Regional content is gathering momentum on OTT platforms: Radhika Lavu

Ellanar Films is all set with its philosophical period drama, ‘Unheard’, which is set in pre-Independent India in the 1900s and explores various themes such as freedom, communal harmony as well as the very ideologies that constitute the soul of a nation, through thought-provoking personal discourses. A soulful take on people’s lives during the freedom movement with a central focus on Hyderabad, the OTT series aims to stir poignant conversations that explore the events of the times, and capture the true essence of the human spirit amidst troubled times.

In conversation with Adgully, Radhika Lavu, Founder & Managing Director of Ellanar Films, speaks about the unique concept of ‘Unheard’, how OTT platforms are giving a boost to regional content, upcoming projects and much more.

‘Unheard’ is a unique conversational series. What are the kind of conversations that you aim to encourage through this out-of-the-box concept?

The ‘Unheard’ as a concept is a six-episode series and it’s a philosophical, conversational, period drama, talking about conversations between Preeto, during the pre-independence era, before 1948, on the topics of that time vis-a-vis this time, like freedom, aspects of freedom, and opinion of one another. The aspect of freedom is not outdated. These conversations are about putting forth your opinions and your perspectives. The essence of which has been lost these days. When you have an opinion, it is usually misconstrued. When you are trapped in a conversation, you are putting back forth your opinions and your point of view. In ‘Unheard’, we talk about the pre-Independence struggle. The whole country was working together, towards a single aim, a thought process. Freedom can mean a whole lot of things, to each their own, either its pre-Independence era or post-Independence era. The conversations about the same are about non-violence, karma, satyagraha, selflessness, and sacrifice. It is a whole gamut of things we talked about in these conversations.

What does the term ‘Unheard’ mean to you and the cast and crew?

I have always been fascinated by untold stories. Whatever we read, we study in the media, in books, in novels is one aspect. But if someone tells me that it has happened but there is no factual evidence, those untold stories fascinate me. When the ‘Unheard’ concept came to me, the very interesting thing was these conversations about some historical facts that have happened during the pre-Independence era for freedom. What most attracted me was knowing about how the common man was thinking at that time. We were talking about all the important people and their perspectives in the media and books, but we have not heard about the perspective of a common man. We can tell unheard stories of the common people during that time, so it is called ‘Unheard’, and it’s very gratifying and humbling to be a part of it. We are able to be the catalyst to bring forth such conversations.

Philosophical period dramas are quite rare in today’s day and age. What made you back this project?

I always look for such challenging out-of-the-box concepts, something that can make me and my team excited and because making films is a lengthy process and for us to have that perseverance for the months and months of work, the aspect of challenge and excitement towards a concept in a story is paramount to begin with. I am always in search of this type of content to produce such stories of this format and I think it’s a journey.

How do you see OTT platforms like ZEE5, Voot supporting regional content?

Regional content is picking up pace and the OTT platforms are paying lots of attention to the regional content because of the type of local, grounded stories that are being produced, full of local flavour, and are put forth to the OTTs. I am in touch with most of the OTT platforms and their representatives, I know for a fact that they are quite excited about the regional content, whether it’s Tamil, Telugu, or Bengali. So, I only see the graph going upwards from here, which is good to see as the regional content is given the space, importance, and encouragement which is needed.

Both your projects – ‘Unheard’ and ‘G.O.D.’ – have brought something different to the Telugu audiences through the OTT domain. What is your vision for your production house in terms of transforming the Tollywood landscape?

There is no set plan as I am a firm believer that stories come to you and it’s rare that you chase a story and it happens. I have come to see how my stories and projects have been mounted. There are stories that I have chased for years, and it just so happens that I say, Okay, let’s give it a break and I come back and the story lands on my lap after that. So, I have realised that chasing is not working. The key here is that you need to adapt. A filmmaker needs to adapt to the kind of stories that are coming their way and the kind of market that persists during that time.

Every few years the audience and their taste is changing, because there are so many competitors in the market and the audience is looking for something different, something unique. For the production house and me as a filmmaker, I like to experiment with varied genres, varied stories in different languages, different landscapes, and if put together, the stories that are heartfelt, work with a team that I connect with who have a similar goal, discipline and thought process, to make something unique, heartfelt and made with heart and soul and have fun during that time and learn from each other. Each day is a challenge for all of us in the field we are in. I try to soak in everything that the universe gives to me.

What are the upcoming projects that you are working on or you want to work on?

There are varied projects that are happening. There is Season 2 of ‘G.O.D.’ that I am working on right now, and I am very excited and eager to mount this as we are in the pre-production stage. We have a very good and promising cast and crew, and I am looking forward to that because Season 1 was received very well by the audience, and my responsibility as a storyteller, filmmaker, and producer is increased. In addition to that we are making remakes of ‘Unheard’ in different languages because the concept is universal – the pre-Independence struggle and the freedom and conversations as a genre have not been explored much in the Indian platforms. For now, I am reading a lot of scripts. We will surely have multiple releases next year and we are looking forward to that.


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