Manoj Bajpayee on lack of independent content on OTT platforms: It’s a sad development

New voices should be applauded and given a platform, said Manoj Bajpayee as he lamented the lack of mentorship provided by the streaming services to independent filmmakers.

At a panel discussion at the 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the actor said when the streaming services started in India, they backed independent storytellers but now these platforms are giving priority to blockbuster films.

“One thing that all streaming services started with initially was that they were making independent cinema but that got lost somewhere. For some reason, it has gone down completely and now we see blockbuster films making their way big time.

“But the independent cinema movement that started and was getting such mentorship from the OTT platforms, is gone. And that is a very sad development,” Bajpayee said.

If there is no independent cinema, then the Indian film industry will not evolve, he stressed.

“We will only grow in terms of money but we will not grow as creative people. New voices should be applauded and given platforms. I think they were doing so beautifully well earlier,” he added.

Bajpayee said it is unimaginable for independent films to get funding at par with tentpoles such as Jawan, Pathaan or Tiger 3.

“It can’t stand a chance and if you’re giving shows at 9 am for an independent film, it will never do well. It will fall flat. I really request from this stage to all these platforms that they should revive that mentorship,” the actor said.

Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, the co-creators of Bajpayee’s popular OTT series The Family Man, agreed with Bajpayee. “Earlier, all these films were directly made or shown on OTT. Now it is a clause that it has to play in theatres and only then we will take it,” Nidimoru said.

Krishna added, “This is happening worldwide right now. There used to be a time when there would be a film and then there would be an OTT movie. But The Russo Brothers made ‘The Gray Man’ for Netflix and it is as big as any theatrical film. So now every film is a big film.”

Apoorva Bakshi, who backed International Emmy-winning series Delhi Crime and Hunt for Veerappan, said streamers are pouring in resources into making “blockbusters”.

“There is no safe home left for independent films and that is happening because a lot of resources are going into the blockbusters. I believe independents help filmmakers to become better show creators and directors,” she said.

Raj said being an independent filmmaker taught him and Krishna to be self-sufficient.

“We didn’t know anyone in the industry, we taught ourselves. So this whole package of indie cinema gave us the confidence that wherever you give us, we can make a film, irrespective of the budget and the stars. I think that’s what still keeps us going,” he said.

Krishna believes independent filmmaking helps in coming to terms with the fact that “you won’t get everything you want”.

“You kind of adapt then, I think ‘jugaad’ is the word. You somehow get the job done and that’s how we started making films… Then this OTT and series concept came to India. We were fans of the shows from the West but nobody knew how to make a series in India. I think that jugaad mentality and idea of going back and figuring out how it is done, that came in handy,” he added.

The 54th edition of IFFI will conclude on November 28.