As an artiste, how does one choose between the big screen and streaming platforms, films and television? It’s about evolving creatively, said actors Raveena Tandon and Pankaj Tripathi, speaking at a session held during the 20th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

The rise of streaming platforms, particularly in the first two years of the pandemic, increased the range of content available to audiences. “But as soon as the theatres opened up, we had superhit movies like Brahmastra and KGF 2, which goes to show that people were waiting eagerly for the large-screen viewing experience,” said Tandon, who made her first foray into streaming with Aranyak, a thriller series released on Netflix in December 2021.

“The experience of community viewing is unmatched, which is absent when we view content on streaming platforms in the privacy of our homes, but OTT platforms also cater to a larger audience that consumes a variety of content across different genres, ” added Tripathi, who shot to fame with Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur films (2012) but is also a popular face on streaming platforms, having featured prominently in series such as Sacred Games (Netflix; 2018-2019), Mirzapur (Amazon Prime; 2018-) and Criminal Justice (Disney+ Hotstar; 2019-).

The biggest misconception is that streaming platforms are hurting the film business, Tandon said. “If your final product is great, it will draw crowds,” she said in a session moderated by Sonal Kalra. “A good story always finds a good, well-suited platform for itself,” added Tripathi.

As an actor who began her career in the 1990s, Tandon admits that she has had to evolve to new platforms and new directing and storytelling styles. “When Aranyak was released, I was a little jittery because I had read about contemporaries who were struggling to break out of the ’90s mould.”

Streaming platforms have helped, in a way, with pre-release stress, Tripathi added. “We do not have to stress about how much the film makes on day one of its release. It’s more a sense of curiosity than stress that prevails, to know how people have received my work.”

One of the most welcoming aspects of the streaming industry, the two actors agreed, was the shattering of stereotypes. Lead actors don’t have to look a certain way, be in their prime or have a series of hits to their name.

“You do not carry the baggage of your past here. No one cares if you have six-pack abs or not. Only the story and its treatment decide whether it’s going to do well. There is also a lot of emphasis on writing. I always believe if the role isn’t well-written it cannot be well-performed,” Tripathi said.

Meanwhile, streaming releases and theatre releases, initially seen as competitors, have begun to work in fusion, Tandon said. “OTT writers and producers are now working in mainstream films. And a lot more films that would have got a theatre release are now being released on streaming platforms.”

When KGF 1 was released in theatres in 2018, it was a pan-India hit, but once it was released on OTT, it was a phenomenal hit and built the path for KGF 2 to become bigger than KGF 1, Tandon said. “It’s all hand in glove. I like to think that both mediums are feeding off each other.”

One thing that needs to change: Across platforms and screen sizes, some of the terminology used for female actors, Tandon said. “Comeback” and “second innings” are almost exclusively used for female stars making an OTT debut. “If Aamir Khan, Salman Khan or Sanjay Dutt take a two-or three-year break in their careers, we do not call it a comeback… However, if Madhuri Dixit is making her OTT debut, we are quick to assign labels to her. This disparity needs to go,” she said.

By Shadab

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