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Abby awards turn spotlight on admen's favourite TV stars

MUMBAI: Is TV stardom a stepping stone to the modelling world or is it the other way around? In a pioneering effort, Ad Club Bombay's Abby Awards 2003 ceremony to be held on 16 March will honour the best actor, actress and director in a TV commercial.

Well, the new generation of TV stars is really becoming very popular with ad film makers, creative heads of ad agencies and model coordinators. Of course, TV stars working in Balaji Telefilms and UTV productions are climbing peaks of popularity.

Some of the new kids on the block include Gurdeep Kohli, Sanjeet Bedi and Mihir Mishra (of Star TV's Sanjivani fame); Shakti Anand (of Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi fame who is also seen in the Hindustan Petroleum "Achcha Lagta Hai" TVC); Shweta Tiwari and Cezzanne Khan (Star's Kasautii Zindagi Kay); and of course, favourites such as Smruti-Malhotra-Irani, Sakshi Tanwar, Amarr Upadhyay and Aman Verma. Many of these stars will be vying for the top honours at the Abby Awards 2003.

Creative head honchos of top ad agencies have good things to say about TV stars as models. Lowe's creative head Neville Balsara says: "The usage of TV stars in ad commercials is an increasing trend. I feel that the film stars (Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan) and cricket stars (Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly) have been overexposed. Also, sometimes, these larger-than-life stars send out wrong messsages - Sachin would never ride a TVS bike in real life. Also certain clients cannot afford these giants and settle for the TV stars!"

Famous ad film maker Jeet Surendranath of Far Productions says: "Increasingly, TV stars are being used so long as it fits in the strategy. People have faith in the TV stars and they relate to them pretty well. But an overdose leads to an overkill. We used Amarr Upadhyay much before he became a TV star. We have also been enjoying the experience of working with the likes of Sangeeta Ghosh of Desh Mein Nikla Hua Chand." Sangeeta Ghosh was used by Far Productions in the Nirma campaign.

Model coordinator Ruchita Mittal who works with some of the top agencies such as Lowe Lintas, Interface and Leo Burnett amongst others adds: "We are aggressively promoting TV stars on the basis of the requests of clients and creative heads. The popularity of TV soaps (Balaji offerings) has helped the clients to connect with consumers instantly. In terms of "on-shoot behaviour", TV stars are down-to-earth and very cooperative."

While speaking at the Advertising Club Bombay's Value Creation seminar on marketing entertainment and their growing inter-dependence in January 2003, creative consultant Rekha Nigam urged that advertising agencies must leverage TV personalities in a better way to sell products and services. She stated that using them is more advantageous than using film stars.

However, there are some dissenting voices which tread cautiously! Ace filmmaker Genesis Films' Prahlad Kakkar claims that he doesn't advocate using TV stars in ad commercials! However, he adds that his view isn't a reflection of their talent; he says that these talented actors and actresses are best suited for performing character roles in TV soaps and serials.

White Light Productions, a leading ad film production house, general manager Sanjay Bhatia adds: "The usage of TV stars or film stars depends on the script and the role. We never take any stars without auditions and check whether they fit the character. We have been approached by actresses from several productions house such as Balaji Telefilms and UTV."

White Light has done some the recent campaigns of De Beers Nakshatra (with Aishwarya Rai), Hindustan Lever, Lakme, Kissan, Tata corporate and Aquaguard.

Mudra's creative head Anup Chitnis makes an interesting point: " The script is the most important thing and the characters should blend with the storyline. Sometimes, TV stars are likely to come along with the baggage of their image. In these cases, agencies shouldn't recommend them. If TV stars are used, I would rather present them as the characters they portray on screen."

What do the stars, themselves, have to say?

When contacted by indiantelevision.com, Gurdeep Kohli (of Sanjivanifame) says: "I did 45 TV commercials before I became a TV star. I have bagged some great contracts with Ogilvy and Mather (Bangalore) for Lipton Taaza. You will see a great film on the TV screens pretty soon. My recent Nokia TVC has received rave reviews. My favourite ad film makers is Abhinav Dev of Ramesh Dev Productions and I have done good work with Black Magic Productions."

Sanjivani serial's actor Mihir Mishra is also upbeat about getting several more TVC offers. He has just completed a Sony Handycam TVC.

Sanjeet Bedi plays Dr Omi Joshi in Sanjivani and is a VJ on B4U. Bedi says: "I did some good work with Thums Up, Sprite, Lakme, Charms, Ford Ikon and Arrow. Now, I have become more selective and am rejecting offers. My focus has changed and I am concentrating on being noticed as an actor."

Remember Hritu Deepak - the housewife who drops the Pepsi bottle in the TVC with the Big B Amitabh Bachchan. "Immediately after my studies, I did a couple of ad films (TV commercials as well as print ads). I did some campaigns for brands such as Gits, Breeze and Rexona (Hindustan Lever). I also did a Pepsi ad with Amitabh Bachchan," says Hritu.

Well, the Abby Awards will clearly indicate the toppers who rule roost. Till then, let us wait and watch as they regale us!

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