Thamizh Talkies: Can our OTT space have more stars?
The writer is a content producer and art curator
I binge-watched two shows last week, and this column is NOT a review of either of them. One of them, the final season of the Kominsky Method, dropped on Netflix this Friday, and it begins with a mindblowing scene. Once you start off on such a high, things can only go down, right? Wrong! Apart from the sharp writing, there are simple moments—a stare or a line—and I’m already laughing out loud because it’s performed by the popular Micheal Douglas (and other famous names). You know their performing cues. A good performance of a star-actor plays out like a duet between the actor and the audience. I said this was NOT a review; so, what am I getting at? Bear with me for a few more lines.
The scenes stay with you not just because of the writing (Chuck Lorre), but also because of the acting. I underline how much of a difference it makes to have professional actors in the OTT space as they are able to make even an ordinary scene stand out. Casting a famous, talented star like Micheal Douglas makes for a superb watch.
The second series I saw features none other than Kate Winslet. Mare of Easttown on HBO (streaming on Disney+ Hotstar) has our beloved, delicate Rose play a tough detective whose life, in her own words, “is complicated”. Mare’s life begins with everything going wrong for her family and others around her, and then, throw in the macro plot-points of murder, drug trafficking and what not and voila! You get one of the most watchable series! You binge-watch it because it’s Kate Winslet. The grandma she plays gets all the tropes of a Bond hero. And what a performance from Kate—be it the dead cold stares, the cool punchlines or simply sauntering in.
My main takeaways from both shows are: 1. The lead role is written for older superstars, and it leaves no time for frivolous, empty writing. 2. The lead role is performed by a major motion picture movie star, not the character-actor star but one who would be the hero or heroine in feature films, even now. And they qualify for the role, due to their age.
Can we please have such parts and such series on our Tamil OTT space too? To the OTT players, I ask, what prevents you from producing such concepts? The sheer joy of seeing scenes performed by competent stars, whose famous scenes you still remember when their eyes twinkle in front of the camera, is immense. I miss this in the content that has come so far in the Tamil OTT space. To cast actors who may not be that well-known because they are good for the role is one thing, but it’s quite another to cast legitimate stars who bring in a ‘viewing value’ which helps make the role and series stand out.
Anthologies are a rarity, and some good names did act in them (in both Amazon Prime and Netflix), but till now, we have seen Ramya Krishnan (Queen), Tamannaah (November Story), or Samantha (Family Man) frontlining a series. It’s just three names, with there being a paucity of A-list actors on OTT. This gap perhaps will be bridged when we see an icon like Suriya in the Navarasa anthology directed by Gautham Menon (to be released on Netflix in August).
While there is ample ‘newcomer content’ in the regional OTT space, there ought to be more synergy between the OTT platforms and film industries, so professional actors and directors can work in this medium too. This confluence of good writing with good direction and good acting, is why we wait for theatres to open again, so we can go and immerse ourselves in the highs and lows of faces we have loved all our life. So, why don’t we get this experience in the OTT space as well?
While OTT platforms say they uphold the adage of ‘content is king’, the whole milieu of the regional OTT space will get supremely robust, like the theatrical space, when the big names step in. Also, the platforms in India have already slotted themselves into various viewing experiences on the audience spectrum. For e.g: Hotstar is family viewing, Prime is regional content, Netflix is adult and international content... OTT platforms must be open to all varieties of content and not get slotted like TV channels; else, they will stagnate. Also, in India, production budgets decide the content on a platform, which in turn decides what the platform will become known for, and this may not be a great way to streamline good content.
Loyalty to an OTT brand occurs when we see all kinds of stories engaging with all audience age groups. A platform’s duty is to deliver the goods on this front.