Stage to Small Screen


With the focus in the ad world shifting to "real people", casting directors are scanning the Mumbai stage for actors who can sell products and policies.

Seated at the breakfast table, the husband is beaming, unaware of his wife's unease. As the wife serves food to the family, she wordlessly conveys to him that something might have gone wrong the previous night. Before any "unplanned" incident can threaten their happiness, she discovers 'i-Pill'. The 38-second television commercial ends with the wife grinning in her husband's embrace. This 2007 television advertisement was part of a campaign that created awareness about the morning-after pills. It also made Mumbai-based theatre actor Shivani Tanksale a popular face in television commercials (TVCs).

Since then, Tanksale has featured in nearly 40 commercials, most recently, Bournvita and ads. Often seen as a young mother or wife, Tanksale believes her entry into the ad world coincided with the elimination of certain notions and an increased demand for "performers". "Earlier, a young mother in ads looked a certain way. Now, she can wear short kurtis or trousers if she happens to be a working woman. So I found it easier to fit in," she says.

However, it's not the image makeover of TVC models that has made Tanksale a popular face of the modern Indian woman, be it a protective mother, worried wife or working woman. Instead, she is cast because of her ability to "emote" and "express". This perhaps explains why the i-Pill campaign also starred theatre actors, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee and Geetika Tyagi, for two other ads. But then it is not a case in isolation. In the last few years, the number of theatre actors who moonlight as models in TVCs has increased substantially. The freshness they bring to the commercials, their acting skills and their ability to stand out in the crowd of models works to their advantage. "In ads, you need to make an impression in 30 seconds. If you have a face that stands out in the crowd, that works in favour of the ad. Theatre provides that along with the actors' ability to give a perfect shot within a limited time span," says Namita Roy Ghosh, director at Moving Picture Company, which often hires theatre actors for commercials.

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