The sheen of a Bollywood film star appears to be fading as more and more actors find meaty roles and more screen time on digital platforms.
The fact that the world of web series has opened up varied shades of characters, more than mainstream films in India have ever done, has not gone unnoticed by the talented lot in the industry. And if they are lucky enough to bag a role in big digital projects, the big bucks will soon follow.
No wonder, actors as Pankaj Tripathi — regarded as a character actor in Bollywood until recently — have suddenly become the toast of movie enthusiasts. Others such as Ali Fazal and Emraan Hashmi have finally managed to prove themselves as actors on digital platforms after Bollywood barely gave them space to showcase their talent.
Tripathi is a known name in the industry circles today, following films such as ‘Apaharan’, ‘Omkara’, ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’ and ‘Stree’. His switch to web shows including ‘Sacred Games’ (Netflix), ‘Mirzapur’ (Amazon Prime Video) and ‘Criminal Justice’ (Hotstar), however, are the roles that have fans excited.
“I think every actor wants to be in the digital space because its reach is wide and, yes, in terms of money, it is no less than films. It is equivalent — and in some cases of big shows on big platforms, they are actually more,” Tripathi says.
He feels an important factor that attracts actors to the digital medium is the duration of the shows.
“There is no time limit of two hours, unlike [what you have in] films. There are eight, nine or 10 episodes, so we can go in depth while approaching characters, which is difficult in cinema. You need to tell your story in two hours in movies, after all,” he added.
Fazal has had a steady career in Bollywood, aside from the odd outing in Hollywood, and yet he chose to explore the digital platform.
“In movies, you have to be at your heightened best in every single frame. Not that you don’t have to in a show. You have to but in a film, point a to b... half of the journey goes unsaid sometimes,” says the ‘Mirzapur’ actor.
“In many cases, I believe the money is lucrative,” he adds.
‘Cheers!’ actor Vijay Varma doesn’t see the trend of Bollywood actors doing web shows as a “big plunge”.
“It’s actually a smooth transition because it doesn’t affect your standing as a cinema actor [unlike TV] web thrives on untold, new age stories and makers and it’s fresh. Everyone wants to stay relevant and the youth today is consuming every bit of their entertainment on web,” says the ‘Gully Boy’ actor.
‘Inside Edge’ actor Angad Bedi believes web definitely offers “you something more in ways you can explore your character and that’s the best opportunity an actor can get”.
“I feel ready to do justice to the characters I play. Digital audiences give you the exposure to connect with younger audiences, as young as 20-25 year olds who are the primary audience base consuming the content. Content wave is moving digital and it’s opening up opportunities for several deserving talent,” he explains.
Now, several acclaimed actors including Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, R Madhavan and Vicky Kaushal are foraying the digital platform — in films as well as web series. Indian National Award-winning actor Manoj Bajpayee has also made his digital debut recently with ‘The Family Man’ (Amazon Prime Video).
“I am one of those actors who is constantly experimenting with choices. I did many short films that were released on digital platforms, and those narratives were quite unique. But I was waiting for the right kind of script to start my journey in the digital space. The web series is a new format in the entertainment business, and I wanted to do something different and interesting here,” Bajpayee says.
“I wasn’t staying away from web series but patiently waiting for the right project. Let me tell you, ‘The Family Man’ could have been an exciting show for any actor. I am very impressed by the way Raj and DK directed it.”
Actor Hashmi’s first web series ‘The Bard Of Blood’ also premieres on Netflix on September 27, with Jacqueline Fernandez soon to follow with ‘Mrs Serial Killer’, along with Abhishek Bachchan for ‘Breathe’ season 2 and Akshay Kumar for ‘The End’. The list is only getting longer.