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Actor and business manager are conjoined twins? Ask Bipasha Basu!

Koral Dasgupta @KoralDasgupta

Updated: June 8, 2015, 11:23 AM IST
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The relation between the audience and a quintessential Bollywood hero (or heroine) today is very active and participative, yet exclusive. Thanks to social media, actors are close to their audience as much as they are far away from them! Each actor communicates an image; fans take that communication forward with their response. Image of an actor is never the sole vision and contribution of the actor! The actor is, more often than not, a face, which represents an image collectively designed by a team of professionals! The image borrows features and characteristics from the personal traits, likes and dislikes, lifestyle, background and other details specific to the actor. Also, the projects of an actor cast a strong influence on his image. That's how we have branded our actors as the "angry young man" or "king of romance" or "Mr. Perfectionist"! It is hence interesting to delve into the Mumbai film industry, and find an actor who has managed to stay quite disconnected from her on-screen portfolio and spreads herself positively in multiple assignments over the years!

She is a fitness freak; other high profile actors swear by her dedication towards her body! Women would die to own her flexibility and metabolism! She is a rule breaker; a photographer's delight; a high profile model; and is the natural choice as show-stopper for the best designers of the country. Her face can sell just about anything, ranging from biscuits to traditional gold jewellery! She comes across as a very strong personality who follows her mind and is extremely independent in her ways.

Bipasha Basu's debut in the world of cinema started with 'Ajnabee', in 2001, where she played a negative role! In the last 14 years of her career, her films have often fallen into the category of thrillers or horror, exploring the dark side of life. And yet, Bipasha Basu's image is anything but dark or negative! From the "negative" or "tortured by negative forces" roles that she often protagonises on-screen, her personal image selectively borrows only the oomph and sensuousness! Says Bipasha, "In this industry, most actors are still trying to create an image and I feel lucky that I have already made a statement in my favour. Today I get to drive a particular category of films. They don't come to me for an ornamental presence in the screen where someone else does it all and I am just a compulsory additional to the script. I am extremely well established in the kind of films that I do. At the end of every project something unique goes back to my CV as an achievement. I may be repeating the genre, but I don't repeat my roles. Given that I have been here, done that, for more than a decade, my presence in a particular genre of films can't tarnish my image now. Had it been so unsteady, I wouldn't have lasted for so long!"

Carving this image and maintaining it over the years, Bipasha Basu must have been blessed with an excellent support and farsightedness from those who "manage" her career and profile. Bipasha attests this thought. In her own words, "I have a team which knows what are my strengths and what all I am trying to achieve. They are totally with me on that and we are all in sync with what should or should not follow in the days to come. A lot of hard work goes into this, and I am sufficiently dependent on the experts who handle my profile and make it easy for me to sustain!"

The contribution of a talent management house in the brand building exercises of a Bollywood personality can be best explained with the partnership between Bipasha Basu and her Business Manager, Tanujaa Mehra, from Exceed Entertainment! Bipasha and Tanujaa came together when the former was shooting for Dhoom 2, a film through which Basu defined a new benchmark for the typical Bollywood heroine and perhaps brought it closer to Hollywood both in style and attitude! Her partnership with Exceed Entertainment goes back to 9 years and Bipasha was an already established brand then. The challenge hence was to stretch her creative abilities and explore further. Every actor has a shelf life and a Talent Management House has to convincingly foresee what waits at the end! Explains Tanuja Mehra, "Every time we start working with an artist, our vision is to take them a notch higher from where they already are. We help them develop properties, not only through films but also through all other relevant products or services that can come as a package with the star! Bipasha was a fitness person right from the beginning. She has suffered immense physical problems in her personal life, due to which a lot of her movements and activities were restricted at some point of time. But she defeated them all by picking up a fitness regimen with vengeance. Turning her into an entrepreneur in the fitness space or celebrity e-commerce space (with The Trunk Label where Bipasha designs and presents fashion accessories) was a joint vision and an extension to her personality. Her image as a fitness expert and a diva in the glamour world today is so dominant that she shines in spite of some dark roles in the celluloid screen! Thus, we end up giving the artist a 360 degree spectrum in terms of her personality or the work that they engage in." Bipasha has launched three fitness DVDs till date - Love Yourself (2010), Break Free (2011) and Unleash (2014), and is the brand ambassador for many health related brands. Also, the products she has been designing under The Trunk Label for the last two years are moving very fast on the e-commerce portal.
The role of a talent management organisation is not only to help an actor take her decisions, but an all round research and execution goes into it to make sure that a decision has less chances to fall flat. Success belongs to the team, and so does failure. Behind the face of a star, there is a body of professionals who brings in and analyses deals and works out the relevance or fitment of the star within those deals. Final selection however, rests with the actor. The talent management organisation acts as the initial filter and supports the artist through the rest of the journey. Similarly for films, the business managers may read scripts or sit through the narration, but they do not necessarily influence. Every artist likes to pick their work themselves as per the roles that they can relate to or portray with ease.

