It is no accident that social media influencers, such as BeerBiceps aka Ranveer Allahbadia, are interviewing senior ministers in the government or Curly Tales aka Kamiya Jani is eating ice cream with Rahul Gandhi. Hindi cinema has long known that social media influencers can paper over any cracks in the narrative with their loyal followers. Some casting choices recently have been proof of this. There was Kusha Kapila in the second season of the Netflix series Masaba Masaba, Prajakta Koli in Jugjugg Jeeyo, comedian Anubhav Bassi in Tu Jhoothi Main Makkar. But Karan Boolani’s forthcoming film, Thank You for Coming, about a woman’s hunt for the perfect orgasm, is almost cut out of influencer cloth. It has Bhumi Pednekar in the lead, and Kapila, Dolly Singh (already seen in Double XL), Shibani Bedi and Shehnaz Gill, as her friends. The movie apparently gets street cred and the influencers get credit in their bank. While it does wonders for the democratisation of stardom, allowing diverse narratives to unfold, it strips the influencers of their indie vibe. Most influencers amass followers because audiences like their unique way of presenting themselves. While their followers are no doubt delighted at their success, as they wear borrowed plumes and pout professionally for the paparazzi, they lose their authenticity, becoming just another cog in the industrial machine. But then a new wave of influencers arrives, offering the industry more opportunities to co-opt them. India has become a nation of YouTube creators, with one survey putting the number at 8 crore, but only 1.5 lakh professionals are able to monetise their content, according to a 2022 report by Kalaari Capital. Even so-called nepo babies can’t resist the lure of building their social media following, often landing endorsements before any movie release or substantial achievement.
Stepping into Big Shoes
Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) chairmen have been a stellar lot, from Shyam Benegal to Saeed Akhtar Mirza. For actor R Madhavan, it is a responsibility that he bears with pride, fully aware it comes with high expectations. The actor-director is the new president and chairman of the governing council, replacing filmmaker Shekhar Kapur. He is also in a new phase of his career, as an actor of the witty Netflix series Decoupled as well as director of the movie Rocketry: The Nambi Effect. “I feel I’ve come into my own at this age in terms of acting and have so much more to give,” he says. “The key will be to balance my time,” he says. FTII remains an iconic institution, training the best to be the best. It has suffered in recent times with misguided attempts to “tame” its students by appointing men of minor talent, such as Gajendra Chauhan (2015-2017), or men who were far too occupied with their careers, such as Anupam Kher (2017-2018). The last two chairmen had rather quiet, uneventful terms, CID producer BP Singh (2018-2020) and Kapur (2020-2023). Chauhan’s appointment elicited a long student strike and also a tough crackdown, captured most effectively in Payal Kapadia’s documentary, A Night of Knowing Nothing. With many of the leading lights of the film industry from FTII—from Rajkummar Rao to Vijay Varma—Madhavan’s tenure will be worth watching.
Scene and Heard
Sometimes things have a way of working themselves out. Dostana 2, which was stalled when Kartik Aaryan walked out of the film, would have launched another newcomer to the film industry, Lakshya, formerly known as Laksh Lalwani. The actor, who was in several TV shows between 2015 and 2018, finally had his moment in the sun with the premiere of Kill at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, the film premiered at the Midnight Madness programme at TIFF and is being called the most violent movie to come out of India. It’s got good reviews at TIFF and joyously for Lakshya, he is being celebrated as a bright young talent. With a starring role in Netflix’s fiction series, Stardom, on the film industry, written and directed by Aryan Khan, Shah Rukh Khan’s son, expect to see much more of this young man. All good things come to those who wait and work hard.