Digital renaissance has had a significant impact on the global entertainment market and changed the way it operates forever. It has given rise to a new breed of filmmakers who are conjuring up fresh content for digital audiences and has also triggered the concept of making web series or shows meant exclusively for the internet, in India.
While a majority of Bollywood, TV filmmakers and production houses are still trying to please the censor board and serve topics according to the tastes of the conservative audience, online video streaming allows tremendous creative freedom to filmmakers with no censor board breathing down their necks, and also, a wider audience.
It’s not surprising then that with soppy family-oriented dramas and reality shows still ruling Indian television, the youth are turning to the internet for alternative entertainment.
So, how do the filmmakers adapt and negotiate with the grammar of making films for the web?
Karan Anshuman, the director of Inside Edge (2017), says that “The platform was incidental, so it wasn’t a massive shift. The primary constraint is time. Better planning, less indulgence, and more onus on the actors is the order of the day as compared to films.”
Pukit, the director of Bose: Dead/Alive (2017), also comments, “We shot the web series with high-resolution cameras which was no less than shooting a film. Making a film for the web also provides access to a large audience pool.”
According to Srinivas Sunderrajan, the director of the metafiction TXDRMY (2016), “The digital space gives one the freedom to explore the extremes and take risks, and that is what motivated me to write TXDRMY; which is still by far the only ‘different’ content in the Indian web-series space. I like to delve into the surreal and absurd satire space and the power of digital space to experiment helped instil the confidence to do something of this level.”
The content of the web series decides its audience. So it has to be unique, and some exciting works are happening in this regard.
The plots are relatable, and content is presented in a structural form which co-relates with the present generation of views.
Karan Anshuman thinks that filmmakers are spoilt for choice when it comes to platforms, and they are no longer constrained to limited theatre screens, prohibitive high barriers to entry, and dependence on stars. However, Pulkit believes that due to the sheer options that the audiences have, filmmakers have to ensure that their content is unique and engages the viewer within the short span of time.
At present web series are not only grabbing viewers’ eyeballs but also coming to the attention of various brands and advertisers to reach out to a right set of audiences. The taste and demands of the new-age viewers are constantly changing, and content providers are exploring new ways to deliver original programmes specific to the digital audiences with over-the-top (OTT) players.
Bandwith is a constraint, but it is a matter of time before the issue is resolved. The ease of streaming content on various devices is rapidly revolutionising our consumption habits. Also, while the revenue generation aspect is still nascent (unless the content is picked up by bigger players like Netflix/Amazon), filmmakers hope that, in time, a model that sees more creators welcoming the digital streaming space, will be developed.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that viewership in the online space has begun to display signs of a potential future and a progressive growth is definitely brewing.
As Karan Anshuman believes, “As long as these digital platforms are open to fresh ideas and less dependent on legacy, formula, and big names—the content from India is set to pole vault into a world-class league.”
(Written by Dipankar Sarkar)