Now what does a star look for in a Talent Management Organisation or in her Business Manager? Says Bipasha, "I personally look for loyalty. An artist's life is never smooth and I have been through gigantic ups and downs. When the world believes in making hay when the sun shines, your team needs to comprise of level headed and stable professionals who are ready to walk the path with you, stand by you, and look beyond temporary downfalls or a short term success. Also, any kind of association has to be a two way process. For people like us who follow tough and demanding schedules, there's not much difference between the people we hang around with personally or professionally. So that cushion and comfort of being with family away from family becomes very crucial for our own mental balance."

Actors today are very particular about things they do or want to do. They need all details in advance and in one go so that they can take fast decisions. This ensures a smooth process when they are shooting, saves production time and costs. Job of the Business Manager is to prepare the artist well so that she can extend her best professional self with everything she engages with! This comes back to the actor as her goodwill, and carves her image as an honest professional who isn't whimsical about her deliverables. This works par excellence between Bipasha Basu and Tanujaa Mehra too, because a lot of Bipasha's professionalism on the sets or with her endorsements or other engagements are a result of Tanujaa's dedication in keeping her well informed and prepared for whatever is waiting for her. This minimises the chances for any kind of shock or negativity or bad mouthing, and keeps things pleasant and hassle-free!

Bipasha reasons, "I am an extremely disciplined person. My heart goes with me more than my expectations of returns from business. I involve in things that I am passionate about. And no one wants to see their passion fruitlessly going down the drain. Hence, proper execution of my ideas and preferences are important for me. And a person can get things done the way you want only if she thoroughly understands your personality and being. That way I have been serviced really well by Exceed Entertainment. They know what I am looking for, what association I am trying to create, they have given me strength when I required, they have spread pleasant vibes in my otherwise roller coaster life. And Tanujaa today is a bouncing board for me. She is family."

The Talent Management House is the one point contact for the artists. Whether the talents pick the organisation or the organisation picks the talent, end of the day they have a journey together. Most of the times new talents come to talent management houses because of a word of mouth publicity and generally positive vibes in the industry, given that they have been there, done that for many years! Exceed Entertainment manages the careers of Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Chitrangada Singh, and others, along with Bipasha Basu. Says Tanujaa Mehra, "Getting new talent on board is not a tough job; retaining the artist is! Quality of service seals the deal. We have to be careful that our visions pay off and we achieve what we wish to with each specific assignment! The most important factor here is to understand the artist and her personal ambitions. If a Business Manager can successfully read the artist's perception of herself and her career, then it becomes easier to plan and deliver. Today I know what would be Bipasha's reaction to things, what questions she'd ask, what doubts she'd have, or if things fit into her designs, even before I have spoken to her about an upcoming project! So a lot of confusions get sorted at my level. When it reaches Bipasha, she further tunes it up. An artist would stick to a talent management organisation only when that personal relationship grows and she feels relaxed in the company of her Business Manager".

More than the genre that an actor fits into, it is probably important to watch out for what she does with herself in that space! And this is what delimits her from being perceived as repetitive by the audience. Explains Tanujaa, "A lot of horror films and thrillers come to Bipasha because she brings that sexiness to an otherwise dark plot." True, that! People watch films because they want to feel entertained. A hand-counted few wouldn't mind coming out from the theatre horribly scared or disturbed after they have managed to find three leisure hours from their otherwise busy schedule! In India, horror films aren't treated with the kind of technological finesse they have in the west. Lots of people shy away from such films because they don't wish to get typecast. With some sensibilities absolutely personal to her, Bipasha brings in a Hollywood kind of treatment to the plot which makes the audience view spook in a completely different light. In that way, she has managed to break even with her contributions and the corresponding business that her films generate.

Women are called mysterious in every generation, every civilisation! Philosophically they have been called Maya (illusion); politically they are the Femme Fatale; contemporarily they play the role of Sultry Seductress! Bipasha Basu has explored the mystery of womanhood with an unapologetic boldness and has personified some uncomfortable characters and plots for cinematic consumption while simultaneously balancing a very vibrant personality off screen! Tanujaa Mehra affirms that Bipasha is an extremely positive person and a lot of her on screen darkness gets nullified because of her personal faith in the goodness of life. However, the talent management organisation does have a responsibility towards the artists they stand for. As they sit through the initial narrations, they ensure that the films give their artists enough scope for experiment and leave a message which the artists can relate to. End of the day, their high profile clients should be able to make a statement and create their unique space within the sea of talents that the industry is constantly buzzing with! Also, every kind of business thrives on relationships and trust. Business Managers, along with the talent management houses do ensure the past relationships that the actor has developed over a period of time doesn't suffer.

"Bipasha did that 7minutes role in Humshakals for her long standing relationship with Vashu Bhagnani," clarifies Tanujaa. Before taking a film to their actors, Business Managers also take a note on what kind of co stars are being offered or which banners are supporting the films. The budget of a film, a reputed banner, the technicians involved, etc. talks a lot about what comes back to the table for the actor. They also talk about the window that would be offered to the star, to portray herself and her character, and how far the makers would go to bring authenticity on screen, the support they would lend off screen for the actor to be at peace with herself and concentrate on the character she's portraying. The initial screening at a Business Manager level further investigates the comfort of the actor with the other resources of a proposed film, which finally goes back into her image management and portfolio planning.

When an actor is in the company of a good team, she'll grow organically! And her success would eventually come back to the talent management house.
First Published: April 9, 2015, 5:23 PM IST
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