Digital platforms will end nepotism in the industry: Dibakar Banerjee
A conversation with the filmmaker, and his actors Gulshan Devaiah and Sukant Goel, about their Netflix film, Ghost Stories
Dibakar Banerjee, much like his segment in Ghost Stories, makes strong statements against oppressors in power. You can see why his episode, Monster, metaphorically addresses social and political evil. He begins by calling the existing system in the entertainment industry, 'feudal'. "The ones belonging to the elite and powerful section of the society always grab the best slice of the cake. I've seen powerful families take over cinema and all they have done is extensively promote nepotism, cronyism and racism." He adds that many a talent has been waylaid because of such powerful people. "These rich people have created a world filled with their like or the ones they have chosen. A host of deserving talents have been shut off from entering films because of this."
Dibakar strongly feels that such barriers would be broken in a few years by digital platforms like Netflix. "Filmmakers like Anurag and I began breaking all the 'isms' in the industry almost a decade ago. But the results have always been mixed. Now, digital platforms can take things to the next level and make things fair for every single actor and technician."
Gulshan Devaiah, the prime antagonist of Dibakar's segment, has been part of films with bold and quirky themes like Hunterr. Ask if that film would have suited an OTT platform better and he immediately responds with a big no. "Hunterr is my most-watched film to date. The people who watched and celebrated the film, the ones who recognise me as Vasu and scream that name whenever they see me, are those who haven't started using digital platforms yet. I believe it was a story best suited for a theatrical release."
Dibakar continues to be an ad filmmaker, even after carving a name for himself in Bollywood. Questioned if making ads within restricted time limits, has aided the process of helming a short film, he says, "I don't think so. They are different worlds. The limitations of making a commercial are high and the end result would more or less be that of vanilla television. Working in a short film is a different experience and I just love the format." He adds that short films enable filmmakers to tell a story just the way they want without adding layers for their sake. "Short films are amazing micro-stories, which can't be expanded into a feature film. It's more like reading a four-page story while travelling in a metro. It grabs your focus and leaves a strong idea in your mind."
Sukant Goel, who has delivered a solid performance as the lead in Dibakar's Monster, believes digital platforms offer a ray of hope for actors looking for a breakthrough in cinema. "A lot of actors have begun to see OTT platforms as a gateway to cinema; it is a positive sign. A lot of content is being provided to the audience right now and I believe the talents loved by the audience will definitely get their due." Dibakar adds a caution note to Sukant's statement. "It is indeed a hopeful situation. But as I said earlier, if the gates of the digital platforms are taken over by the same elite controlling cinema, they will again create a system of injustice. Every responsible person in cinema should fight to prevent that."