The buzz in the West is that web series are poised to be the chosen entertainment medium of the digital generation. India is catching up fast, too. And Bollywood A-listers are entering the game in force.
Last year saw a bunch of web series made in India. This year, several more have — or will — come out. What’s interesting is how the cast names are getting bigger. Earlier, they used be mostly TV actors or not very busy Bollywood actors; of late, some sought-after names from mainstream cinema have come into this space.
Actors such as Saif Ali Khan, Rana Daggubati, Rajkummar Rao, and Richa Chadha are among those who’re working in this medium. The reason is both reach and creative novelty.
Rana, the Telugu superstar who shot to national fame with Baahubali, will be seen in a grey shade in a web thriller, titled Social. On what got him intrigued, the actor says, “The digital platform is a fascinating platform, and I believe that we’re at too early a stage to know where the web will take us. This self-censored space is increasingly gaining popularity. It gives us immense creative freedom and also offers the audience a variety of experimental narratives.”
Some find the medium interesting because they get to collaborate with actors from different streams. Saif, who’ll make his debut with an original web TV series, titled Sacred Games, says, “While working on this web series, I met a whole new school of actors for the first time. If I hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have met them, as they’re not mainstream actors. They’re better actors because of their modest approach, and my mind has broadened after meeting them.”
Content on the web has no “compulsions of first day opening and unnecessary item songs and fight sequences”, says Richa Chadha, who starred in a VOD (video on demand), titled Inside Edge. She adds, “It’s an opportunity to do content that’s risqué. It’s an experiment and it could go wrong but it’s definitely a global trend and it’s worth a try. You also get a chance to tell stories that need maybe eight to ten hours, as opposed to two-three hours.”
Her Inside Edge co-star Angad Bedi believes that web series work because they have great content, and they can go to the audience’s home rather than wait for them to buy a movie ticket. “Since the audiences have become picky [about content], you have to cater to their needs,” he says. “Also, it’s about reaching out to viewers who’re not coming to the theatres to watch films. People aged 15-25 years aren’t really into watching films; they prefer shows like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Hence these platforms are a great way to connect with them.”