Aiming at attracting fresh faces to India's large Hindi film industry, and not just from within Bollywood or from modelling schools and beauty pageants, two companies have teamed up for a nationwide talent hunt.
Sahara India Parivar and Percept D' Mark are inviting young girls, aged between 18 and 25, and boys between 21 and 28 from all over the country to participate in a hunt that will end in a coveted role in a Hindi film.
The Delhi leg of the Sahara Manoranjan Mr. & Miss Bollywood contest was kicked off here Wednesday by actress and model Diya Mirza.
The contest hopes to promote its winners in the industry by providing them opportunities to work with well-known filmmakers.
The competition will be held in six centres -- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Chandigarh -- but applications will be accepted from all over the country.
Said Diya Mirza, who launched the event from the Barista Espresso bar in central Delhi's Connaught Place: "In our film industry, the key to success is not just about possessing the talent. It is also about meeting the right people."
Dressed all in white lace, she said, "I am really excited about being part of this initiative, because it will allow so many passionate and dedicated youngsters to live their dreams."
"Usually it takes at least three years' time in the industry to find your footing and gain proper exposure. I am still struggling to a certain extent. These youngsters are really lucky since they will be presented in the right light to the right people from the very start," she added.
Said Rauf Ahmed, creative consultant of events at Percept D' Mark: "It has been quite a while since an Amitabh Bachchan, a Rajesh Khanna or a Shah Rukh Khan from outside the industry has made it big in Bollywood. This is because there is no organised system of identifying fresh talent across the country."
"In fact, even Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra had surfaced through a talent hunt then," he recalled.
The selection process will involve two screening rounds after the initial auditioning.
The auditioning round, which is expected to shortlist approximately 300 candidates, will give way to round one where candidates will be tested for their acting skills, diction, personal style and rhythm.
The 30 contestants (15 boys and 15 girls) who top in the first round will undergo a 15-day grooming programme in Sahara's Amby Valley in Maharashtra and put through a second round of selection.
In round two, they will face an advisory board comprising known faces like Asha Parekh, Karan Johar, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Ken Ghosh, Mahesh Bhatt, Manish Malhotra, Raveena Tandon, Smita Thackeray and Sarika.
It will finally culminate in the crowning of Mr. Bollywood and Miss. Bollywood, the best male and best female actors.
The top six contestants will be given leading roles in films to be made by successful filmmakers like Mahesh Bhatt, Rajkumar Santoshi, Ken Ghosh, Priyadarshan, Vishal Bharadwaj and E. Nivas. The 24 finalists will also be considered for roles in films and television.