Highs and lows of OTT: Celebs weigh in!
Last year, India’s over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms were one of the fastest growing markets. The OTT space blossomed and how. The medium not only rose to the occasion and provided entertainment during the months of lockdown and pandemic but also provided ample opportunity to the entertainment industry, generating employment not just for the filmmakers, actor but technicians and even daily wage workers.
While a lot has been celebrated about the streaming platforms, including some unusual, unexpected and engaging content, exhaustive original and international content, investment in regional content, popular, new and some established actors showcasing their talent while writers basking in the glory of stories that hit home. But with the rise, there have been some concerns and downsides to the medium as well. Average content, repetitive stories and rushed jobs to make the deadline have been noticed by the industry and audiences and not appreciated at all.
Pankaj Tripathi, admits he doesn’t watch web shows, as he can’t spend hours on end on one. “I know the audiences enjoy my work but I am that halwai, jo apni mithai khud nahin khata. I enjoy watching regional films and world cinema. But what I enjoys about the OTT space is the fact that independent films that weren’t available to the audiences earlier, now are. It is wonderful that so many gems are being appreciated,” says the Mirzapur actor, who enjoyed the Tamil satire, Mandela and Jyeshthoputro (2019).
The Little Things and Tribhanga (2020) actor Mithila Palkar, who has been a part of streaming platforms since six years, feels OTT is a very liberating medium compared to other spaces. She is glad that there’s something for everyone’s interest. “If you recommend ten shows to your friend and they don’t like it, there are 20 other shows to catch their interest. A plethora of content for every mood, genre, language, without a time limit! I love being on the platform as there’s a story to tell for everyone and also because, as an artist, we have equal opportunity as the entertainment industry has become a common playground now. It’s exciting.”
Delhi Crime’s Rasika Dugal, too, agrees that “there’s room for everyone”, and that’s what she likes about the current phase of the OTT space. “I celebrate that there’s so much different content out there that people can access. No one genre rules, as a variety of content is consumed. The genres of Paatal Lok, Made In Heaven, Mirzapur, Out of Love, Delhi Crime, Panchayat are all different and told differently and there’s audience for all. I’m encouraged by that there is no formula yet. Aisa nahin hai ke only one thing can be successful but many concepts can co-exist,” she says.
Namit Das, wonders how different life would have been had the lockdown occurred 25 years ago without the internet and of course, the entertainment on OTT platforms. “Had the lockdown happened without the internet, we would have been shutdown and in a bad state. Thank God for OTT, as it provided entertainment and helped us all in a big way,” says the Aarya actor, adding, “What I really like about OTT, is the freedom to tell many kinds of stories and therefore many kinds of actors get a place to express themselves. But other than OTT platforms there’s Youtube and Instagram, too, where one can put any kind of content. The online world welcomes creators and artists and the sky is the limit and what it has provided to the entertainment industry is phenomenal.”
Having appeared in web shows, Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain, Yeh Meri Family (YMF), M.O.M - Mission Over Mars and Black Widows, Mona Singh feels OTT gives actors options to be part of a variety of stories which weren’t “available on TV or the big screen”. “As an audience, I enjoy binge watching and not waiting for episodes. As an actor, I appreciate that content is shot like a film and writers and actors are given opportunities to explore experiment. The stories in Pataal Lok, YMF, Panchayat, Family Man and even Narcos, Queen of South and Money Heist were amazing and they are some shows I binged on,” she shares.
Not all hunky dory
While a lot has been talked about the upside of OTT and most of it have been fair observations, there are some downsides too. In the business of entertainment, herd mentality is one of the few things that do end up upsetting the balance. Not just viewers but actors, filmmakers and writers too have been expressing their views against too much violence, unnecessary nudity and expletives in shows and movies online and with everyone rushing to get a piece of this huge pie, clutter on the web is something to watch out for.
But Dugal has an interesting point of view regarding clutter. She explains that with any space, there is bound to be clutter and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you have the choice to watch what you prefer. “Watching films in a theatre is different from watching films on a streaming site, as in theatres, one film is being watched at the cost of another. There are only so many theatres that can show so many films. On streaming space, many films can find their way. The way of viewing encourages the thought that one is not at the cost of the other. So clutter isn’t bad. But I get that at times, things get formulaic and people try to repeat what worked and not necessarily with as good a result as the earlier stories. Yet I would call it a healthy space as long as there is room for all,” she says.
For Singh, nudity, expletives and violence used in shows, just to grab attention are a no-no as they are for Tripathi, who doesn’t like “sansani” of any kind. “Even if a writer pushes for them, one has to understand the need for it in the story. Excess of anything isn’t beneficial for anyone,” he explains. Though Das doesn’t have problem with any of the above, he agrees that sensationalism is what one should avoid. Palkar reveals that she won’t watch content she doesn’t like and as she doesn’t necessarily enjoy violence she has watched Mirzapur and Game of Thrones. “I liked them for the story, making, acting and writing. It’s the makers’ discretion whether to use violence, bad language or nudity and on OTT, you have so many options that one can move on, if they don’t like something. But it is important for all of us to be responsible as makers to know what we are doing.”