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 or streaming platforms 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 impressed in 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.”
“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 44-year-old described streaming platforms as a nursery where fresh talent could bloom 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,” the actor said.
Tripathi, who stepped into the spotlight in 2012 with a small role in the two-part film saga ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’, added that content is king on streaming services, a relity that was perhaps absent during the celluloid era.
He will be seen next in the Netflix film ‘Mimi’, alongside Kriti Sanon, which drops on the streamer on July 30.
The January release of ‘The White Tiger’ on Netflix highlighted actor-singer Adarsh Gourav who was nominated three months later in the Lead Actor category at the 74th British Academy of Films and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards.
Gourav 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,” he said.
“Everyone’s focus is on innovating and making better stories,” Gourav continued, adding the change also spelt “more opportunities for actors, creators, technicians”.
Actress 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,” Gabbi said, and added the focus of streamers 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 added. “This is how it should have been all this while.”
And that’s not all from her persepective. “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,” she added.
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 Massey, who has acted in ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Broken But Beautiful’ and legal drama ‘Criminal Justice’ to list some.
He was last seen in the Netflix film ‘Haseen Dillruba’ and will also feature in the upcoming Zee5 film ‘14 Phere’.
Actor Tamannaah Bhatia, who was in the crime thriller ‘November Story’, feels 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,” she 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 actress continued. “The way cinema is viewed is going to be different.”