Why are Bollywood biggies turning to web shorts?
There has been a dramatic rise in the number of web series and short films in recent times as more and more artistes take to the uncensored, free platform. Even Bollywood biggies including Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin have appeared in a variety of web shorts. What is driving these powerful artistes to a less commercial platform?
For actors, web production is a breath of fresh air
For actors, the benefits are many: shorter shooting schedules, a de-link from box office results, and the opportunity to experiment. "…You not only surprise yourself, but also surprise others," says Manoj Bajpayee. They are also a good medium to reach out to viewers. Kalki Koechlin, who's doing them for "creative liberation", says most actors are doing them "for free or for very little money".
Directors push limits, expand scope of storytelling
Director Shirish Kunder, who made 'Kriti' last June, says, "When you're making a web short, there's no question of 'will it work or not'." He adds shorts bring directors a more varied audience. Director Neeraj Pandey, known for serious movies like 'A Wednesday', also changed tracks on the web; his 'Ouch' was a light comedy.
Web productions a win for unknown artistes
When big names sign such projects, it's a win for relatively unknown directors, since the presence of a known face is often enough to attract views. After Manoj Bajpayee appeared in Devashish Makhija's 'Taandav', his next short released two months later titled 'Absent' garnered two million views despite featuring no stars.
AIB and TVF - Revolutionizing the Indian television industry
Meanwhile, All India Bakchod and The Viral Fever have emerged as the leading players in the Indian television industry that has forayed into the web. With entire teams handling operations (TVF has about 100 employees while AIB has about 12 full-time employees), they have also changed the face of comedy, which is rarely considered a "career/profession" in India.
Tying up with AIB, TVF the new corporate mantra
With as much focus on stories as on brand promotions, TVF and AIB made sponsorship lucrative for companies. AIB's 'Creep Qawwali' for TrulyMadly pushed app downloads up by 25% at 1/10th its expenditure on mass-media campaigns. Pitchers' Kingfisher connection and Tripling's Tiago sponsorship increased their visibilities. Brand integration is also one of their prime revenue sources, with charges upto Rs. 25L per video.
Branding: Where to draw the line?
Though the reach of web shorts is tremendous, monetization is primarily based on ads, which are low-yielding. Branding might help draw higher revenues; however, director Shlok Sharma said it has to be in a controlled measure, otherwise "artistic freedom gets hampered and audiences could get put off too". Devashish Makhija feels doing too much of branded content might start a race that hampers art.