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100,000 Bollywood wannabes expected in STAR talent hunt

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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It promises to be the biggest talent scouting contest ever launched in India, with STAR expecting nearly 100,000 youngsters to participate!

The brainchild of STAR India's chief operating officer Sameer Nair, the Indian SuperSTAR contest promises to open Bollywood's doors to deserving wannabes.

"In this country everyone wants to be an actor or cricketer," Nair told IANS. "We'd been toying with the idea for a year and a half. But we couldn't really get down to it."

Earlier STAR's pop star contest opened the doors for musical talent. So how many wannabe stars does STAR expect for the Bollywood hunt? Nair scratches his head.

"If we go by the pop star experience, where we got around 10,000 contestants, then I guess the number of participants for something like this would go up by 10 times. This is the hugest project STAR has undertaken."

Nair refuses to take credit for the idea.

"In all honesty a nationwide talent hunt isn't a new idea. In the 1960s, a group of likeminded film people, United Producers, discovered Dharmendra and Rajesh Khanna. If only we prove that lucky!

"We got two pop bands, Viva and Asma, from all the auditions we conducted throughout the country. But pop music is not a driver in India, Hindi film music is. We decided to go bigger, do a talent hunt for movie talent."

"We'll search for one male superstar, one female superstar, and four supporting superstars... We'll groom six aspirants into stardom."

Unlike other talent contests where after discovery the winners are left to their own devices, Indian SuperSTAR will put its money where its mouth is.

Says Nair: "After we discover our six potential superstars, we'll make a Rs.100-120 million Bollywood blockbuster."

The giant hunt will take STAR's jury through 16 Indian cities.

Says Nair: "Participation is open to all, from 18 to 80. We know there's a potential star in every household. We'll arrive in every city and audition as many people as possible. Then we'll sift and sort by jury consent. They'll shorten the list to 64 people.

"Anyone can try his or her luck. We want everyone with a dream to come forward. The idea is to let the audience know that Bollywood is opening its arms to the masses to say, 'Welcome to our fraternity'. We want to achieve that level of inclusiveness."

The jury will be composed of people like Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra and Shyam Benegal. STAR is also working out the main crew.

"Before we start the auditions, we have to know what kind of movie we'll make."

The entire auditioning process, to take off April 22, will be recorded and become part of a 22-episode TV show.

"Apart from the six core group of superstars, we'll be opening up a whole bank of talent for Bollywood to dip into. The massive exposure through the talent hunt will give these wannabes a chance to be noticed, and if not films, then television which is the medium of the moment.

"The idea is to set off a new stream of talent. We're shortcutting the journey. By the time the film by a 'dream director' with the six finalists is made, the finalists will be known faces."

Nair refuses to admit the talent hunt purports to challenge Bollywood's star system. "We aren't breaking it, only adding to it. Everyone acts, even in everyday life."

And who'll direct this talent-scouting project? "We don't know. But at least we've got the process going."

According to Nair, this is STAR's big project for 2004.

"The other event of the year is we're taking out STAR Parivar awards to Dubai this year. Everyone wants to know if we're copying Zee by doing so. But that isn't true. We just want our STAR stars to get a nice happy holiday. Why shouldn't Telly-wood get the same opportunities as Bollywood? They deserve it."


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