Abhay Deol has been part of Bollywood’s indie revolution right from the beginning of his career, and has been dabbling with web content, too. And in today’s time, when most people are homebound and the demand for fresh content is increasing, OTT platforms have been the answer.
The actor agrees and says, “It’s the only alternative when theatres are shut. After some time, when everything would be fine, people will have the choice to either go to cinemas, or stay at home [and consume web content]. People should be allowed to choose, and that’s what’s called technology, progress. There’s no point getting in their way, so might as well embrace it.”
The 45-year-old, who starred in the web film Chopsticks (2019) and the recent show 1962: The War in the Hills, feels that a lot of good has happened with these platforms coming in.
“It has democratised the process. These platforms make a film with a big star and big budget, and the same platform makes a small film with nobody known. Both are owned by the same platform and they’ll market it equally, unlike small films which barely get any screen space, and almost no marketing money and presence in the media,” opines Deol.
He reasons that even if there’s a [smaller] film people would like, they wouldn’t know if it’s playing in cinemas.
“If there was just Bollywood and theatrical, you have to conform to the Bollywood norm of what a hero and heroine looks like. OTT platforms can serve you that because there’s an audience for it, but they can also serve a Delhi Crime. That’s why there are actors who’ve always existed but were never given a chance because they didn’t conform to Bollywood formula…” observes Deol.
Comparing the situation to Hollywood, the actor says people of colour got a lot of main lead roles in the West because ethnic stories got highlighted.
“Diversity started to get represented. Because you wouldn’t see that in mainstream Hollywood, all that was left to watch in cinemas was something spectacular like superhero films. Good drama went to TV,” he continues, “It’s the same here… Bollywood has always been about spectacle. We haven’t had any indie film industry as such, or alternatives to Bollywood formula. That’ll continue in theatres, at least now we get an alternative to it which we never had before.”
However, if it comes to a choice, Deol would love to see his films in theatres.
“Don’t get me wrong. I tried to make non-formula films way before OTT came into being. The only chance I got to make them and get a theatrical release was because it was at a time when multiplexes were just coming up. For a brief moment, there was exhibition space,” he recounts.
He goes on to explain, “Slowly, they got money, bought space and didn’t allow small films to get any space whatsoever. Without any support from government, an independent industry couldn’t exist. OTT came in to show that we as a culture are capable of far more than what Bollywood shows us. If we have to sacrifice theatrical (release) for that, so be it.”