Yes, we know there’s a charm to the bada purdah. The community-viewing experience mixed with the smell of cheese popcorn and the hoots and whistles and applause is something else altogether. That won’t die down. However, in the past decade, OTT platforms have churned out far better fare than the trash we’re used to seeing in the theatres (exceptions are there, of course, but majorly trash). A show on OTT platforms earlier used to be dominated by the Mithila Palkars and Dhruv Sehgals of the world but now, major players of the big screen like Saif Ali Khan, Swara Bhasker, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai and Jacqueline Fernandes have made the shift smoothly.
Remember Angira Dhar of Love Per Square Foot? She and Vicky Kaushal stole the show in the Netflix original, which received rave reviews and publications such as Hindustan Times and Firstpost went on to call it better than usual Hindi films, complete with a stellar cast and writing. “Being an actor, there’s never been a better time for exploring characters in all formats. Web is largely a writer and an actor format since the audience stay with you for a longer time, and it’s creatively satisfying. OTT gives you a free-hand at exploring and conveying your story across,” says Dhar. Will she choose OTT over traditional cinema? “I’ve grown up watching cinema. It’s my first love. If I absolutely have to make a choice, traditional cinema would be my first,” she adds.
Kabir Khan is one of the most successful directors we’ve got in Bollywood. His mirch-masala movies rake in the money and are as big as the stars he casts in them. Yet, he believes that his biggest venture till date is The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye. “2020 and every year from here on, there will only be growth on the web space in India. I think OTT platforms are here to stay. In Hollywood, the medium budget drama-telling genre has already shifted to the OTT, whether it’s Amazon or Netflix or HBO and now, Apple, Disney and all others are coming in,” Khan says. Emmy-nominated producer Ashi Dua, who has produced on Netflix’s Ghost Stories and Lust Stories, feels the web space is more flexible than the traditional media space. “In the web space, we Indians are watching content from so many countries and of different languages, so I feel that the web space is more universal,” she explains. What excites actor Saqib Saleem about the web is that the content being produced is at par with the kind of stuff happening in the West. Like, look at Sacred Games or Mirzapur or Rangbaaz. However, actress Elnaaz Norouzi who played Zoya in Sacred Games makes a case for the cinematic feel of certain films that are meant to be watched on the big screen, and says, that, while there are certain films meant for your couch, traditional cinema viewing experiences cannot be replaced.
Mithila Palkar is literally a child of the Internet, and she rightly calls it her pad. “The internet is my home. People have literally seen me go from nothing to something and have been a part of my journey,” says Palkar. She agrees that she wouldn’t be much without the Internet and today, she is one of the most recognisable faces out there. From Little Things opposite Dhruv Sehgal to Chopsticks where she shared screen space with Abhay Deol, Palkar has cashed in on the most expensive property on the web — relatability. When asked where she sees the Indian web space go in 2020, she lets out a long ‘oh’ sound which tells me everything I need to know.
Another major player in the Indian webspace is ALT Balaji, which has broken innumerable boundaries with their bold and entertaining content. “The growth of the OTT industry includes various factors such as increasing internet penetration, adoption across demographic segments, growing demand of quality content, and ease and comfort of viewers, among others. We have been successfully catering to the demands of our audience keeping all the factors in mind,” says Divya Dixit, Senior VP of Marketing at ALT Balaji. Netflix divulges in some number details to add some more weightage to our obsession with the growth of OTT.
In 2019 and 2020, Netflix will invest Rs. 3,000 crore in content in India. We have already announced over 40 productions (films and series) across genres and have released 20 of them, which included series such as Sacred Games, Bard of Blood, films like Chopsticks and House Arrest and kids’ series such as Mighty Little Bheem. “I think the Indian web space is going to change the game completely in 2020,” says actor Raj Bhansali, in simple terms. Hence, proved. Content, good content, on our phones is the future. And we couldn’t have had it any better.