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OTT is a whole new world that is democratic & quite liberating: Manoj Bajpayee

Manoj Bajpayee and Sandip Kapur, Founder, Promodome
Manoj Bajpayee and Sandip Kapur, Founder, Promodome

‘Bhonsle’, currently streaming on SonyLIV, once again brings to light the plight of migrants who leave their hometowns in search of a better life and livelihood, but have to face numerous hurdles and threats. The mass exodus of migrants, covered extensively by all news channels over the last two months and the horrible conditions faced by them on their journey back home, shook the entire nation. Today, their condition seems to have been forgotten by the nation, which has moved on to Unlock Mode and is more concerned about the India-China LAC stand-off.

Based in the chawls of Mumbai, ‘Bhonsle’ is the story of a world-weary, just-retired policeman, who befriends a North Indian girl and her brother amid growing resentment towards the migrant community.

Playing the title character is seasoned actor Manoj Bajpayee, who has delivered yet another stellar performance. Though made in 2018, the film has been released on this year direct to digital. Bajpayee has also co-produced the film.

The last few weeks have seen the release of quite a few offbeat films on OTT platforms, with more lined up for realise in the coming weeks, as there is no word yet on when cinema halls will be allowed to reopen, given the growing number of COVID-19 cases across the country.

Adgully spoke to Manoj Bajpayee and Sandip Kapur, Founder, Promodome, to know about 'Bhonsle', premiering the movie on an OTT platform, growth of the OTT space, marketing strategies in COVID-19 timesand more.

OTT primarily caters to a young male audience. Who is the TG for a film like ‘Bhonsle’?

Sandip Kapur: First of all, I would not agree that we get only a young audience base. Due to the lockdown and thanks to compelling content, I think OTT today targets all age groups. While the majority of viewers are youngsters, the TG base starts from 18 years and goes up to 60 years and even beyond.

Manoj Bajpayee: I would like to differ from Sandip. You see, the kind of content on OTT has been a concern for all parents as they wouldn’t want to expose their children to some of the OTT content which they feel is not appropriate for their young age. Similarly, the elderly might also find some of the content not suitable for their tastes. Hence, I think that was not a right observation.

‘Bhonsle’ had made rounds in the festival circuit before being released on SonyLIV. What interested them about the film?

Manoj Bajpayee: You know why I was interested in this? It was definitely because of the script. It was written in such a way that attracted me and I also feel that nobody has made a film on an old man with the backdrop of only the old man, who is a retired cop. He is fighting with the monotony of his retired life and loneliness. In the backdrop there is violent and a local crisis going on. Amid the crisis, chaos and riots, this guy doesn’t want to interact with the people outside. It has been put together so well, I don’t think I have seen anything like this before. That was an interesting thing.

SonyLIV took it up because of the same reason. In fact, they were far more excited than anybody else. I have interacted with SonyLIV and the manner in which they responded to the trailer has been very encouraging. They themselves began the promotions of the film and getting out the PR of the film, it is such a massive response to the initial promotion. That has given us quite a positive feeling about the whole thing.

What is your marketing strategy for the film since the usual channels of marketing are not available right now? How will it be different from a cinema premiere?

Manoj Bajpayee: The cinema premiere is for people who are well known and celebrities, making to the red carpet and all of that. But it is not the same for ‘Bhonsle’. The film is going to be there forever on SonyLIV.

Sandip Kapur: Every day is like weekend for us!

Manoj Bajpayee: When you release a film or stream it on OTT platforms, people start spreading the word if they like the film. They take to social media and open forums to express their opinion immediately, which in turn generate a lot of buzz for the film. So, it’s a whole new world that is democratic and quite liberating and it offers a level playing field. That’s the best thing about OTT platforms.

You are known to play quite gritty characters, do you think the OTT platform is a good fit for your style?

Manoj Bajpayee: I don’t know. I did ‘Satyamev Jayate’ too; my next film with Zee Studio is a comedy that will be called ‘Suraj Mangal Pali’, which will be released in theatres because that is its main focus. I have done a webseries like ‘Family Man’ for an OTT platform, I have done independent films like ‘Bhonsle’, which has also premiered on OTT platform. There are a few films that I have signed which will release in theatres. Every movie has its independent and different approach and grip.

Films that have an independent approach and stronger grip would prefer OTT platforms as OTT platforms guarantee far more audience than the theatres.

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