OTT stars- ready for the big screens?

Lockdown locked out all star-crazy, theatre-going junkies and forced large sections of them to switch to OTT. This opened out a whole new world of films a planet apart from Bollywood template

OTT stars- ready for the big screens?
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Monojit Lahiri

In an Oscar-nominated film dedicated to the life and times of Hollywood’s most celebrated fantasy, who continues to define the image of the ultimate sex symbol without a trace of vulgarity – Marylyn Monroe – there is a line where the central character utters a deathless truism. “The problem, even if unspoken with most actors is that, secretly they yearn to be stars and the very private regret among most mega stars is, despite the name, fame, wealth and stardom, they are seen as nothing more than dazzling entertainers, not as artistes attempting to explore or depict the linear truth.”

Today, as cinema halls haltingly attempt to return to the world of the living by taking baby steps towards normalisation – with all safety measures in place – this question takes on interesting dimensions. Why? Simply because the lockdown had locked out all star-crazy, theatre-going junkies and forced large sections of them to switch to OTT This – serendipity – opened out a whole new world of films [Indian and Global] a planet apart from the Bollywood template. Once the initial resistance was over, this alternative menu card, representing everything Bollywood is not, took them by pleasant surprise. Why? Simple.

If Bollywood makes movies, OTT makes films. If Bollywood thrives on fantasy and escapism, OTT hits the engagement and realism button. If Bollywood avoids controversial subjects, OTT embraces them. If Bollywood depends on stars, OTT prefers non-actors, actors, even newcomers. If Bollywood strip-mined genres and followed the assembly-line process, OTT expressed personal vision that is startlingly unique & consciously sequel-free & franchise-proof. If Bollywood favours spectacle and special effects, OTT works on an intimate scale, privileging script and emphasising character and mis-in-scene. If Bollywood reflects and caters to popular taste, OTT works without an audience in mind. Overall, OTT exists in a space between the shots of the Bollywood masala.

To many who cosied up to OTT during lockdown and now through fear, anxiety & nervousness, hesitate to hit the halls, could they represent a part of the new converts? More importantly, the production houses, Trade and other influences who have had opportunities to see the big picture, in terms of outstanding talents gracing fantastic films [Pataal, Arya, Panchayat, Raat Akeli Hai, Dolly aur Kitty, A Suitable Boy, Mirzapur, Bulbul, Undekhi, Scam 1992, to name only some] do they finally believe that for OTT stars, the time to transition to the big screen has arrived?

Kolkata-based Filmmaker Sudeshna Roy takes first strike, with all guns blazing. “It’s a no-brainer because this traffic started long ago. From Big B, SRK, Salman & Aamir hitting the box with super-success, the two-way journey is a given. The Streaming stars too are bound to follow the same route because at the end of the day, actors are actors and engaging, audience-friendly stories remain engaging, audience-friendly stories – only the platform changes. So, big deal? It is a democratisation of talent and streaming is an idea whose time has come. Many Bollywood stars are thinking seriously and guys like Saif have already taken the plunge. In Tolly, this phenomenon is on an overdrive because it provides a spectacular space for talent to meet opportunity.” Veteran, respected Media Commentator, Saibal Chatterjee begs to differ. “While it may be true of Tollygunge – regional cinema – there is certainly no indication that the major Bollywood stars are rushing towards the streaming space. Regarding Big B and the Khans invading the box, it was strictly as Anchors, not actors! They are used to the big stage while the gifted streaming stars remain children of a lesser god! Saif is an exception. Will others follow? Premiering their blockbusters on the streaming platforms – Netflix, Amazon, Hoichoi – is one thing but to actually act in that space is another. Which is exactly why, despite talent and mega-popularity of TV stars during their heydays in the mid 80s, (which saw Mahabharat, Buniyad, Humlog, Khandan, Ados Pados) hardly any one of them ever transitioned with a quarter of the success they enjoyed in their stints in TV soaps. They are two different worlds with different demands and expectations.”

For the Indian viewer however, what makes many of these shows interesting is not only the ease of on-line access, but the possibility of circumventing a weird and anti-liberal censor system and of course beating that unique Indian malaise: taking offense! At least so far so good, giving the creative fraternity wings to soar to new heights. One can only hope that actors who have been consistently neglected, ignored and overlooked, now can come centre-stage to remind people that they’ve always possessed huge talent but what they’ve lacked is- opportunities. So, here’s hoping-sangam hoga, hoga, hoga!

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