Are social media influencers in films just pawns for promotions?

There has been a noticeable trend of social media content creators and influencers transitioning into the film industry in the recent years and films such as Bhaag Beanie Bhaag featuring Dolly Singh, Jugg Jugg Jiyo featuring Prajakta Kohli, Thank you for Coming starring Kusha Kapila and others are a proof. This shift is primarily driven by the potential benefits that influencers can bring to a project, thanks to their large and dedicated social media following. Aad this is not just limited to films but also goes to web space. However, we hardly see them leading the project or playing substantial roles in it. The trend raises several questions- Is the industry failing to use their full potential or are they just hired to serve the purpose of marketing the film?

From Prajakta Koli to Dolly Singh, more and more influencers are starring in films.
From Prajakta Koli to Dolly Singh, more and more influencers are starring in films.

Casting director Manoj Ramola that filmmakers do approach him for influencers and few of them only want them to gain benefits for their projects. “However, this approach hasn’t turned out to be successful. You can cast them in music videos, talk shows and comedy shows, without paying much attention to their acting skills because wo sab unke appearance se hi hit hote hai. But when it comes to projects where performances matter, they can’t play bigger roles. For example, Bassi was cast in Tu Jhooti…, but he was seen doing what he is known for. You won’t see depth in his acting. And people liked him in it because they expect that from him,” he explains.

And it’s fair enough, Ramola shares, because the influencers cannot run a film on their shoulder. “People would never go to cinema to watch a film because their favourite influencer is part of the project. So it does not translate into good numbers. Theatre mein bss ya toh actor chalta hai ya wo jisme charisma hai. Films ki expectations bilkul alag hoti hain,” he explains.

Filmmaker Akarsh Khurana, who directed the show Mismatched, acknowledges that casting of influencers on the basis of their followers is happening in the industry. “I find it a very short-sighted approach. But to each their own. I am not a fan of this thought process because I feel there is no formula to guarantee good numbers. Moreover, people who follow these influencers want to see them doing the same thing that they do on social media. And if they can watch it already on the social media account, why would they go and watch them doing the same in the films,” he points out and adds, that in his case, Netflix was not even aware that Prajakta Joshi goes by the name ‘Mostly Sane’. “She was selected purely on the basis of her audition. Even the casting director did not know. It was only later when we started preparing for shoot, I suggested using her decent following for marketing the film.”

Youtuber Sahil Khatter, who was part of 83, also accepts that influencers and digital content creator bring in their reach when they are cast for a project. It helps in marketing. But he mentions that one cannot run away from the question that are those people capable of acting as well? “If you are entering the acting world, you really should know the craft, and ones who know they are getting their chances. There are influencers leading projects as well. Like I did, like Prajakta Kohli did,” he shares.

As for people getting trifle parts despite the talent, Khatter shares it takes time. “Moreover, it does take time to get better and bigger roles because not everyone is a director’s daughter or a hero’s brother. I took two smaller roles in projects to finally lead and that’s a natural process,” he says, urging makers to look beyond the image they have and cast them in different roles.

Influencer Srishti Dixit has no complaints with influencers being cast in smaller roles as well. “For people like me, who has no connection in the industry, getting any kind of acting role is huge deal and I don’t feel entitled or think that I am ready to lead projects. It’s just the start for me and I am taking a path that’s very new to me. All I can do is give my best and make my role memorable. But I am well aware that can’t make a film or a web series hit. In fact, it would give me anxiety to know that the entire project is shouldered on me because I am also a novice. I am happy doing smaller parts, learning from people around and slowly growing,” shares Dixit, who was seen in The Great Indian Wedding

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