There is a huge divide when it comes to how actors who appear on TV are treated, when compared to actors on the big screen. But why? They’re all talented, regardless of the medium. And no, it isn’t all in our heads, actors from the industry have themselves spoken about how they have been treated unfairly, for being TV stars. And while this gap is being bridged with OTT platforms on the rise, the fact of the matter is, that it still stands in the way of talent that should expand across platforms.  

Actor Hina Khan spoke about how TV is used to promote films but at the end of the day, TV actors are not given any credit and constantly looked down upon. This, comes from an actor who earns Rs 1 lakh to 1.25 lakh per episode and has over 13.2 Million followers on Instagram. 

Yes, TV is always looked down upon. It’s sad because these are the same people who literally use us and our platform to promote their own projects. TV has the maximum reach. It shows how there’s a lot of classism and class divide that exists between the two industries. TV actors are looked at as mazdoors, they work their *** off, do double shifts everyday almost. They always tell us that we act over the top. But that’s the demand of our audience. Give us a chance and let us prove ourselves. We can do the subtle acting, too. 

-Hina Khan to Pinkvilla

Shivangi Joshi, on the other hand, recalled her horrible experience with a fashion designer who outrightly claimed that they didn’t give their clothes to TV actors. But why? She has 4.6 million followers on Instagram and a spot at a daily soap, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, so how is she lacking?

I’ve heard actors not having a happy experience during film auditions. Though I didn’t go for any, but I didn’t have good experience with fashion designers. I had once wanted to wear a particular designer’s clothes, but my team was told that they don’t give their clothes to TV actors. This happened a few times. It does feel bad but I realised some people still fail to understand that we all are artistes and aren’t defined by mediums, and therefore deserve respect. I don’t understand this comparison

-Shivangi Joshi to HT

Another leading TV actor, Karishma Tanna pointed out that TV actors often get their dialogues at the end moment and they still do a great job.

In an interview with Pinkvilla, when the actor was asked about if TV actors are treated differently, she was quick to respond. 

Yes, 100 percent. I have felt this and I have raised my voice against it too. Why are TV actors looked down upon, I don’t know. TV actors are very talented. They get dialogues immediately and we have to act it out spontaneously, so we have been trained so well and if they say that TV does OTT and are loud, it is because TV works that way. But, now even TV is evolving so the actors have also changed.

-Karishma Tanna

She also pointed out that TV actors are often forced to act a certain way and it is not a reflection of their talent. That they must also be given a chance to prove that they are better than the scripts they have been given. 

It is all in the hands of the director, actually. If the director says to do it subtly, they will do it. I don’t understand that TV actors can’t do films. Now, it is evolving. Now, film people and web series people take TV actors seriously. They now realise that we are talented and that we can adapt to any given situation.

-Karishma Tanna

Gurmeet Choudhary, who has transitioned from shows to OTT films, spoke about how Sushant Singh Rajput paved the way for TV actors to make a break in movies, despite being treated different.

I became quite popular after Ramayan and while I would get film offers, none of the popular production houses called me. And I was sure I wanted to make my film debut with a big film. And this is why I continued to do television. I must add here that Sushant Singh Rajput did help remove that baggage somewhere. After his wonderful debut, people started scouting for the next TV star, and that’s how I got picked. 

-Gurmeet Choudhary to Indian Express

He also listed out the various excuses that are used to avoid hiring TV actors. 

Around seven-eight years back people had this major misconception. I have had directors tell me that people see you on TV every day, who will pay to watch you? However, things have improved a lot and actors are no more boxed. Also, television stars have their fans all across the world. When someone signs us, they automatically also get a set audience as our loyal fans would watch those projects for sure. If people understand this, then things will only get better for us.

-Gurmeet Choudhary to Indian Express

So why is it that these actors are treated differently? Is it their popularity? Are they not bankable stars? On the contrary, with a wider reach of television, these actors are bigger names in different parts of the country and have a connect with an audience that many Bollywood actors cannot boast of.

One of the biggest names in the television industry, Rashami Desai has proved her talent with shows like Uttaran and Dil Se Dil Tak. However, the actor spoke about being categorised because of her roles and how people constantly judge her. Rashami has over 4.4 million followers on her Instagram, so it isn’t like her popularity is a problem. 

I feel as an actress when I get categorised for certain platforms and they say that yeh toh TV actress hai, toh bura lagta hai. I feel bad that people don’t want to conveniently see the good work that I have done and the good projects that I have been a part of and the good people I have worked with. They categorise me for their convenience and comfort.

-Rashami Desai to IBT

The influential people get better projects and better space. It is wrong. I don’t like it. It is humiliating and insulting. We are actors and as actors we can explore every medium, and should not be categorised.

-Rashami Desai to IBT

Nakuul Mehta, another actor who has done both successful TV shows, Ishqbaaaz and a popular web series, Never Kiss Your Best Friend said that it often feels like Indian TV is the “the lesser cousin of Bollywood.”

In the West, a huge TV star is as big as a movie star. Anybody from the cast of Game of Thrones will be considered an A-list celebrity. In India, TV is still looked down upon, like it’s the lesser cousin of Bollywood.

-Nakuul Mehta to The Telegraph

Karan Tacker pointed out that every award show is telecast on TV and yet TV isn’t good enough? And if regressive TV shows the are reason behind why TV actors are looked down upon then let’s be honest, Bollywood isn’t churning out great content.

If someone is tagging a content on TV as ”regressive”, it is their opinion. It is the way they look at it or look down upon TV content. At the end of the day, all these mediums are viewership based. If there are no viewers, makers will stop creating. We all can see that every filmstar come on TV shows to promote their films. Why? Because they know about the reach of the medium. Also, every award show is telecast on TV. How can we discount these facts? I think that says it all.

-Karan Tacker to IANS

There are people who love watching TV and that is why there are so many television shows and channels that are doing exceptionally well, business-wise too. Otherwise, why would someone make TV shows?

-Karan Tacker to IANS

Many popular names even point out how they are forced to start from scratch when they take up a bigger Bollywood project. And while they say the problem is not with ‘auditioning’ and testing someone for the role, the problem is the discrimination. While the bigger names bag projects without any tests/auditions, well-known TV actors are made to go through the rigour. Is that fair?

Devoleena Bhattacharjee, who has been a part of hit shows like Saath Nibhaana Saathiya and Ye Hai Mohabbatein, spoke about the double standards TV actors are faced with during auditions.

During auditions or look test, we get to hear things like ‘Listen, we don’t want TV acting for this role’. Imagine how demotivating that is just before you’re preparing to face the camera with the hope of cracking a part. Someone should explain the difference between film and TV acting to me.

-Devoleena Bhattacharjee to HT

They (people taking auditions) remind you that you are coming from TV, and that film world is something superior. I mean an actor is an actor, how does the platform matter? At times, we do go overboard on TV but that’s because the audience and script demand. Whatever you expect from any actor, we would deliver. Also, there are many film actors that people won’t know about, but TV actors are known to them. It’s high time Bollywood stops looking down upon TV actors.

-Devoleena Bhattacharjee to HT

And while a lot is changing for the better with OTT platforms and democratisation of content where scripts are the real hero and talent is being acknowledged, we still are yet to spot these TV actors in more competent roles, irrespective of the medium.