Free Press Journal

Bollywood’s cashing in on the web-series fever


Silver screen actors foraying into television is passé; the latest trend is web series and Bollywood is all set to encash from the most favourite medium of the gen-next, writes Nikita Wadhawan

Today’s youth live in their cell phones. What’s not on mobile doesn’t exist for them. Be it knowledge, news, games or entertainment. Indian television and today’s youth are as far from each other as two poles on earth and with the advent of web series, people have both the option of time and content. Waiting for a week to watch the next episode is a passé; binge-watching is the new fad. And it was only time that web series catches the attention of Bollywood biggies like Farhan Akhtar, Ekta Kapoor, Vikram Bhatt and many more. With the censor board breathing down Bollywood’s neck, the web medium is offering filmmakers the much-needed relief from ‘sanskari’ CBFC, time restrictions and wider reach to the audience.

New fad in B-town
With big names like Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani launching their ambitious web series ‘Inside Edge’, other actors and filmmakers have also started eyeing this new and emerging medium. Actor Saif Ali Khan says while showing his interest, “I am definitely interested in doing web series. It’s a new medium and there is a lot of fun stuff one can do there. There is no censor, the scripts are different, and the characters are interesting.”

For filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj the ‘no limitation’ factor is the main attraction. “The format is really exciting, especially for filmmakers, because in films we have to compromise in terms of detailing as duration is generally two to three hours, but there is no such limitation in the web series space,” says Bhardwaj as expressing his interest in making a web series soon.

On the other hand, actors like Arjun Kapoor are still watching these developments on the sidelines. “It is still a very new medium, it is still growing. Let us see how it does and then I will think of jumping into it,” he says. Even Tanuj Virwani, who made his web debut last week was apprehensive at first. “When I was informed about this project, I was in two minds as it is still a very growing medium. But then agreed to it as names like Farhan and Ritesh were attached to this,” Tanuj confesses.

Tanuj Virwani

Native but international
We are not the only ones out there; contents from around the globe compete here to grab your attention. With so much competition it will take something extremely unique to stand out. “I had the fortune to meet the head of Fox and he told me a mantra that is so apt – be native but think international. You need to have the ‘desi’ feel but have the potential to go international with it. You have to match up to their benchmark, but the stories should have your special feel to it,” says filmmaker Goldie Behl.

This was also something that prompted Ritesh to make a web series. “With our original story, I believe we will amplify the presence of Indian entertainment to the global audience. Not only our style of stories but also talents who are a part of this,” says the producer of Inside Edge.

For TV honcho Ekta Kapoor, her ALT Balaji app gave her the freedom to reach out to different types of people and cater to their unique taste. “Today everyone has a smartphone. For television, you have to come home to watch and everybody has to like it for the series to work. This is not the case with the web series, we have created 25 shows for five different types of people. It is made to order and one size fits all. You are not forced to watch a family drama,” says Ekta, who is also known as the pioneer of the saas-bahu wave in Indian television and its popularity among the audiences.

Actors take
Vivek Oberoi who also made his digital debut recently shed some light on how ‘binge-watching’ is the biggest challenge now. “With binge watching becoming a lifestyle, I think the challenge in a web series is to keep your audience engaged. All that matters is how interesting the content is… Can it hold an audience for many hours?” questions the ‘Krrish 3’ actor.

But for an actor, this medium helps them gradually evolve in their character without it being dragged on for months. “According to me, as an actor, you get a lot more time of stretch out your character and build an arch for it. There is a dramatic change in how characters are at the start to the end. Many times in films you need to have songs, so a lot of time goes in that. After all that you have one or one and a half hour to execute and build up your story, which is not enough,” adds Tanuj.

Arjun Kapoor

Breaking the wall
Content is not just limited to India anymore, with the help of this medium we are also reaching out to an international audience. “It is the next step — to reach out to the global audience with our original stories like we are also enjoying entertainment from across the globe,” Ritesh says. Adding to that Vivek talks about the exposure to worldwide content, being influenced by it, and language is not being a barrier anymore. “This will reach out to more than 200 countries across the globe. Somebody sitting in a far off country who has no idea about me or cricket will watch the show and get to know about it. Like the way I had no idea about the cocaine business, nor do I know Spanish, but I still watch ‘Narcos’.”