'OTT has boosted experimentation to another level'
Panellists Sukesh Nayak, Apurva Asrani, Soumendra Padhi, Pratik Gandhi and Maanvi Gagroo discussed democratisation of content on OTT & future of OTT in India, at e4m Play Streaming Media Conference
exchange4media Group held the second edition of its one-day event on OTT titled e4m Play Streaming Media Conference & Metal Announcements on May 12, 2021, at 2 pm. The awards honoured excellence in the on-demand video and audio content.
Several content creators, video platforms, leading brands, and advertisers congregated to discuss the future of OTT while conducting a deep dive into the ecosystem. One of the sessions saw Apurva Asrani, Screenwriter, Shahid, Aligarh, Criminal Justice; Soumendra Padhi, Film Director, Jamtara & Budhia Singh; Pratik Gandhi, Actor, Scam 1992-The Harshad Mehta Story, Be Yaar & Wrong Side Raju; and Maanvi Gagroo, Actor, Four More Shots Please, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhan, TVF Tripling & Pitchers, converge to discuss whether OTT has democratized creativity and stardom in a session chaired by Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India.
Sukesh Nayak commenced the session by posing a question to the panel on whether OTT truly democratises the shows and stories and stardom.
Manvi Gangroo said that the internet by definition is a democratic medium and anyone with access can become a content creator and find themselves an audience that they might not have had access to earlier.
“Merit is still a far cry from watching/creating content; it is democratic from an entry to the industry point of view. The system is the same but the currency has changed, like the number of followers or views. It does still not merit, unfortunately.”
Pratik Gandhi said that democratization has happened and his presence on the panel is proof of it.
“One series changed my life. I have been in this industry for the last 16 years. People thought that Scam was my first project but I got this after 16 years of my work on stage and regional cinema.”
Apurva Asrani pointed out that the reason people like him are being celebrated today is because of OTT. “I have always pursued offbeat stories or stories that may have dark elements. These are important stories for people to discuss which will end up being shared in a chain effect.”
Soumendra Padhi said that OTT gives creators the freedom to choose their actors. “Stardom is a beast because stardom always interferes with your story-telling like the character and how to portray it. We should separate creativity and stardom because they are in complete contradiction to each other as the character has to reflect the personality of the star.
Nayak went on to ask the panelists about the kind of audience OTT attracts in India to which Gagroo said that the reach of a show has been amplified and it will find an audience. “It doesn’t matter what the concept of the show is as there’s a whole gamut of different shows from which people can choose.”
Asrani said that the beauty of this OTT lies in how it has increased the shelf life through posterity. “Whenever you feel like watching a show, you can go back. There are no numbers in OTT as you cannot quantify your show by Friday box office or weekend audience numbers.”
Gandhi surmised that the audience for offbeat content was there earlier also but it was difficult for creators to reach out to the right audience. “It is like an egg and a chicken situation as makers say that audience do not watch experiments and audience says that we cannot watch it if one does not make it. Regional cinema has limited resources; revenue generation possibilities are low. We hardly used to get theatres. OTT has boosted experimentation to another level.”
He added that a story might not be understood by the large theatrical audience theatres but now there is an audience to whom creators can deliver their content.
Nayak then asked about the impact of international shows coming to India and how they might have helped in opening people up towards different stories.
Gagroo said that it helps when you are pitching shows to OTT platforms as she said that a joke which does not sit well during a pitch starts working for the executives if they are told that it is there in a show like Friends. “I am not a huge fan of it as it leaves little room for original ideas.”
Gandhi said that the cross-industry benchmark of these shows helped all the creators. “Earlier we used to hear people say that these shows work there but not in India. Our audience is different. When these shows released in India, people started talking about it on social media and they started making memes.” He added that their acceptance is an indicator that the audience is ready.
Asrani concluded the session by remarking that the foreign shows have helped but the shows which are really doing well are shows which are completely original like Jamtara, Scam 1992 and Paatal Lok. “These shows teach us to mine from our own lives and from our own stories.”
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