The web masters: OTT redefines success for new-age actors

New Delhi: The ever-expanding world of OTT platforms in India has introduced a breed of new-age stars, who believe in the power of over-the-top content but not in the concept of over-the-top stardom.

The stories being churned out from the world of OTTs are not only changing the storybook of the entertainment world, but also give a bigger playground to budding actors to break ground, court instant fame and be a part of this whole changing idiom of stardom where actors, and not glamour gods, are kings.

"I really hope and pray that the idea of stardom doesn't take over the OTT platforms. I personally don't believe in it, and I am not someone who propagates it. We should be wary of bringing the Bollywood concept to OTT," said actress Kirti Kulhari, who has found a new standing as actor mainly thanks to her digital shows with "Four More Shots Please!" and "Bard of Blood".

"With OTT coming in, I believe everything is about actors, about playing different characters and about playing them well. I hope there are actors getting better opportunities -- that you are cast not because you are a star but because you are apt for the role. I hope OTT brings this trend rather than again making stars out of people who are artistes," added the actress.

New generation actors from various backgrounds are finding prominence thanks to OTT shows. The likes of Pankaj Tripathi, Sumeet Vyas, Maanvi Gagroo, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Shweta Tripathi, Kubbra Sait, Amol Parashar, Angad Bedi, Priyanshu Painyuli, Bani J, Sayani Gupta and Nidhi Singh are among the many names who can hugely attribute the advent of OTT for becoming household names.

Many of these actors were struggling to make a mark in Bollywood for a while. With good shows on OTT, their demand in the big screen world has also increased.

Then there are more experienced actors as Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manoj Bajpayee, Saif Ali Khan, Emraan Hashmi, Radhika Apte, Ali Fazal, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi, Richa Chadha, Adil Hussain, Shefali Shah and Rasika Dugal who have taken their game to the next level thanks to the digital platform.

According to Sumeet, who rose to fame with web series "Permanent Roommates", the idea of stardom has changed.

"The audience finds people working on the web more approachable and human. For instance, people don't hesitate to come to me to have a conversation, or ask for a photograph. It didn't happen with the movie stars. The idea of stardom is not worship now, but likability, and relatability," he said.

To this, Maanvi, star of Amazon Prime's "Four More Shots Please!", asserted that one doesn't need to have connections to get on the ladder of stardom in the virtual world.

"There is a different kind of stardom which has come in. Internet is a democratic medium. You don't have to be star kids or industrialist's or sportsperson's child to be famous on social media... You can just start creating content on YouTube or TikTok. There is new kind of stardom that has come in. Digital stars are in the middle of that stardom," Gagroo explained.

There's another side to the OTT's story of stardom.

Priyanshu Painyuli, who gave Bollywood a not-so-impactful shot with "Bhavesh Joshi Supoerhero" a while back, right now has focus trained on him after the release of his Netflix film, "Upstarts". He also has the Chris Hemsworth-starrer "Dhaka" added to his resume. The film is distributed by Netflix.

"Stardom on big screens in theatres is completely different. It is difficult to achieve stardom on that level. But a huge audience follows and loves actors on the web as well, which creates web stars. I hope stardom doesn't hold back actors on web to experiment with stories and roles. Today, there are many stars on web but only few of them shine bright," he said.

The lack of time restraint, more focus on character-building and detailing, and a vast canvas splashed with hues of different genres, are some of the factors that drive fame on the OTT platform in India and on the foreign shores.

"Everyone is thinking out of the box, trying to tell stories which are different, and actors are a big part of the storytelling process," Kirti said.

To this, "Mirzapur" star Shriya Pilgaonkar added: "While most films tend to bank on star power to sell themselves, OTT series mainly rely on strong scripts, and that is what makes an actor take risks."

"Inside Edge" star Angad Bedi calls this the age of creativity, and says it gives a boost to actors to go out and experiment.

Putting spotlight on the reach, "Mirzapur" star Shweta said: "The reach (of OTT) is insane. The feel of a feature film and watching yourself on the big screen is exciting. But it equally exciting to know that your content is reaching 'duniya ke koney koney mein'."

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