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The year 2020 will always be looked at as the year of the pandemic. It’s the year that the entire human race had to stay socially distanced and confined in their homes in the fear of an unknown virus that could not be seen nor heard. With its numerous drawbacks also came numerous opportunities. The opportunity to spend more time with your family, to take as many holidays at one stretch which was our lifelong dream, the opportunity to reflect and ponder over our lives and so many others. One such opportunity that we all witnessed as a film fraternity was the rise in viewership on OTT platforms. Since multiplexes were shut and our main source of entertainment was a show on Netflix or Hotstar, we came to loving this medium which was in the secondary, up until the pandemic struck.

mukesh chhabra

Most of the films were released online, including my directorial debut Dil Bechara and a few shows and films that I cast for as a Casting Director. I feel as an audience it made us more accepting and to some extent also falling in love with this online medium of viewing content from the comfort of our home/or anywhere and streaming it at anytime we liked.

The fact that these platforms have so many options we even went on to explore shows and films that we wouldn’t usually watch. Apart from that, it has opened numerous opportunities for actors and filmmakers alike. Without the concept of a box office hit, producers too are willing to take the risk of investing in to seemingly new content. Actors are experimenting with roles and breaking the stereotype.

The pandemic has been a boon in terms of consuming more content and offering more accessible content to viewers. From a personal point of view, I have binged and enjoyed so many series that I probably would have never had the time to watch on a busy work day. I have been able to identify and discover new talent through the content that I have been watching online.

I have also taken the initiative to open offices all over India, in different States. The online medium is perfect for me and my team to discover talent in every nook and corner, not only in India but all around the World. I have set up offices in Delhi, Lucknow, Chandigarh apart from my Mumbai office so actors don’t have to spend money travelling to Mumbai and staying here at additional costs. They can sit at the comfort of their home and mail me their introduction/auditions. My team at the offices will help and guide actors about how to go about auditioning.

As a viewer I have been given an unlimited access to different genres of content at a very competitive price. For example, if I had to watch one single movie at a theatre I would pay around 500 rupees but, in this case, I can watch 10 movies or more for the same price or even lesser. This obviously gives OTT platforms an advantage over multiplexes. Of course, there’s no comparison being made towards the viewership experience but to most people that is not an important factor.

So much has changed in regards to the way we are going about our projects now. I am just glad that everything is almost if not entirely back on track right now. With the necessary SOP’s in place we have started shoot schedules too and work almost feels like back to normal. I think it’s just a matter of time now and we’ll be as good as normal. Till then we better stay safe and keep everyone around us safe too.

This article first appeared in FirstPost.

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