Anubhav Singh Bassi in Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar starring Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor
As Anubhav Singh Bassi makes his acting debut with Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, we look at the pros and cons of the emergence of social media influencers in films and web series
Just recently, Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan made history by becoming the highest grossing Hindi film ever, with a worldwide collection of over ₹1,000 crore. Naturally, the Siddharth Anand-directed movie’s massive success is lauded for Bollywood’s much-needed revival, wading through controversies created by the boycott and cancel culture. In pursuit of more such commercial gains, filmmakers are now willing to experiment with content that either brings more relatability or glamour to their content.
The trend to experiment with new faces is not new. According to The Ithacan’s Sydney Brumfield, this trend was earlier seen in terms of casting models in films. She also stated that with changing times, models were replaced by YouTube stars and influencers from TikTok, who bring along their ‘bulit-in’ audience.
One recent example is Anubhav Singh Bassi, who made headlines by featuring alongside Ranbir Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor in Luv Ranjan-directed Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar. Earlier, Prajakta Koli made her debut with the Varun Dhawan and Kiara Advani-starrer, Jugjugg Jeeyo, directed by Raj Mehta.
In an effort to make quality content and increase the relatability of their projects, makers are now shifting their focus to some of the well-known social media influencers, who enjoy a much wider reach - the ‘built-in’ audience through their alternate career as an influencer.
Recently, Kusha Kapila also appeared in Netflix’s anthology series, Ghost Stories, Masaba Masaba 2 and Minus One: New Chapter. Masaba Masaba 2 also featured Kareena Barry, while Dolly Singh was seen in Modern Love: Mumbai, Double XL and Bhaag Beanie Bhaag.
But why do filmmakers rely on social media influencers? That’s primarily because they have a much broader audience base in today’s world, where content is king. Their fanbase helps the film to reach a wider audience and earn big numbers at the box office.
Be it in terms of their familiarity with camera and lighting, or other aspects, these social media influencers are able to grasp the subtleties of storytelling that make it easier for a filmmaker to churn out quality content. Their spirit and strong work ethics also help them to progress in their careers.
Now, the most obvious question that comes to mind is why do these influencers pursue these projects when they already have their own fanbase? The answer is simple. It is every Indian kid’s dream to see themselves in a big Bollywood movie, delivering cheesy dialogues and dancing their heart out on chartbusters, because it is at this moment you realize that you have made it big in the world. A big project is also supposed to pay you well and in the long run ensure your financial security.
In the end, it is a two-way street - an influencer introduces his or her audience to a new film to make numbers at the box office, and that project in turn introduces the influencer to a new audience that helps his alternate career as an influencer. It is a tactic that helps all and hurts nobody.
The issue may remain under the shadows, but it is also very evident that this new wave may hamper the entry of raw and emerging talent in the industry. This can divert their energies into taking a longer route through the internet and opt for an established audience base that can help the profit-building process of the film. Sydney also agrees with the idea that the ‘built-in’ following of these influencers results in fewer fresh faces being discovered.
Another trend that is seen now is the tokenism of these social media influencers. They are oftentimes cast as sidekicks in films - as a best friend, a brat in the family, a sister or something of the sort that enhances the heroic persona of the lead character. These roles do not do justice to the talents that these personalities possess and reduce them to their follower count.
For instance, Prajakta played Varun’s sister in Jugjugg Jeeyo and was reduced to limited screen time. It was a stereotypical character that did not do justice to the skills she possesses. The film is also a great example to showcase how the face of a YouTuber can be used to promote below-average content that makes no impact on the psyche of its audience.
So, what should be done instead to counter this? Bhuvan Bam is a great example of what should be done instead. He produced his own series of episodes, Dhindhora. This is a great example of what influencers should do to avoid tokenism, making their own content that can be showcased on big screens or a series of episodes that cater to a larger audience. This will, in turn, help in curating unique storytelling and content that is worth watching. Through these projects, these established ‘internet celebrities’ can also promote fresh faces that face difficulties in getting a break in Bollywood.