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Video content gained much importance in the past year, and digital streaming and over-the-top (OTT) platforms got a bigger seat at the table as movies began to be released directly on some top platforms. There was a welcome flux of fresh, engaging content. Industry sources predict trends in 2021 which could rule the OTT space.
Veteran producer Anand Pandit said, “As artists, creators and consumers of art in all spaces, we will continue to adapt to whatever the new normal throws at us. As a producer, I see more and more content and its delivery being digitized for more accessibility. We will find a way to not just create but to reach even those we could not earlier because as some doors close, many others will open and I mean in terms of not just OTT platforms but on content sharing platforms. Story-telling will become more and more democratized as the pandemic has shown us just how powerful the act of sharing personal experiences of survival and resilience can be. And the content we create will have to become more specific to the times, more intimate, more driven by our realities. We will have to be more contextual, more relevant, and more empathetic when we ideate films and shows because 2020 has taught us some hard lessons.”
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“As the world went into lockdown, lots of people embraced OTT platforms for their main source of entertainment. Without any doubt, OTT video is driving the future of home entertainment. In such a competitive space, it’s important that streaming service providers customize their content to match the ever-changing expectations of viewers. Personalization of content will play a major role in 2021 and will be a key differentiator as viewers are looking for a personalized viewing experience. Personalization will make it super convenient for viewers, it could be achieved from strategizing recommendation engines, tailored content, or adaptable user experiences,” Rohit Jain, Managing Director, South Asia and Networks – Emerging Markets Asia at Lionsgate said.
Producer and filmmaker Puneet Singh said, “With the environment still being uncertain we can only hope positively for cinema, that it will get us the theater experience soon, but the impact and market size of what OTT has created cannot be ignored. Reports say that the India OTT content market will reach $5 bn in size by 2023, it cannot be a better thing to know that we have a great future as with OTT, while we wait for theatres to reopen soon.”
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Director Girish Malik said, “OTT’s growth has been accelerated due to the pandemic. But it was growing anyway. And with faster, cheaper, and more accessible internet even in small towns and villages, it will remain a dominant way for entertainment to reach people. While OTT is personalized, convenient, and provides variety. Cinema is a community experience. Going to the cinema is an event. People are still going to go for it. I feel it will take a little more time for people to get comfortable going to cinemas, probably by mid-2021. But the thing to look forward to is how the exposure to this varied content will shape the taste of the people and how and whether it will affect the content we see in cinemas.”
According to Ganesh Iyer – Executive Vice President & National Head, Mirchi Originals, the forced lockdown from March to around August has had a direct impact on the content production cycle and therefore “a lot of shows are delayed; new releases are not as prolific as they could have otherwise been” but that apart, a few things that are likely to happen in the OTT space in 2021:
Regionalization of content in the true sense
5-6 platforms of the big platforms have been making sporadic inroads into the non-Hindi market with original content (apart from catch-up TV content that the broadcaster backed platforms already offer) but expect the traction to grow significantly in 2021. And much of the growth is likely to come not from these national players whose tentpole focus will continue to be Hindi, but from regional single-language focused platforms like Aha (Telugu), and Hoichoi (Bengali). The explosion of growth in video consumption is already coming from regional markets as per most reports – it is now time for quality supply to show up. This is a big investment long-term game, so don’t be surprised if a few regional cash-rich film production houses/media conglomerates throw their hats into the ring.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: 2021 में आने वाली भारतीय वेब शो की रोमांचक सूची
Films direct to OTT
Again the lockdown has seen a plethora of movies across sizes and languages, otherwise planned for theatrical release, going direct to OTT, but expect this to become a permanent trend starting immediately. Not only do filmmakers get to tell stories that are otherwise not commercially viable (given the disproportionate dependence on theatrical revenues and the inability of theatres to release niche movies within the 52 Fridays available every year), but viewers also get to consume a variety of genres, beyond what is otherwise dished out and therefore become deeper consumers of OTT platforms. More important, for platforms too, this is not a totally unviable stream (we are not talking only deep pockets here) since movies tend to find their own audiences across geographies and over time, the luxury of which both, OTT platforms have – unlike the limited domestic theatrical week-on-week seat inventory.
Interactive, real-time content
With terms like AR and VR becoming more and more prevalent, and with interaction on social media playing a key added role, content is likely to go more real-time and interactive – in terms of co-creation, on-the-go dynamics, multiple endings, and even reward-based shows. We are still a few years away from this going more mainstream and we have had international examples like ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ but expect a few big Indian originals to try this route out.
Opening up of genres
The success of intense grim dramas like ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Ashram’, ‘Patal Lok’, etc. (Scam was an outlier but was still intense) has forced most platforms to create similar offerings, but something’s gotta give as they say. All it takes is for a few good shows of a totally different kind to turn the tide to get platforms to green light shows across multiple genres including romantic and slice-of-life comedies. ‘Panchayat’ was a sole runner in 2020, but likely a few others will emerge in 2021 and change this, giving viewers varied choices, and also bringing more consumers into the OTT net (given that dark drama with sex/violence/abusive language make for uncomfortable viewing in a family set-up). (IANS)
As children, singing the rhyme Rock A Bye Baby was a fun thing to do. It was a statement of thrill and adventure to imagine a child climbing to the top of a tree and rocking to sleep. Especially in the Indian context, rocking a baby to sleep by attaching the cradle to the tree is quite a common thing. But the origin of this rhyme, or lullaby, seems rooted in other histories.
The most popular notion associated with this lullaby is of women leaving their babies tied to tree branches, rocking to sleep with the wind. It is believed that at the time this lullaby was written, it was inspired by a coloniser who saw the Native American women tie their children in birch bark cradles to the trees. The babies went to sleep rocked by the gusts of wind while the parents went about their tasks.
A Native American wooden cradle Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Another interpretation of the rhyme is that it is an allegory to Betty Kenny, or Kenyon, as some versions record it. The Kenyons were a tree-dwelling family, and they used to live in a yew tree. They had carved the tree branches to fit their babies and allowed them to nestle there during the day. The part of the rhyme that talks about falling off the tree is a little scary in this context, but the speculation is that the tree branches were quite low.
The final interpretation of the lullaby has political allusions. King James II of England, was the last Catholic king. He had no heir and reportedly used another baby to impersonate his own. But he was found out and exiled in the Glorious Revolution that took place after he was deposed. The act of falling down from the cradle is a metaphor for those who make mistakes from being overconfident or proud.
The many versions that exist of the rhyme/lullaby make it confusing to really know why it was written in such a strange and morbid manner. Each version points to a different time in history where certain practices were prevalent. However, despite all the various interpretations available, the lullaby itself works wonders in rocking babies to sleep, and perhaps that is the only reason it has survived.
Keywords: Lullaby, Rhyme, King James II, Kenyons, Native Americans, Colonisers
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement