OTT adds spice to Indian content as Bollywood loses masala: Vikrant Massey, Pankaj Tripathi, others share their take

While Bollywood stays shut, video streaming portals are importing fresh talent, crispy content and bold ideas into India's entertainment industry that once banked on star power to crack the box office. Actors say over-the-top (OTT) services are spotlighting evolving preferences of new-age audiences into their streaming content.

“Change keeps happening,” said actor Pankaj Tripathi, who grabbed eyeballs ever since he shone on web crime thrillers such as "Mirzapur" and "Sacred Games". “It seems there is a time of change happening in cinema with the coming of OTT. There is no other option than OTT currently,” he said. “Stories are important on OTT. Who or what is in it is not important. His or her talent and performance matters. Storytelling matters more,” he added.

The actor also said OTT platforms are a nursery where fresh talent is blooming with ease. “I am happy about it. I can see one after another talent is coming through the advent of OTT. Especially for those who take time to get recognised through films and there is a possibility here on OTT,” Pankaj said.

"The White Tiger" on Netflix highlighted actor-singer Adarsh Gourav as he was nominated three months later in the Lead Actor category at the 74th British Academy of Films and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. Adarsh believes people are working harder than before to try and win over India's burgeoning online viewers.

“I'm glad that this happened because knowing that things aren't permanent, people work harder and don't take anything lightly. Everyone's focus is on innovating and making better stories,” Adarsh said, adding the change also spelt “more opportunities for actors, creators, technicians”.

Wamiqa Gabbi's tryst with web stardom came on the back of her performance as a steadfast cop in the Disney+ Hotstar-streamed "Grahan", which dealt with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The actress said she felt the tailwinds of creativity in India's film industry that for long stayed straitjacketed.

“Everyone who did not want anyone's approval to make a film or a series on a subject that is not really commercial, now they can,” Wamiqa said, and added the focus of OTT was ever more on content. “OTT has given us that door where I think we are all rushing in (and) I am glad that now more opportunities have been opened for film-makers, for writers, actors, producers," she shared.

“This is how it should have been all this while," the actress said and also added the OTTs have given filmmakers fewer hiccups to deal with. I believe that OTT platforms definitely have helped neutralise the budget debate in the industry. Instead of only casting A-listers in the lead, makers are now more receptive and willing to try out newer actors for their big, multi-million projects,” Wamiqa said.

Vikrant Massey, who has been a frequent face in the digital space, said a newer generation of viewers has come to stay. “They don't idol worship like probably people 20 years ago used to do,” said Vikrant, who has acted in "Mirzapur," "Broken But Beautiful" and legal drama "Criminal Justice'' to list some. “My nieces are eight and nine. They don't watch Indian content. They sit and watch Korean content,” he added.

Tamannaah Bhatia, who was in the crime thriller "November Story", felt the romance of darkened theatres and popcorn has jaded. “I just feel that the fan following one could have amassed, say, 10 years ago will be tricky for the generation today, because with the situation we are in owing to the pandemic, emotions around films are different,” Tamannaah said. “The whole idea of a star itself is changing very rapidly, and people are watching content and liking content for the content, and not just for an individual actor or individual talent. The way cinema is viewed is going to be different,” Tamannaah concluded.

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