In conversation with Anant Roongta, MD at Famous Studios about OTT and other things

Sakshi Sharma
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Anant Roongta

The managing director of famous studios, Mr. Anant Roongta talks to Social Ketchup about OTT and its various aspects in details.

Mr. Anant Roongta, MD, Famous Studios is the grandson of J. B. Roongta who conceived and founded Asia’s first air-conditioned studios (Famous Studios) in 1946, i.e. in pre-independence India. Famous Studios was a bold foray into the world of Indian cinema and television. Over the years, it evolved into a canvas for hundreds of artists to create masterpieces with state-of-the-art equipment and expert technicians. A turnkey content solutions provider for anything that a business or film needs, today the studios have spread into a sprawling 1,10,000 sq ft, to several locations across Mumbai to boost flexibility, and also to the hearts of the industry folk. Famous Studios has been honored with Dadasaheb Phalke and the Indian Motion Picture Association’s recognition for its outstanding contribution to Indian Cinema, in addition to dozens of other accolades and awards.

Anant is the third-generation entrepreneur at Famous Studios and is taking forward the 75-year old legacy. As a kid, he was deeply intrigued by the content. Anant comes across as an individual, who maintains the beam of focus towards introducing innovative technologies, learning, and development in order to add new-age relevance to the industry and expansion of services at Famous Studios. He has spearheaded new offerings at the studio such as visual engineering, Motion Capture, content creation, production and post-production, VFX, a fully-equipped preview theatre, virtual production, co-working spaces, and has launched India’s second-largest Dolby Atmos home mixing facility for the OTT original content space. He is determined and is dedicatedly working towards expanding its creative studios and visual effects facilities. Anant believes that in the midst of all the tech disruption, therein lies an opportunity to offer specialized services for content creators to help them unleash their creative potential. His long-term vision is to re-energize Famous Studios into a creative hub, opening doors for creative enthusiasts and learners from across the globe.

Social Ketchup had an interaction with Anant Roongta over OTT and its various aspects!

Why do filmmakers and film studios prefer OTT releases? 

Given the current scenario where the majority of the population is still home-bound and not venturing out of their homes freely, the complete opening of cinema halls is unlikely at the moment. Even with the relaxed restrictions, cinema halls are not likely to be house-full anytime soon and that is a grave concern for filmmakers. With this backdrop, it's important to note whether a film is made for a theatrical release or for OTT platforms - the technology, time, the capital that goes into the making of these projects and the budgets are of similar caliber across mediums. Fortunately, we have renowned OTT platforms that are looking for unique content and are willing to spend money to launch films, helping the producers recover their money in a short span of time. Due to the current situation and the ongoing pandemic crisis, people have resorted to indoor entertainment options through streaming services and OTT platforms are making the most of this surge in interest, by releasing unique content, offering enormous amounts of binge-watch material, and getting maximum traction due to its global reach. This way they tend to recover the money faster and are therefore the preferred medium for filmmakers to release movies in today’s times.

In your opinion, will this still continue when the pandemic will be over?  

I do feel that OTT releases are not going to slow down in the near future, simply because OTT has given an opportunity to talent from all spheres within the media and entertainment industry. Especially to those who haven’t had many opportunities to shine on the silver screen and are now able to showcase their performances and creativity through OTT. So, this will continue but there will be a newfound balance between OTT and theatrical releases. The mobility, accessibility, and diversity of content, local and global that is highly engaging has resonated with the audience and created loyalists for OTT platforms.     

How are reach and ROI measured on OTT?  

The one simple word for this is analytics. It's for the producers to decide who they want to sell their content to and which OTT platform is the most appropriate for their leverage. Then the OTT platform submits the number of views as per demographics or geography. This makes it easy for both parties, filmmakers or producers and OTT platform owners to assess, identify the location of content consumption, the overall viewership, and the age bracket of the viewers. The ROI is measured by what the OTT platform is willing to pay the producers vis-à-vis the number of subscriptions, and in some cases also measured by the ad revenues. ROI for OTT platforms is expected to increase in the coming years simply because there is a huge influx of content and future projects underway and with greater content there will be more opportunities for advertisers.  

Do you think OTT does away with the star-studded system and brings more focus to content? 

Yes, this is true to a huge extent. We are past the days when stardom used to be more about the image representation and less about the craft. OTT has slowly but surely opened doors for the talent pool of our country at different levels and multiple junctures of their career. These platforms are focusing on delivering meaningful content and it definitely takes away the stardom that actors used to enjoy by making them more relatable with their earthy performances and realistic color grading tones in humble settings. OTT streaming platforms are scripting new age stardom by redefining and reinventing acting benchmarks with their content library. Today, actors have the liberty to take risks, break the stereotypes and come out of their comfort zone, giving them a larger playground to enact several shades of a character thanks to the OTT scene. The success of actors in today’s generation has prompted a new genre of artists in the realm of the Indian entertainment industry where the star is born out of on-screen realism.

As regional cinema is becoming pan- Indian cinema because of its release on OTT platforms, do you think OTT is succeeding in bridging the gap? 

Yes, at Famous Studios, we're working with some leading OTT platforms to localize the content and there’s a reason that these platforms are investing exorbitant amounts of money to generalize it because the internet reach and device penetration across the country is at its peak. The government and private entities are working extremely hard to bring fiber connectivity to remote areas across India that have not seen or experienced the internet before. So yes, pan India cinema is going to reach the next level and will be the future of the industry.  

What is your take on censorship on OTT? 

Hailing from a background of film-making, we've always adhered to the censorship laws and cooperated by their standards. Since OTT was an unregulated space, it gave rise to experimental content that created a niche for itself. But, it also gave rise to content that exploited the freedom of creativity, violating the norms of our culture and not setting the right example for the section of the audience that is impressionable. The regulations that have come into effect for OTT platforms in February 2021 enable curtailment of content that is problematic in nature, empowers viewers to make informed choices and creates a fair field for other mediums. While every decision has its pros and cons, it's important to retain the essence and the authenticity of streaming services. The kind of storytelling opportunity OTT platforms provide is extremely profound and differs from that of other platforms, which is why we are in favor of the restrictions being tweaked as per the medium so as not to hamper creativity. 

With the abundance of platforms, how does one filmmaker or producer decide the best suitable option for the film? 

I think it's very important for filmmakers and producers to understand the type of film they're making and the audience it's meant to cater to. If it sends out a strong message then we have to understand who this message is for and based on the demographic and location, which platform would be best suited to get the content the reception it deserves. Additionally, one needs to factor in the platforms that are active in the country and where they have the strongest reach.  

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