Over-the-top stuff: big Bollywood stars are all for it!
Right from the start, movie stars and their magnetism have been synonymous with the bright 70mm screen. Although the advent of satellite television added a new dimension to ‘stardom’, the charming appeal of big screen has remained largely intact. But now, as over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms become the buzzword in showbiz, especially during the lockdown, a number of top-notch Bollywood stars seem to be all for joining the bandwagon with original, exclusive content for OTT platforms (besides several big films that have already been bought by OTT platforms).
Get, set, go!
For starters, Akshay Kumar is set to make his digital debut next year with an action-thriller web show for Amazon Prime, The End, while Katrina Kaif will be seen in Netflix’s two-part superhero film series, to be helmed by filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar. Talks are also rife that Shahid Kapoor will be seen in an action-thriller film on Netflix, which is reportedly based on the Operation Cactus that the Government of India launched in the Maldives in 1988.
Ajay Devgn, too, is believed to be gearing up for an OTT debut with a Hindi adaptation of Idris Elba-starrer Luther. Then, Hrithik Roshan has apparently been offered a couple of options, by Disney+Hotstar, to choose from —the Indian adaptations of the The Night Manager (2016) and the 1983 miniseries, The Citadel. Also, Aamir Khan is said to be readying to adapt Mahabharata into a top-notch “multi-season franchise like Game of Thrones”, for Netflix.
“I am not surprised but big screen will always remain top stars’ focus. After all, they are called ‘big stars’ because of their box office prowess etc. OTT may be the alternate platform for them where they so some experimental sort of work,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh, adding: “Internationally too, that’s the career trajectory big stars took, and the same was going to happen in Bollywood too.” But Adarsh is “confident that the charm of big screen isn’t going anywhere.”
OTT on a high
At the same time, it’s interesting to note that during the Covid-19 induced lockdown, the ascent of OTT platforms has been on top speed. To put things in perspective, a report by Ormax states that 12.21 million Hindi general entertainment channel viewers watched original content on streaming for the first time during the lockdown. And another estimate suggests that many older TV shows have lost viewership by 20-30%, largely to OTT content. Also, the latest report by The Boston Consulting Group titled Entertainment Goes Online suggests that the Indian OTT market is expected to reach $5 billion in size by 2023.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta concurs with Adarsh that the big screen “will always have its special charm” but also opines that the rise of OTT platforms as well as top names getting attracted towards them “is a much-needed, welcome change.” “For ages, actors’ destinies have been tied only to the vagaries of Fridays. OTT platforms level the playing field in a democratic manner, regardless of the ‘stature’ of the actors / stars. When there’s status quo about anything for such a long time, something like this (OTT) comes up to balance the equation,” says Mehta, who is working on a web series, based on slain gangster Vikas Dubey.
Experts also believe that the economics of an OTT platform’s eco-system is “currently very different as well as higher” as compared to a film. For example, Kaif-starrer superhero series is said to be budgeted at a whopping Rs 200 crore, while Kumar is believed to be making Rs 90 crore for his web show. “Of course, the money is huge. Otherwise, why do you think everyone would be so interested,” says Adarsh, adding that “big stars would eventually balance out their work between all the mediums, the way they did when satellite TV space had exploded.”
For Kumar, it’s all about the “connect with the youth.” “I have always believed in bringing innovation to my work and throughout my career, have tried to tell unique stories, work with break-through talent and be part of disruptive and high quality story-telling. On this medium [OTT], I want to create something extraordinary and connect with the youth,” says the superstar, who was encouraged by his son, Aarav Bhatia to take the digital plunge.
Been there, done that!
Of late, a number of actors – indie as well as from Bollywood – have either already started /or are readying to work on various OTT projects. Abhishek Bachchan and Amit Sadh recently had a digital tryst with Breathe: Into The Shadows, while R Madhavan and Sadh have featured in seen in a show titled Breathe. Names such as Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Sacred Games series) and Manoj Bajpayee (The Family Man) among others have already made their presence felt in the OTT space. “Just imagine, the kind of opportunities OTT space gives to talents of all kind, be it new or experienced,” says Mehta.