South Asia

Bollywood stars flock to receive a TV reality cheque

Madhuri Dixit
Image caption Madhuri Dixit is hosting an Indian version of Strictly Come Dancing

These days former Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit is busy scripting a comeback of a different kind.

She has flown down from US to the western Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) - where she lives - to judge a popular dance show, Jhalak Dikhla Ja, modelled on Dancing with Stars.

"Dance is close to my heart. The show helps me to help non-dancers. TV helps me to reach out to my fans," says Ms Dixit.

She is not alone - Bollywood stars are flocking to Indian television in droves as celebrity hosts of popular reality shows.

Salman Khan is hosting Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother; Akshay Kumar is playing tough host of Master Chef India; and superstar Shah Rukh Khan is all set to host Zor Ka Jhatka, the new Indian version of the obstacle course reality show Wipeout.

And recently Amitabh Bachchan hosted the fourth season of Kaun Banega Crorepati? (Who Wants to be a Millionaire?).

Once upon a time it was not the done thing for a Bollywood star to host a TV show.

Today, nearly half a dozen of the top reality TV shows are hosted by film stars.

It is a testimony to the growing reach of entertainment television in India.

Shah Rukh said as much at a recent programme to launch his new show.

'Hugely popular'

"Television has become so big. There are so many opportunities. With me coming there will be more variety… I started [my career] with stage and television. TV is genuinely my favourite."

Akshay Kumar, one of India's top stars, agrees - "TV is a hugely popular medium," he says.

Media analysts say that good money and visibility are wooing the highly-paid Bollywood stars to TV.

Image caption Shah Rukh Khan says TV has become 'very big'

"These shows pay very well," says Atul Phadnis, head of a media research company.

"Moreover, Bollywood stars needs to be in circulation more than other celebrities. What better platform than TV which gets you inside the living rooms of millions of viewers?"

Ajit Thakur, executive vice-president and business head of Sony, which has produced several of these shows, says the stars help the channels to draw audiences.

"It also helps them reconnect with their fans. They reach out to more fans through TV than their biggest film hits," says Mr Thakur.

Homemaker and avid reality show fan Anuradha Parulkar says Bollywood's presence makes a world of difference to fans.

"It is nice to watch to see stars hosting shows. They have a style of their own," she says.

Trade analysts say Bollywood stars will continue to host TV shows for a long time.

"TV and Bollywood are a marriage made in heaven. It is a symbiotic relationship, an unbeatable combination," says Mr Phadnis.

The audiences, producers and the stars themselves could not agree more.

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