Mumbai: Balaji Motion Pictures Ltd (BMPL), the films division of Balaji Telefilms Ltd, on Thursday announced the launch of Balaji Spark, a talent management arm.
It is not the first film production house to offer this service. Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd and Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd have established units offering similar services. However, the announcement marks an emerging trend in the industry looking to boost revenues.
Given the popularity of film stars among Indian consumers, the trend is here to say.
“Star power, is not going to die. If anything, it is only growing. And an increasing number of brands are relying on them to sell their products,” said Smita Jha, leader- entertainment and media practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers India. The Indian film industry, especially Bollywood, was perhaps the only film industry in the world where the cost of talent accounted for up to 50-60% of the production cost of a film, she added. “So, these companies have figured that it makes sense to fence off the talent that they are investing time and money in nurturing and growing.”
Explaining the Balaji Motion Pictures entry into the business, Tanuj Garg, the company’s chief executive officer, said that many more opportunities had opened up for celebrities in terms of appearances, endorsements, live shows, and branding. “This was not the case 10 years ago,” he said. The company’s management realized that while the some of the top television stars had piggybacked on them to boost their own brand equity, the company had not had a chance to gain from that association,” he added.
Garg said if the company launches new talent in any critical role on television or in films, its pre-condition will be to have them sign on with Spark. “There are no free lunches. If we are investing time, equity and goodwill to promote them, there needs to be payback at some stage,” said Garg.
Balaji Telefilms has, through its serials, promoted celebrities such as Smriti Malhotra-Irani, Sakshi Tanwar, Ram Kapoor, Prachi Desai, Rajeev Khandelwal, Shweta Tiwari, Sushant Singh Rajput and Ronit Roy, among others.
The division will focus on identifying and managing new talent in acting as well as direction. The firm will be headed by Firoz Engineer.
Spark has already signed on-screen talent Rajat Tokas and Paridhi Sharma—the lead pair of the newly launched historical drama Jodha Akbar on Zee TV.
Akshay Roy, the debutant director of the untitled Dharma-Balaji film, featuring Emraan Hashmi and Kareena Kapoor, has also been signed on.
Celebrity management for a television and film production house is a lucrative business. Ashish Patil, business and creative head, vice president-Y Films, Brand Partnerships, Talent for Yash Raj Films India Pvt. Ltd, said that the company not only launched Anushka Sharma in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in 2008 but also landed her a deal as the brand ambassador for Canon. That’s not all. They were able to draw more investment by placing the brand prominently in the film, Jab Tak hai Jaan where Sharma plays the part of a Discovery Channel intern using Canon equipment to shoot a documentary.
The Yash Raj company manages endorsement deals for Rani Mukerji, Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor among others. In most cases, these actors are locked in for a three-film contract, ensuring that the film production company has enough time to build them up and groom them.
Viacom 18 Media launched Spotlight this year, which focuses on celebrity management in the digital space. The celebrities it manages include fashion photographer Dabboo Ratnani, former Miss World Diana Hayden; actors Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Ragini Dwivedi and Kunaal Roy Kapur among others.