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Panel discusses emergence of OTT as future of media

Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms have created space for content that would otherwise be discarded in the name of “commercial viability”, a panel including two actors and a director said at Infocom 2021 on Saturday.

“There was a lot of good content but the bottleneck was distribution. Whenever we would try to sell a smaller film… we were always told ‘you are an actor, you don’t know what sells and what does not,’” Rasika Dugal, known for her roles in OTT shows like Mirzapur and Out of Love, said.

“Streaming services have changed that. Not all content on streaming portals is good. But at least there is room for variety, for different genres, different aesthetics.”

Dugal was part of the spotlight session on “The Future of Media and Entertainment” at Infocom 2021, an ABP initiative.

Govindraj Ethiraj, journalist-entrepreneur and founder of IndiaSpend, FactChecker and BOOM, moderated the session. The panel also included actor Richa Chadha, filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and Tanya Bami, director — international originals, Netflix India.

Ethiraj asked the panel: “OTT is a big phenomenon. There are 50 million plus subscribers on OTT platforms now… The industry might grow bigger, become more remunerative but is it what we like to see it become?”

Roy Chowdhury, who has made films like Pink and Antaheen, said OTT platforms had built a symbiotic relationship between filmmakers and their audience. “People have much more access to good content now. They are watching films, series and documentaries. There is a symbiotic relationship between makers and the audience. We make good stuff and they watch. We make stuff because they watch,” he said.

“OTT platforms are not only educating us but we are getting a space to tell our story without baggage.”

Chadha, who debuted in Oye Lucky? Lucky Oye and has since appeared in popular films and OTT shows like Inside Edge, said streaming services have “democratised” the industry.

“A promising sign is that we have stars born out of OTT space. This has created some amount of democracy in the industry…. I had films stuck for release because they were not considered commercially viable. The producers ran out of money after filming. They could not afford publicity and advertising,” said Chadha.

Bami of Netflix said the OTT medium “doesn’t stipulate a particular format, duration or a kind of content that must not or must be made”.

The moderator broached the topic of freedom of creative expression. “Are you really able to say what you want? Can you stretch the definition of creative expression, maybe the way you can in other Western democracies,” he asked.

“From a creative person’s point of view, it is interesting to see films made in the time of oppressive regimes… It is interesting to see what art can do. You can’t curb expressions. Stories dictate the way they should be told,” said Dugal. Telegraph India

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