Filmmaker Vipul Amrutlal Shah has seen the best of all scales of entertainment. He has been behind one of the longest-running television serials, ‘Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka’, blockbusters such as ‘Namastey London’ and ‘Singh is Kinng’, and more recently, the acclaimed web series ‘Human’, a medical drama starring his wife, Shefali Shah, and the made-for-streamers action thriller, ‘Sanak’.
He therefore spoke from his heart when he declared in an interview saying: “The Hindi film industry’s collaboration with OTT platforms will make our budgets bigger, the opportunities bigger, and we will be able to make better films and become a bigger and better industry.”
Speaking from the vantage point of a successful producer, Shah said: “In the coming years, because OTT platforms will take Indian content to the entire world, they’ll only help us become bigger and bigger, and have budgets to reach out to the world. We’ll be able to make films that are on a par with Hollywood or other international films.”
Pointing to how the streamers made the world connect during the lockdown induced by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and again in 2021, and turned shows such as the Spanish ‘Money Heist’ and the Korean ‘Squid Game’ into global phenomena, Shah said: “Today, even small-budget content can become a world sensation, thanks to OTT. It is going to make the film industry more competitive and as a result the quality of creative work will improve.”
Shah makes no bones about OTT being the game changer for entertainment in India. “When films could not be released in theatres, the industry could connect with audiences through OTT. The game had already changed during the pandemic and millions of people started viewing their entertainment on OTT. As a result, it has emerged as a very strong and powerful alternative to film viewing as we knew it in the pre-pandemic age.”
He, however, has a different perspective on the view gaining popularity that South Indian films are getting bigger and better, and holding their own in cinema theatres, whereas Bollywood has been left hanging on to the coattails of global OTT platforms.
“On the south films I have a slightly different take,” Shah said. “We see the mega success of some of the films that come from the South, such as ‘RRR’, ‘Pushpa’ or ‘KGF’, and start believing that the South churns out pan-India blockbusters every week. That’s not true. They also have the same ratio of hits and flops as Hindi cinema.”
Listing the recent successes of Hindi cinema, Shah said: “On this side we have had a great run since cinemas reopened after a long hiatus. ‘Sooryavanshi’ did amazing numbers, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ was fantastic, ‘The Kashmir Files’ has broken records and gone on to become an all-time hit, and ’83’ has been hugely appreciated. So, we have had four films in the last two months that have been huge.”
The entertainment scene in post-pandemic India, as Shah visualises it, therefore, has Indian cinema and OTT platforms co-existing in a mutually complementary relationship, one satisfying the other’s insatiable appetite for content, and the other opening multiple doors of Indian filmmakers and writers to reach out to a global audience.
By Durga Chakravarty