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“OTT widening horizons for stakeholders, but needs to avoid getting into churn mode”

OTT platforms have democratised the entertainment industry, especially for actors struggling to get a break. Earlier, it was really tough for ambitious newcomers to get the right opportunity; today, the OTT ecosystem has changed all of that. In fact, OTT platforms have shattered the glass ceiling that prevented newcomers from showcasing their capabilities to the world. Moreover, OTT has also been giving opportunities to well-established cine stars to experiment with different kinds of roles and characters that are way different from their silver screen roles.

Adgully turned the spotlight on this burgeoning industry with its prime property – SCREENXX 2021. Day 2 of the mega event witnessed this largest gathering of stalwarts from the fast-growing entertainment industry that has risen to become a part of the digital world with growing OTT platforms and releases, which was held on October 7, 2021.

The panel discussion on ‘OTT: A Level playing field for Talent’, turned the spotlight on how OTT has expanded the horizons for actors. Joining in the discussion were

Bijoya Ghosh, Founder & CEO, Adgully – Moderator

Abhishek Banerjee, Actor

Gunjan Utreja, Actor, Host

Ravii Dubey, Actor

Gulfam Khan, Actor

Avantika Vandanapu, Actor

Anupria Goenka, Actor

Commencing the discussions, Bijoya Ghosh, Founder & CEO, Adgully, asked the panelists to share some of their personal experiences on working on OTT series and how it has helped them grow in this industry.

Sharing his experience, Abhishek Banerjee said, “I think it helped me build confidence to start with. I think it was 2015 when ‘Pitchres’ came out, which was the first one of the biggest shows. And I did one scene and had zero expectations from it. However, that caught the public’s attention, there were youngsters who came to me and spoke to me about my character and loved my scene and that one scene became a rage amongst youngsters and it became an inspiration for them. That actually gave me confidence that if one scene can create such a massive impact, then there is an actor who is still alive in me. After so many years of rejection and failures, you start doubting yourself, your skills, your sense, your craft and everything. That is when my acting life began again. Also that is when the transformation stage began in the industry with the OTT Platforms coming in and there were a lot of amazing shows and suddenly there was a lot of work. Actors who have been out of work all these years got a platform. ‘Stree’ was my first movie and immediately after ‘Stree’, there was ‘Mirzapur’, and suddenly everyone was talking about that character more. When something like that becomes a pop culture, that's when you realise something is changing. Slowly and steadily we all realised that the audience really doesn’t care who you are while you are performing, they are just looking at your character and if you are good, even the tiniest of the characters are big hits on OTT, which doesn’t happen usually in Cinema. All of these together show that if you give them the right story, they are as engaged as before. And it’s good for business and everybody.”

Ravii Dubey added here, “Every actor is a newcomer at every stage, every time you hit a new threshold and you are back to the drawing board as a newcomer. While on one side we see many people getting opportunities, there are fringes where people who deserve the opportunity do not get it, and when the time passes, the economic dynamic associated with that dimension of the entertainment industry change and a lot of things begin to open up and then we feel there is space for everybody. There is space for a lot of people but I still feel that there is space for more talent, technicians and much more. And that is because it's earlier in the day. When anything has to be absorbed to the OTT platforms, the first thing that comes to creators’ minds is that he is from TV, and that is one thing that still needs to get a breakthrough, and I feel it will happen and I believe it to happen soon.”

Gulfam Khan remarked, “When OTT came up, I think I was more happy than anyone else, as I have been an actor for quite some time now, and now people know that there are so much to our country that we have seen for so many years. The shows that I did were very commercial, I did shows for ZEE5, Voot, Amazon, but this is something very diverse. OTT has given a lot of layers to the people who want to showcase and the people who want to work in them and their viewers too. So, now at the click of a button the viewers have the kind of content they want.”

Avantika Vandanapu noted, “Earlier, it was so limited to just theatrical releases and you rarely saw small budget projects make it into theatres, it was only big Bollywood Blockbusters, so anyone who wanted to put in their small budget films there was no mode to put it for the audience apart from probably the film festivals. But now it has given confidence to a lot of creators.”

Experimentation and the freedom to have a much wider narrative have been the hallmark of OTT platforms. Directing her question to Gunjan Utreja and Anupria Goenka, Adgully’s Bijoya Ghosh asked, “How has OTT widened the horizon for every stakeholder invested in this medium, be it writers, director ,actors ,producers and others?”

Anupria Goenka replied, “It’s because of OTT where a lot of people got a fresh breath of air, as we were churning around the similar kind of content again and again and I feel that is the death of an artist. Each one of us wants to push the envelope, see ourselves telling and being a part of different storytellings. And with the help of OTT we all felt that the chances of our steps to come out and get recognised would increase. My fear is that we might again be going into the churn mode, where we like to play safe and there is so much replication of anything that has done well. India as an entertainment industry at large always has a churn mode, where production and pre production is not given much time. I hope that OTT doesn't start replicating what is happening on content on TV and Big Screen.”

Gunjan Utreja had a different point of view here and said, “Everyone wants to do what is trending. As it is an initial stage for OTT, most of us are still trying to look and figure out how it works and the entire ecosystem is developing. In terms of opportunities, earlier there were only movies, and if you are not the prime time lead of that, then you are not successful. However, now that space has changed, whether you are a technician, writer, director or actor, it doesn’t matter when it is released, because every time on OTT is prime time. The audience will decide the Prime Time for them. This is how the perception for content has changed.”

Watch the entire conversation here:

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