Director Nandini Reddy.
When Rana Daggubati, at the height of his filmi career, announced that he was about to be a part of a web series, Social, eyebrows were raised. The digital space, which is often considered a mere second fiddle to the grand silver screen, seemed like a strange choice. But of late, the medium has become a popular choice not just for those who are trying to establish themselves in the entertainment industry but also those who have already proved their prowess on the big screen.
“It’s exciting to work on a digital show since digital platforms are experimenting with content that attracts a huge audience,” says Rana, who believes in being visible on all platforms that have the potential. While earlier the Telugu digital space played safe with the romantic comedy genres in small budgets, it is going big lately. Actor Srinivas Avasarala, who is playing an important role in a web series starring Lakshmi Manchu as lead, thinks that web series can be a creative outlet. “I was told web series make money because of people who binge watch. So the writers’ motive is not limited to tying all the loose ends and delivering the emotional gratification. Instead, they have to cleverly leave loose ends that can be expanded into another season if the first one is a hit,” he says.
The first regional-language web series announced on Amazon Prime Video, Gang Stars, that features Jagapathi Babu in the lead role, slingshots the possibilities for digital content in Telugu. Nandini Reddy, who scripted the series, believes this is just the beginning. “It’s a great opportunity to put our content on an international platform. There is a growing market for the medium,” she says. Not just on a logistical level but the writer believes it helps in keeping the creative juices flowing. Nandini says, “Web series do not have the box office limitations. Here the content rules. Without the three-hour time limit, there is a lot more detailing that can be taken into account and a lot more can be said.”
Tharun Bhasker, who bagged the National Award for his first feature film Pelli Choopulu, and is now producing a web series, also concurs. “We had to rewrite about 80 pages of the script to make it apt for a series,” he says. “Structurally, the two formats are entirely different. While a movie only has one beginning, middle and an end, a web series needs to have them in every episode. And of course cliffhangers are a must.”
While the creative side of the artists can thrive in the digital arena, they also admit that in comparison to films, the pressure of selling their content is taken off. “The business model for various formats of content is obviously different. But now with bigger corporations and production houses pitching in and showing interest in the format, the industry is changing and for the good,” says Tharun.
Nandini, however, thinks the medium has a long way to go and that it is on the right track. “Hollywood is about 10-15 years ahead of us, with budgets for TV series and web series competing with that of movies. We have barely explored the medium’s full potential. I am looking forward to seeing more genres such as thrillers, biopics and intense dramas on the regional digital media platforms,” she says.