The online rhapsody”¦

A boon for new actors, creative freedom for directors and writers and a treat for audience, digital platform is pushing the boundaries of acting and fast gaining popularity. Using the uninhibited structure of web realm, there is an influx of projects that opens opportunities for new actors who could not make it to Bollywood. Something like a new ”˜janam’ for actors, writers, directors who love to work with creative flexibility and content centric projects. Exposed to word class content, this medium is the perfect blend of millennium profoundness and future promise. Today, not only upcoming actors but sought after Bollywood names are also making a beeline for these OTT platforms namely Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar.

Ritu Ghai in New Delhi, talks to a few web entertainment players about the exhilaration and challenges of being online.

”˜We are here to entertain. With cyber popularity, we can reach out to a larger base of audience”, says Satyajit Sharma, a theatre actor from National School of Drama. With his disarming smile and personality, he had captured the audience attention as ”˜Basant’ in the TV serial, “Jijima” in 2008. An actor from Delhi since 1986, he shifted base in Mumbai in 1996 and has been working in theatre television and cinema ever since. A couple of years back, I suddenly started getting calls for web content. So many calls that I wondered if people had stopped making television and cinema. This was just before the explosion happened and I remember being slightly skeptical. Then ”˜Made In Heaven’ happened and I thought why not and it turned out to be a fantastic experience. Soon after I did a show for Alt Balaji which was equally good. The best part was that there were no deadlines and pressures of ‘we have to telecast tomorrow’. People could actually work peacefully”, he describes and finds online medium placed somewhere between the luxury of big cinema and detailed story telling that can happen on television. “So it’s the quintessential baby who borrowed the best genes from its two parents to grow much bigger and successful. However at this moment it stands where television was in the nineties. But it has a lot of promise and people have woken up to its true potential. I think web content is finding its feet and corrections on account of business, and content will follow taking it to awe inspiring proportions”, he details.

Satyajit Sharma

According to Satyajit, the essential skills to be in this medium remain the same. The main point is the length of format, which could be longer than cinema but not like the ‘never ending’ nature of television. “Essentially it boils down to storytelling and hence choice of content. In the Indian context it becomes so much more important given the diversity of audience base. It’s an animal we will just have to get used to and that’s the biggest challenge”, he says and advices upcoming actors to keep their sanity intact. “Because that’s the first casualty in the hurly burly of making it big. Work and money will come when it comes but it’s important to be ready when opportunity actually comes knocking”, he says and talks about his best moments when he got personal break throughs at work, interesting roles that are still cherished such as Basant in Ballika Vadhu. Talking about earnings in this medium, he is quick to say, “Never enough, but enough if all you wanted was to pick the tab”.

Pia Sukanya, film director with her first feature film, the comedy-mystery Bombairiya, on Netflix considers streaming platforms as a central part of the entertainment industry. “Certainly the Indie film depends on them much more. The absence of a Censor Board and not having ticket sales at the box-office to stress about, allows for more freedom and more mature storytelling. But one must have a deep understanding of all the tools of storytelling such as script, subtext, actor, camera, props, costumes, art direction, sound, action, improvisation. These can either affect the tone and style or support or jar with your intention. For the young and struggling actors, I must point out that it will always be a struggle, so enjoy it”, she chuckles.

Piya Sukanya, Director Bomabairiya

Her film on Netflix has been globally subtitled in 15 languages. She returned to India 13 years ago after having studied in New York, Florence and Cambridge. Pia talks about working with Adil Hussain as her best moment. “He placed his entire trust in my hands as he had not read the rest of the script and did not know the story! This was by design as I wanted his character to be in the dark. Total trust with a director is a gift that a great actor parts with readily. I aim to make more movies and series. Each one is a separate world and although one learns along the way, the challenges will always be different”, she briefly explains.

Deepak Mehrotra

Deepak Mehrotra, Casting Director and proprietor of DM Stars in New Delhi finds online medium playing a vital role in the entertainment industry. “It is through online medium that audience have easy access towards their beloved genres and contents. Now-a-days, movies which get released on screens have streaming partners and it gets featured there also. So, it’s obvious online medium is taking over entertainment industry and most probably every production is investing in online contents. I have been casting for various web series, films, TVC’s since 12 years and love what I do. And this love helps me to face this industry”, he details and adds, “Since the medium works on internet and internet is limitless, it has more than enough options to discover. Connection with the audience is important to get noticed on online medium”.

As for the actors struggling to get a break, Deepak Mehrotra says, “Keep struggling until you get what you are looking for as struggle never goes into vain if you are honest with yourself. Online Medium is a great way to get a break and many stars are emerging from it. Understand yourself and take a shot. Every morning I come to office with a single motive and that is to cast. Cast actors who are genuinely submerged into acting and the one who see themselves at a place after a certain period of time. I am also planning to start my venture in Mumbai soon as the city needs some freshness”, he says, citing his own trajectory on this platform

Talking about money earnings in this field, he feels it’s a hard medium to do business in this medium, “Rather any entertainment medium is hard to survive through. We do earn money but it’s more like give and take. DM stars primarily focusses on earning name so that actors know us and we can create more stars”, concludes Deepak Mehrotra.

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