Starless Indian indie film gets audience attention on OTT platform with COVID-19 pandemic

5 mn read

Cinema is recognized as an art form that contributes in escapism. And during the pandemic, this formula is widely followed all across the globe. Self-isolation and quarantine with movie halls being shut, people chose to stick to OTT platforms for watching movies and TV shows. According to the statistics released by the JustWatch, a popular application that helps users to find movies and series among OTT platforms shows 100% increase in traffic on their site. In a survey conducted by app distribution platform MoMagic, 54% Indians prefer watching movies in theatres whereas there are 44% of people who believes in watching TV shows and movies on OTT platforms. And this has brought a golden chance for young and upcoming filmmakers to showcase their work on such platforms and to hold on to the amount of viewership they were aiming for so long.

Apart being a way of escapism, cinema is also a depiction of realism, known as mirror of the society. There are lot of existing filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap, Anubav Sinha, Digvijay Chauhan, Alankrita Srivastava, Tabrez Noorani, Leena Yadav, who concentrated more on creating realistic content, who instead of sending audiences into a fantasy world believed in educating them with showcasing harsh realities and truthful content.

24 year old Manohar Naik, editor by profession but has worked as an assistant director, second camera, and colorist has contributed in 4 nonfiction films and 1 fiction film. He said, “Realistic cinema has always been there, it’s just that we have never valued it. Filmmakers like Govind Nihlani, Shyam Benegal, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, have done it in the past and in contemporary times many have been doing it. I think independent films will definitely see a rise in coming years and the nature of storytelling which has already seen a drastic evolution will be an interesting thing to observe on how it transforms and challenges the audiences.”

Photo: Manohar Naik

Witnessing the paradigm shift from theatres to OTT platforms, he further added, “Yes with time, the taste of audience has evolved to some extent, a web show like Panchayat or Gullak can do well in today’s time, a film like Gamak Ghar can reach the masses through a platform like Mubi and also there are multiple resources to reach the audiences now as compared to 10 years back so a filmmaker can be daring enough to take the risk to tell the story they really want to tell.”

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He worked as an assistant director and editor for a project called ‘Making India Accessible’ produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust of India which was screened at the Open Frame Film Festival in Delhi last year. Whereas a 56 minutes nonfiction film, based on the life of Nobel peace prize winner Kailash Satyarthi that got screened at the International Film Festival of India, Goa last year was also shot (second camera) and edited (teaser and trailer) by him. The film was produced by the Films Division of India.

Photo: Manohar Naik

With this pandemic, people’s preference for watching movies has changed and has majorly shifted to OTT platforms which not only proved convenient for the current situation but it also helped the overlooked content due to not been associated with a big name as a major reason, to reach to a new height in terms of viewership. According to Manohar Naik, “People are looking for content, they want to see something new, something fresh. Also for independent films, releasing and distributing the film is not easy task so gradually OTT is the answer.”

Adding on he said, “It has made the industry more democratic in a way. If you want to make a film and show them, now is the best chance I guess. Eventually theatres are going to come back but the audience shift will be there. I am sure now you cannot just ride a film by starring a big superstar in it. You will need actors and more importantly a good story to make the ship sail.”

Photo: Manohar Naik

Huge admirer of Indian filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Sai Pranjpayee, Anurag Kashyap, Anubav Sinha, and of Indian regional filmmakers like Vetrimaran (South Indian), Nagraj Manjule (Marathi) and Rima Das (Assamese), Manohar Naik also look up to international filmmakers like Hirokazu Koreeda (Japanese), Edward Yang (Taiwanese), Ken Loach (Australian) and Charlie Kaufman (American).

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One such project that he shot and edited all by him is “Ghost Villages” which has been uploaded on his vimeo account . It is a documentary that highlights the distressed migration taking place in Uttrakhand and how the livelihood of the people living there is affected living in the remote parts of the villages like Pakhri, Matkund. He also discussed about his two latest and upcoming untitled projects. One is a fiction film which is in production and is set up in Hindi Heartland. The second one is the documentary whose shooting has been completed but the post production work is left. He said, “It is on a Vedic school in India. The relevance of Vedic text in modern times and how western life values have seeped into our culture. Not much I can share right now about the film. It is still to be edited.”

Objective of the film

The main purpose of the documentary was to highlight the distressed migration taking place in Uttarakhand and how the livelihood of the people living there is affected living in the remote parts of the villages like Pakhri, Matkund where you have to literally travel 12 kms by foot to have access to basic amenities. During the course of the shoot what was striking was that there were no youngsters living in the villages there, everybody from there have moved out in search of job or to get better education. Through this platform I wanted to be the voice of the local people who have suffered for so long and wanted better amenities which they have not got yet, the government have failed to deliver in every front. The homes there have been abandoned, broken and almost on the verge of getting vanished, people are being forced to migrate to earn some bread for their family. It is a pity for someone having their own home to live in a rented house in the cities.

Lot of young and upcoming filmmakers is delivering realistic content with the prime purpose of conveying strong messages to the audience with the available amount of resources. They are portraying cinema not only as an art of entertainment but also to make viewers realize the realism.

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Shefali Ranawat is an Eat News correspondent in India. She want to be the voice of people. Also, she aim to be a war correspondent.

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Eat News is a Taiwanese digital media, analyzes current events and issues through column articles, videos, visual aid, and exclusive interviews.

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