Scripting success on web medium but are writers getting their due on OTT?
While good writing is the backbone of OTT content, experts weigh in on whether writers get their due
It is often believed that cinema is a director’s medium and theatre is an actor’s medium. And recently, OTT has come to be considered as the writer’s medium. But do they get their appropriate due once a show strikes gold?
According to Charudutt Acharya, writer of Aranyak, writers are incrementally getting a better deal on streaming platforms, but “it entirely depends on the production house and also on how the OTT platform promotes and nurture writers”. He explains, “Sudeep Sharma of Paatal Lok got his well-deserved due for not just being the writer but also as a creator and show runner. That kind of responsibility, trust and skin in the game is good for writers and the show both. The general perception of audiences is that writers just write a story and then the directors bring it to life. While that is true, many do not understand that screenplay writing is a complex and difficult technical craft.”
Once you have a successful series, one gets enough work and credit feels Niren Bhatt, writer of Asur. “A Panchayat, Mirzapur or Gullak will only get made if it has something different. So writers who bring newer concepts are always welcome,” he says, adding, “I have been working for over two decades and I have to admit that the situation today is much better than it was 10 years ago in terms of opportunities and recognition.” Bhatt says while shows like Little Things, The Family Man, Sacred Games, Delhi Crime etc. are diverse in genre, the common thread in them is that the writers of these shows have stood out.
Kanika Dhillon, who wrote Haseen Dillruba, calls OTT “a beautiful place”. She sees it as an empowering and welcome medium for the writers if they chose to explore it to the fullest: “With extended seasons, writers often hold the soul of the show together by lending the creative consistency required for a long format storytelling. As for freedom of exploring ideas, it all depends on the core idea and the commitment a writer wants to lend.”
Filmmaker Rohan Sippy, who co-wrote Aranyak, admits that credit is being given to writers but there is room for more. He notes, “In the West, writers get acknowledged when they become more involved in the production. Tabbar and Mirzapur are examples of shows where the writers were involved in both writing and direction and got credit — though it might be tough to say what they got more credit for. But viewers need to understand that if the writing is likeable, it is difficult to like the other aspects of a show.”
Sippy also believes that writers in India deserve better credit as it is not easy to shift gears from daily TV programming to the web space. “OTT’s a writer’s medium but there are many ‘creators’ on a project. In India, the boom is relatively new, so writers do deserve a lot of credit and it can get better,” he says. He also feels there is often little scope for credit for the writers who adapt Western show and concepts for Indian screens. He shares, “I’m hopeful that in the coming years, studios will back more writers and their creativity, as opposed to blindly copying concepts that have worked overseas.”