At one time, secretaries were the only people to connect with if one had to get a star to sign a movie or a show. However today, right from the launch of an actor to the building up of an image and maintaining the brand equity, strategy rules everything.
And that's where celebrity managers have become a force to reckon with. Perhaps, this has a huge hand to play in Farhan Akhtar signing half-a-dozen ads in the last four-five months.
Today, top celebrity managers are handling careers of at least half a dozen leading stars. Ace lensman Atul Kasbekar, whose agency Bling! handles the work of a bevy of celebs including Shahid Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor and Farhan, says that it's a lot more complicated being a star today.
Attributing it to "too much going on in the day-to-day life of the celebrity," he points out, "There's been considerable evolution in terms of the level of interest in the viewer's minds." He adds, "The managing agency today has a battery of people to look into diverse aspects of the star client."
In the same vein, Anirban Das Blah, MD Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, adds that the competition is becoming very tough for a business manager to handle things single-handedly. "Most of the top stars are competing for the same projects. So if you need someone to go to a brand to sign a star, you won't go to a business manager for that.
It's like moving on from chartered accountants to investment bankers," points out Anirban, whose company also hears out scripts of feature films before their celeb clients sign the dotted line.
Surprisingly, one can't rope in a star by hiking the commission for the celebrity management. As Anirban says, "It's not about the money. We're investing strategies and efforts in building a celebrity as a brand. In fact, in the last couple of years, Ranbir Kapoor, whose career we manage, has refused over 30 endorsements."
Conceding that they could have made 10-15 per cent of the R 250 crore plus worth of endorsement deals, Anirban asserts, "Ranbir and we felt that those endorsements weren't right. A chyavanprash or a hair oil brand is not in keeping with what he stands for."
Asked about situations when the celebrity is keen enough to taking up the assignment, Atul explains that their policy is to let their client take the final call. "There are times when the star wants to return the favour to someone who helped him/her in the first place; I'll advise as frankly and brutally. But outside, I'll back him 100 per cent," he maintains.
When asked about bringing their celeb clients away from the more traditional secretaries and business managers, Anirban says they don't see it as a clout. "We are trusted advisors. Managing a celeb's career is not just a couple of years' plan, but for a longer term, at least 10 years. So we need to be careful," he says.
On the other hand, Atul disagrees. He reasons, "You're in a position to make things happen from the brand's side, from the star's side, from the other clients' side and the studio's side."
However, Indrajeit Borkakoty, Business Head, Mid-Day Entertainment makes an interesting observation. He sees the celebrity managers' role as bridging the gap. "Celebrity managers integrate brands and celebrities to strengthen the product by way of association with the celebrity."