This is the last part of the interesting sharing of ideas and details about the present OTT scenario. As we ended up the third part with discussing how comedy genre drew much traction , this part three of the dialogue begins with a trailing question- whether which format is more viable to audience – films or web series
Anup: Manish, what has more traction? Do films have more traction, or your specials and series have more traction? And if anybody in the audience wants to pitch for any specific genre, do you have any preference?
Manish: At the risk of sounding repetitive, stories are format agnostic, you can tell a good story in 150 minutes, or you can take about 500 minutes to tell the same story. A poor story told in a series will not be watched, and similarly for movies. So, I think we rely on good story telling. And, there are a couple of things I believe that work in both cinema and in long format, and cinematic long form entertainment. First one is definitely how raw or how rooted a story is. I personally believe the more rooted the story, the more global the consumer. The second one is relatability. What makes me feel like this is a character or there’s somebody in the story whom I am rooting for, or someone whom I absolutely dislike. The third one is, it has to be real. Escapism has its own stake in story telling, but a lot of realism is coming back. In the middle of all of this we’ll see everything from a ‘Family Man’ to a ‘Jai Bhim’, or ‘Sarpetta’. So, its not that movies will work more than stories, or vice versa. Good films and good series both have the same traction. We would like to tell a lot of long form cinematic stories, but they take a lot of time to develop. So, we lean on licensing films, so we can tell more stories in a given period of time. Each one has its own terms as to why consumers watch them. And in regional content, supply of films is more than series. So, our objective across platforms for South would be to find more series coming.
Anup: Gaurav, there is a feeling that you are control freaks. Not just you, I’m talking about all the platform players, the subject is sometimes changed completely from what was pitched. I know somebody in the audience who was affected by this. Why don’t you empower production houses to do their job?
Gaurav: It’s a good question. We do have a producer on the panel who should answer on our behalf, since he has worked with I think every platform. I’m talking about Sameer, but I will not put him in a spot. So, I think, yes, there are lots of times in which there are lots of conflicts between us and the producer, and the writers, that certainly happens. Is there a way of doing this better? Can we, can producers and writers, learn anything from this? Yes, absolutely. One of the first reasons for why it is happening is because the starting point for both people is different right? We are on the platform, so we understand from consumers what they want. Often people think that it is a little bit of a power game, and that people on the side of the platform are trying to be creative. But I don’t think it is that, most of the time. Because that is not the mark of a good executive, and in most work cultures, such people will not find success, and therefore, not reach decision making positions. If there are people out there who are wanting to pursue executive positions, one thing that really works in your favour is if you’re being able to put together heads, and if you have done that, then you must really have the ability to work with makers and earn their trust and respect. When you are a creator, you are deeply engaged about one idea, and about taking it forward. But you are also necessarily not exposed to everything that’s happening in the environment. That is where a company with dedicated resources, which understands data and consumers gets a 360 degree view. So I think, at the heart of good creativity is fantastic dialogue, and amazing partnerships. So, all platforms are looking at chemistry, between creators, producers, and executives. Both know that it is their duty to push each other towards getting a quality project that audience enjoy. Because all of us are together in the service of fans.
Anup: Sameer, there are a lot of production houses in the audience, if they have to re invent themselves, what should they do?
Sameer: I think its not much about re-invention, its about re-learning. The production community, in the last twenty years, has split into two, the tv industry and the film industry. Film industry has been there for 100 years, they have their own rhythm of working. TV industry has become more of a commissioned model, where the channel commissions a producer to make the content. Everyone likes independence, creative freedom. But there are two parts, one is learning that this is a new business and the next is the risk. As they say it takes a village to make a film, I think it takes a city to make a series.
Anup: Siju, we all know Maniratnam is coming up with Ponniyin Selvan. But why is it that the OTT platforms are not exploiting the great literary works? For example this year is the 100th death anniversary of Bharathiyar. Are we taking any specific steps for showcasing literary works in future?
Siju: Frankly not enough efforts are taken. There are film makers like Vetrimaran who consistently goes to books as the first source for his films, then he ofcourse has his craft. In Malayalam we have more of literary works made into films, especially during the 80s and 90s. The other aspect in south is that writing is seen as a via media to directing by many creators. In south its mostly like if you want to direct, you should also write, whereas in North direction and writing have two separate teams. But the kind of content creation that is required across platforms, I think we would at some point need specialists, we can go back to literary works and then make movies from there. Another point is, it is a double-edged sword while adopting a literary work. There are rights issues, there are certain books that we want to take but it is very complicated. There are multiple layers to that, but we are not doing as much as we want to.
Anup: Gaurav, is south replacing Bollywood?
Gaurav: I don’t think its replacing Bollywood, I think it’s helping Bollywood grow and is helping Indian cinema grow and that is fantastic to watch. Honestly, I think it starts with this city, and Tamil cinema with stars like Kamal Hasan, Rajnikanth, film makers like Shankar,
Maniratnam, we are witnessing the manifestation of their strength not just nationally, but also globally.
Anup: Sameer, why are all platforms chasing big names, big celebrities?
Sameer: I don’t think that’s a true statement. If we look at how the opportunities have increased across the platforms. I always like to say that movies are like being in the national cricket team, and tv was like playing domestic cricket, and now OTT streaming is like IPL.
Anup: No, why I asked this is there was a comment in a popular news website, saying that OTT platforms have approached big names for content in south, but not all of them turned out to be good, OTT in south needs tinkering if not overhaul. They are looking at the wrong places and failing to identify talent. Hence, this question.
Sameer: If that’s how it’s seen, and going by the audience claps, I am sorry and we would do better. This is not what we intended. In our defence, this has just started and we will get there.
Anup: Manish what is your vision and promise for south?
Manish: We started committing to creators of regional languages since 2016. We will continue to invest. We don’t work through agents, we work directly. Please find a way to approach someone at Amazon and we’ll get back to you. We are just looking for a unique narrative and story telling.
Monica: I think new voices are very important. This media of streaming and entertainment really thrives on non-formulate story telling. Experience and Experimentation both are equally important. I am confident looking at the ideas and craft that’s here in Dakshan I feel there is a potential to break out in the global stage.
Gaurav: Amazing stories. There is incredible talent here, and this talent needs a massive stage. The promise is that this can and should get scaled up to a massive audience in our country and through the global streaming platforms across the world. The blinkers about star power that were on earlier, are getting removed. This is the best of times for all of us.
Siju: We have just committed 10 to 12 web series in Tamil. We genuinely want to work with new creators. Our commitment is to the script. We stay true to that. But we also want to work with the best in the industry and learn from them.
Anup: Thank you all for all the hopes and promises. All of us are hungry to do our best.
As the crescendo had it’s dusk there was nothing but hope that mantled upon the film makers and producers. There is no end for a beginning is what can be concluded . Here blooms a realm of a new platform that is more accessible , people friendly and absolutely entertaining .
Article is authored by Anup Chandrasekharan.