller Qayamat. He is now being looked at with avid interest by the film industry as the third major star after Shah Rukh Khan and R Madhavan to break the barriers between television and the big screen. Among the women, Gracy Singh and Gauri Karnik moved on to the big screen from television, with Lagaan and Sur, respectively.
Chowdhary could well trigger a wave of migration to the movies. Several television stars are being groomed for big-screen stardom. Perizaad Zorabian, who starred with Chowdhary in the soap Hum Pardesi Ho Gaye, broke through with Nagesh Kukunoor's Bollywood Calling and will soon be seen in two crossover films, one of them produced by Ghai.
Says Chowdhary, "I have never regarded television as a casual medium. For me acting is acting. Even Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Willis spent a great deal of time doing Remington Steele and Moonlighting on television before going to cinema."