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NEW DELHI : A bunch of young influencers and popular social media faces that found an audience during the two years of the pandemic will be seen making Bollywood film debuts in 2022. Prajakta Koli, who had earlier appeared in a Netflix original, will be seen in Karan Johar’s Jug Jug Jeeyo, while YouTuber CarryMinati is doing Ajay Devgn’s Runway 34.

Others like YouTuber and singer Shirley Setia will be seen in a new film starring Shilpa Shetty. Media and entertainment industry experts said filmmakers looking for fresh faces are aware of the draw these names have among the younger generation that would flock to see them. Further, while these influencers or YouTubers do not have professional acting experience, many of them create unique characters that they play and recreate on their channels and social media accounts, displaying a natural aptitude for being in front of the camera.

“Every director and production house is always on the look-out for artistes that are popular among the youth as well as other audiences across India. YouTubers like Prajakta Koli and CarryMinati, as well as other popular names from the short-video content industry are well known for their relevant content. They become lucrative for new and upcoming projects by directors, music labels and producers," Deepak Salvi, chief operating officer and co-founder of short video app Chingari said.

He said the trend was a reflection of the scope and potential that upcoming creators have in the media and entertainment industry.

It’s easier for a director or casting director to introduce a new face who has already been accepted by the audience on a bigger screen than a new entrant, said Akshae Golekar, co-founder of digital marketing agency Optiminastic Media.

“Additionally, the use of social media has grown exponentially in the past few years along with the corresponding growth of the film industry. Hence, filmmakers are scouting for talent who use the social media platform," Golekar said.

Queries sent to Koli and CarryMinati’s teams did not elicit a response.

Use of influencers in films is similar to how brands try to tap their digital clout for wider reach, Rajni Daswani, director, digital marketing at SoCheers, a digital agency said.

“Plus, unlike actors who play one role in a movie, these influencers can create multiple characters and personalities and display a spectrum of acting talent on their digital platforms," Daswani said.

A lot of data-driven decisions are made today to arrive at casting, Dheeraj Kummar, national creative director– brand and consumer experience at GroupM-owned media agency Motivator pointed out.

“Through the lens of a target audience or specific demographic, the choice of social media faces matters more to smaller budget films than the big banner films, which are mostly driven by mega stars who can get the audience in cinema halls or give a good opening to a film," Kummar said.

Kummar said there’s a sense of pride to see someone from your own city or region in a film while someone who has done a live chat with you or replied to your comment or DM gives an instant connect.

Gautam Jain, partner at media consulting firm Ormax, said that according to a 2019 report by the firm, the 15-24 youth segment contributed to 44% of the overall footfalls for Hindi films.

“Social media influencers enjoy more popularity in this segment which makes casting them a win-win for the film and the influencer. Also, their following on social media platforms comes as an additional asset while promoting the film," Jain pointed out.

On the other hand, a movie is still considered the highest pedestal in pop culture. The fact that most of the popular social media faces have either shifted or created a base in Mumbai, at least for Hindi cinema, says a lot about their aspirations, Kummar said.

Currently, these influencers are not playing main roles so they may not command a premium for their roles. However, their film fees would still be 20-25% higher than what they get for a brand collaboration or web show.

“Everyone aspires to become an actor. And also, people start taking them (social media stars) more seriously when they start featuring in films, hence initially they are willing to come for a cost which is relatively less than Bollywood stars," Arjun Singgh Baran and Kartk D Nishandar, founders of GSEAMS, a Mumbai-based film production house said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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