The content we see on local television has often been scrutinised for a lack of innovation and not providing opportunities based on a merit system. Directors and writes presumably steer clear of questionable content, or content that could bring with it a lot of flak. The industry has known to become averse to risk-taking which is also now evident in the performance of actors.
Recently, a panel discussion was held at the Arts Council during which the myopic state of affairs in regard to TV was discussed. The discussion was termed ‘Can Theatre Help Regain TV/Film’s Lost Glory?’ and focused more on the systematic apartheid against theatre actors. Actor Yasir Hussain and writer Mohsin Ali, who come from a theatre background, were part of the panel and shed light on how a jump into TV is seen as an economic necessity. TV and film powerhouse, Nadeem Baig too was part of the discussion and shared his two cents on the industry.
He admitted that there was fault on part of the television industry. “I think that it’s very sad that we couldn’t create opportunities for these (theatre) actors. There is a lot of involvement from the management side that makes it difficult to cast certain actors,” the Jawani Phir Nahi Aani director told the audience. “But I think TV’s aristocracy is about to end soon. In the next few years you might see theatre artists that are crossing over to TV, in more, prominent roles,” he went on to add.
“Survival in theatre is very difficult. I was lucky enough to have a stint in commercial theatre. But for most of us, including me, the jump towards TV is because financial stability is close to impossible in theatre. If theatre artists were paid better and there was a framework in place to ensure their wellbeing, I wouldn’t have jumped to TV,” Hussain said. He also touched on the stigma which theatre artists are faced with and was of the opinion that directors and producers who actually want progress should take a stand.
“The directors who have earned a certain stature and by extension say in the industry really need to speak up for the ignored-yet-talented lot. If theatre artists can do well in India they can do well here,” he said. Mohsin Ali on the other hand recognised that he was lucky in many ways when he branched out into TV but was adamant about the fact that theatre artists do not have it easy. “The hurdles for theatre artists in terms of breaking into the mainstream would remain the same for the next 20 years. Given my age at this point, I don’t see the point in giving anyone including myself false hope,” he said.