OTT platforms are braver than films or TV in terms of edgy content: Namit Das
One of my earliest memories of actor Namit Das is an old Vodafone ad from the year 2009. In the ad, Das appears as a young college student checking his results. Appearing cocky, he is sure that he has failed his exams, but he is taken aback to find that he has, in fact, passed and then his expression is priceless as he looks around the empty college corridor to convey the ‘good news’. It is Das’ acting, without uttering a single word, that makes the ad worth remembering.
Son of popular Ghazal singer Chandan Dass and brother-in-law of actor Sumeet Vyas, Das has been steadily creating a name for himself in the television and OTT space, besides appearing in numerous ads. Given his musical background, Das is also a trained singer.
He has had a busy schedule during the lockdown, with recent work like ‘Aarya’, ‘Mafia’ and ‘A Suitable Boy’. He was also part of a short film called ‘Samskara’, which is in the spotlight currently.
Adgully caught up with Namit Das as part of the run-up to our marquee event – SCREENXX – where he spoke about his experience and reception with digital platforms, his first digital debut and many more.
You’ve appeared in a lot of digital series and shows during the lockdown. What was your experience working with different OTT platforms?
I have had a great experience working with OTT platforms, a lot of people have been asking me how this quarantine has been, I would say that it has been great, contrary to many people who have been really going through a tough time. Yes, I, too, have gone through some tough times, but it so happened that all of my releases have happened at this point of time and this has given my career and professional life a sort of jump which I haven’t seen in the last three or four years.
The experience of working for ‘Aarya’ was fantastic, ‘Mafia’ was another collaboration with the writers, directors and with Zee5, and ‘A Suitable Boy’ is getting rave reviews in the UK, we are eagerly waiting for it on Netflix in India. Overall, I am overall in a very good situation, and now this short film ‘Samskara’, which I had done three or three and a half years back, has suddenly popped up and is getting great reviews all over. It is getting a good amount of traction on YouTube and the platform that it has been released in. I don’t have anything to complain about, very frankly.
Apart from films and digital, you have also appeared in a lot of ads. What’s your appeal to brands?
Yes, I have appeared in many ads; I would say ‘ad se kaafi paisa ban jaata hai’! Having said that, I remember reading one comment on Instagram when ‘Aarya’ released which said, “Finally, iss ad wale ko bhi kaam mil gaya”. It’s their opinion, but yes, working in ads has given me a lot of exposure and it also keeps your machinery oiled. People take ads for granted, they say it is only 20 seconds or 1 minute long, but you have to communicate the message within that short time and it’s only that one expression you have to put in which conveys all – and that’s all that you have. I think it requires a different set of skills to do that and I feel that the sharpness in my skill has developed because I have been doing so many ads.
‘Samskara’ is currently in the spotlight. What’s your relationship with Indie cinema and observations on its reception on digital platforms?
When Sankalp contacted me to do this film, it was a passion project. He said, “I am making it out of my own money” and that’s how essentially Indie projects work. If you get a sponsor, well and good, but what do you do if you don’t have sponsors? You put in your own money, your own passion, your time into something which you don’t know what fruit it will bear in the future. That’s why kudos to Sankalp for making this happen, because it’s not a day’s job – he was writing and rewriting and then finally he came to me after six months since our first meeting and told me that he still wanted to do the film with me. Seeing his intense passion, I felt that I really needed to support this Indie effort and also support his vision. I really loved the idea of just posing these two realities side by side. The credit essentially goes to Sankalp and his passionate attitude towards something that he really believed in.
How has the entertainment industry been affected during the pandemic? How are you continuing to work through the current situation?
I haven’t worked – that’s the thing, I have been promoting the shows that I had shot for last year and I have been talking to people like this through Zoom and other mediums. I have been living the new normal like everyone else, but there is promise and there is hope because in the coming days I think I will be shooting for a film and a short film as well. I have started dubbing for the Hindi version of ‘A Suitable Boy’, which is going to be on Netflix. Things are starting slowly and taking their time, but nevertheless it’s like being born again. You are out there opening the shop with all the precautions and you are hoping for the best and it all looks very hopeful because what we faced in the last 4-5 months, I don’t think it can get worse than that.
What’s your view on the content and consumption happening on OTTs? Where’s the industry headed?
It is very interesting to see how it is panning out. There’s content out there that you look at all these OTT platforms, YouTube and even Instagram for that matter, because the content you are consuming on Instagram is also entertainment at the end of the day; it might be a shorter form, but it is entertainment, nevertheless. There are a variety of ways in which you can present yourself and artists can explore themselves. Technology is becoming very intrinsic to this expression, because if you have the right tools and knowledge about them, you can present yourself better. These are the challenges that one has to overcome, but otherwise it’s become a vast ocean in which we can explore ourselves.
As an artist, when did you debut on digital platforms? What has been the journey since working with digital content creators?
I have been doing ads and then ads have started playing out for Facebook, YouTube, and for the digital media. I think my first web show was called ‘Kaushiki’ for Viu. If you talk about digital content creators and people who are doing stuff individually, then I think there is more freedom per se. The OTT platforms in themselves are definitely braver than films or television because they have put out edgy material as part of their platforms. With digital creators, it is like working with independent filmmakers, so it’s an independent sort of approach – you have more freedom there because you are your own master.