Covid-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many ways and one of them is the way we watch films. OTT platforms are the new cinema halls for movie goers… we meant movies watchers - you don’t need to go anywhere now to watch films, other than from one room to another in your homes.
As your watching experience has evolved, so has the content. The Manoj Bajpayees, Ayushmann Khurranas and Pankaj Tripathis of Bollywood have replaced the Khans - Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir. There are more films with actresses as protagonists, but the A-listers have stayed away so far.
Films have become shorter, and some are just a collection of short films put together - an anthology. Web series trend, and are hot favourites. Potboilers and mass entertainers have made way for subtle, more meaningful cinema. Not to worry, the former films are there too.
In this series, OTT Trends, News18 looks at how streaming platforms have redefined Indian cinema, blurred lines between mainstream and indie, cut across language barriers, made actors into stars, and above all, brought entertainment at your fingertips.
From Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan to Ajay Devgn and Shahid Kapoor, several Bollywood male superstars are being lured by OTT platforms with higher production values, wider opportunities and hefty paychecks. While Akshay Kumar is gearing up for his web debut with Amazon Prime Video’s series, tentatively titled The End, Shahid Kapoor will shortly begin the shoot for his upcoming digital project with The Family Man creators Raj Nidimuro and Krishna DK.
Ajay Devgn, on the other hand, will make his web series debut with the Hindi remake of the British series, Luther. The series, titled Rudra: The Edge Of Darkness, will see Devgn in an intense and gritty avatar. Elsewhere, Hrithik Roshan has been cast as the lead for the Hindi adaptation of the British show, The Night Manager. The actor will reportedly play the role of Jonathan Pine, played by Tom Hiddleston in the original.
However, Bollywood’s A-list actresses like Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Anushka Sharma, Vidya Balan, Shraddha Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu and Kangana Ranaut among others are still yet to explore the platform or officially sign on a web project. It’s surprising because the platform has been attracting a swarm of Bollywood male superstars and A-list Hollywood talent.
Hollywood’s top actresses including Jennifer Aniston (Good Morning America), Kate Winslet (Mare of Easttown), Julia Roberts (Homecoming) and Nicole Kidman (Big Little Lies and The Undoing) have all made the move to the medium, and the shows in which they appear are doing very well. They all declared that they were drawn to the web because it offered more diverse opportunities to females than traditionally male-dominated Hollywood studios.
In a 2019 interview, Kareena, whose actor-husband Saif Ali Khan was the first mainstream Bollywood actor to make the OTT switch with Netflix’s Sacred Games, had said that she was keen on exploring the platform but hadn’t found anything interesting yet. “Saif is a brave actor and I don’t think there will be another Saif. After working for 25 years he turned it around with Sacred Games. His choices are different, be it Laal Kaptaan, Tanhaji or web series. I have big shoes to fill in if I ever debut on a digital platform. But right now I have not got any OTT offers that are interesting," Kareena had said.
It may be noted that Anushka Sharma has produced India’s one of the most critically acclaimed web series Paatal Lok under her banner Clean Slate Filmz, but the actress is yet to announce her starring role in a digital project. Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt have also set up their own production houses under which they have been backing a number of film projects but neither of them has so far revealed their plans to venture into the OTT space. While Deepika produced a pathbreaking film Chhapaak under her Ka Productions, Alia is bankrolling her upcoming film Darlings through Eternal Sunshine Productions.
Additionally, there were reports that Shraddha Kapoor would make her digital debut with a “big woman-oriented drama". The buzz was that the series was being mounted on a huge scale for an OTT platform and would completely rest on Shraddha’s shoulders. But the news soon fizzled out.
On the contrary, other actresses like Radhika Apte (Sacred Games and Ghoul), Kiara Advani (Lust Stories and Guilty), Rasika Dugal (Delhi Crime and Mirzapur), Sayani Gupta (Inside Edge) and Kirti Kulhari (Bard of Blood and Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors) have long recognised the potential of the OTT platforms. The list of great web projects, and these actresses leading them, is, to say the least, extensive. They have previously spoken about how the medium has given them an opportunity to try their hand at something that is not run-of-the-mill and deliver a more nuanced, layered portrayal of a character.
More recently, actress Ananya Panday, an emerging movie star with films like Student of the Year 2, Pati Patni Aur Woh and Khaali Peeli, expressed her desire to venture into the web and how it was changing for the better. “I am definitely a binge watcher and love watching series. I loved ‘The Family Man’ and ‘Mare of Easttown’ as well which I thought was brilliant. I think there are so many different kinds of stories to tell and I am pretty platform-agnostic and not stuck to just doing a certain kind of work. I just want to tell good stories and I think even in general that’s changing a lot. I feel like now the audiences will get to see a lot of their favourite actors even on OTT," she told us.
With some of the best writing going on in the digital space today and the viewing habit of people around the world drastically changing with the unprecedented closure of theatres amid the Covid-19 pandemic, we hope that Bollywood’s female A-listers will take this leap of faith soon.