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Bollywood stars get off the beaten track, feature in pop videos 

livemint , Sep 08, 2019

To remain in public memory, especially of young millennials glued to their smartphones, a bunch of Hindi film actors aim to extend their brand image through appearances in pop music videos. Late last month, music label T-Series launched its latest non-film song, a single track titled Pachtaoge, featuring popular actor Vicky Kaushal and sung by Bollywood playback sensation Arijit Singh.

A few days before that, actor Alia Bhatt was seen in Punjabi singer-songwriter duo The Doorbeen’s new single titled Prada. Last year, Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani appeared in Yo Yo Honey Singh’s rendition of the 1990s hit Urvashi. The A.R. Rahman composition was recreated by T-Series. Meanwhile, Hrithik Roshan and Sonam Kapoor have recreated Dheere Dheere Se Meri Zindagi, a cover version of the 1990 Aashiqui song by Honey Singh.

Music videos were earlier seen as the domain of models such as Jas Arora and Malaika Arora Khan, who had shot to fame in the late ’90s with chartbusters such as Gur Naal Ishq Mitha and Pyar Ke Geet respectively. Later, artists such as Atif Aslam and Badshah appeared in their own videos.

Now, popular actors are using this as a medium to boost their online presence and extend their brand image outside films, say experts in the media and entertainment industry. “It’s clearly an effort to stretch the brand equity of the name involved," said Harish Bijoor, brand strategy specialist and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

“While films go through their own network of theatres and distributors to reach people, advertising featuring these actors manifests through print and broadcast. This trend (of appearing in pop music videos) is meant to percolate down to the digital medium, thereby covering all platforms," said Bijoor.

Music labels exploit YouTube to popularise these single tracks, and, as Bijoor pointed out, to cater to a young audience that is watching content on the move.

The fact that content stays on the web forever also provides opportunities for repeat viewing. According to the FICCI-EY media and entertainment industry report 2019, Indians spend 30% of their time on mobile phones on entertainment, second only to social media.

However, in terms of data, they use upwards of 70% on entertainment. Indians downloaded more media and entertainment apps in 2018 than ever before, with the highest growth rates (44%) in entertainment, music, and game apps.

Appearance in pop music videos also gives actors vying for the attention of audiences a chance to remain in the public eye. “Bollywood is all about being seen. So, if these guys have a gap between two releases, this is a very easy and fast way to stay in the news and the limelight," said Jigar Rambhia, national director for sports and entertainment partnerships at Wavemaker India. “All these younger stars cater to the youth which is a very fickle audience," he said.

It is often a case of “out of sight, out of mind" for these young and new names. They cannot afford a two- to three-year gap between films the way senior artistes such as Aamir Khan do, he said.

The other way of looking at the trend is that some of these videos can act as musical trailers to bigger film projects, Rambhia said. Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani appeared in the Urvashi song months before the release of their romantic drama Kabir Singh. Incidentally, both were backed by T-Series.

Industry experts say the music label benefits as much in terms of eyeballs when there is a Bollywood face on board. Actual monetisation for the video may only take place on the basis of YouTube hits, but negotiations with actors may often translate into long-term deals, with the pop single only being one part of it.

“Both films and videos have a story to tell and the cast is selected based on who can best bring alive the message that we are trying to convey. That’s why you will see that some of our videos will have the (playback) artistes themselves, while some may have other talent cast. However, having a popular face is an advantage in the beginning as it helps get eyeballs. However, post that, it is up to the quality of the content to make it fly," said Jackky Bhagnani, founder of Jjust Music that produced Bhatt’s Prada number.