BY PUJA GUPTA
Writer and producer Shailja Kejriwal feels that OTT platforms will have to “think of catering to a lot many more age groups and demographics than those who they currently cater to”.
Kejriwal has conceptualised Zee Theatre’s teleplays – a concept which aims to digitize theatre plays for both television and online audiences. In a wheeling chat with IANSlife, she talks more about the idea, impact of the lockdown on the OTT industry and the shift that the entertainment industry might see in future. Read excerpts:
Q. With teleplays, you have digitalised theatre. This comes as a great option for those who want to enjoy theatre sitting at home. What are your views on the same?
Kejriwal: Just 100 years ago, theatre was the only audio-visual art form that existed. It enthralled audiences for centuries with its stories, colour, music, dance and drama. The most complete art form in a manner of speaking. Industrialisation brought about the capturing of all of this with technology and cinema was born.
Stories that stood the test of time over centuries, starting from even before Aristotle’s Poetics in Greece to Bharat’s Natyashastra in India, did so because they spoke about universal philosophies and human emotions. Good over evil, Class conflict, Price of Pride, Generational conflict, love, lust, betrayal are universal themes that are, and will remain relevant over time.
Zee theatre was born with the idea of combining the reach of technology with the content of theatre so that large numbers of people who could not access a live performance would get to enjoy it sitting at home. And in the current scenario, you would think it was a timely decision.
Q. Considering the lockdown, is Zee Theatre acquiring plays, given that demand must be at an all-time high now?
Kejriwal: Zee theatre was a new concept that started with much scepticism from a lot of people within, as well as outside of the theatre industry. Having created content for television for many years enabled us to think more from the viewer perspective than that of the nay-sayers. It was heartening to see that as we put out our teleplays, we saw a month on month increase of viewership across all platforms that Zee Theatre was on.
The lockdown has increased sampling substantially, though we look at that with mixed feelings. But the response has been tremendous because in such trying circumstances people like to go back to basic emotions and relatable conflicts along with social messaging that theatre provides.
We are not acquiring but producing plays ground up. We have about 100 productions already and the response has encouraged us to produce many more in several Indian languages.
Q. Are there any thoughts on acquiring international teleplays?
Kejriwal: Yes, we are on the lookout but because this is a new concept, we don’t have very many people pursuing this form of filming theatre yet. National Theatre Live, London has filmed some great properties and we are hoping to be able to bring some of them to our audiences.
Q: Any plans to look at scripts and produce and direct your own plays?
Kejriwal: We have looked at scripts and produced and directed our own plays all along. We have about seven new productions in our pipeline. We have been lucky in getting some of the best talent for writing and directing from theatre as well as for filming. It’s probably the only form that needs two directors working simultaneously; a stage director and a filming director. It’s quite a challenge to get two very creative minds from different backgrounds to collaborate.
Q: Will the lockdown affect the OTT industry?
Kejriwal: This can be a whole other discussion, but very briefly I think that OTT platforms will have to think of catering to a lot many more age groups and demographics than those who they cater to currently. This will create a churn in content and marketing strategies for sure. I also think that positioning of the platforms will need to become more distinctive than has been previously.
Q. Do you think audiences’ viewing choices will change forever? Will digital & OTT platforms now dominate?
Kejriwal: In the long term digital and OTT platforms will dominate for sure, but we are talking about a country like India where in the short to medium term there is space for all platforms and all kinds of content starting with the 1980s block buster “Ramayan” on DoorDarshan to the latest season of “Fauda” on Netflix and everything in between! So, it’s a great time for the content business where content choices will not change, they will just widen to include more.
Q. In your opinion, will there be a shift in the way entertainment industry functions?
Kejriwal: Group entertainment viewing, that is cinemas or live events are bound to be affected. Which will change the way in which movies are made and distributed. Kids entertainment should see a lot of surge and rethinking as parents would probably be more comfortable with indoor entertainment as compared to theme parks and outdoor entertainment.
There will be a lot more consumption of news and a surge in gaming. In terms of ways of creating entertainment, I just think it will probably get more structured, people are getting used to working distantly and would need to worry a little bit more about their eyesight than traffic! (IANS)