Filmmaker Danish Aslam has directed feature films like 'Break Ke Baad' and also helmed successful web series like 'Flesh' and more recently part of the anthology 'Feels Like Ishq'. Having worked in both mediums of storytelling, he says that the distinction in style of working for these mediums is very clear.
"I started doing web series in 2016 when I did 'It's Not That Simple' with Swara (Bhasker). The web is a medium that globally people are still exploring. We still don't know what constitutes a hit or a flop, what works or doesn't. In India especially, when I started working in 2016, there was no literally no web. The language absolutely changes (from feature films to web) because the medium is completely different," Aslam tells us.
He adds, "When I am making a feature film, you have two hours to tell a story. You have two hours to make people invest in characters... In a web series, I have got anywhere between seven episodes to 10 episodes of 25 to 40 minutes each. So, I am telling a story which stretches for five-six or seven hours. So, there is a lot more time to settle in, to get you invested in a character. On the flip side, there is also then the format of episodic storytelling, which is different because in a feature film, you can set up one story in two hours gradually, but in web, every episode is its own story. It changes in a very different even in terms of the cast as well"
Adding to that, Aslam also says that when actors are cast for digital stories, the baggage of box office collections is not there.
"Suddenly box office numbers are not that relevant and Friday collections are not an issue. You don't necessarily have to cast a so-called star for a show. In Fact web series are now making stars out of people who are good actors but have not got recognition right now because they are not box office friendly," he says.
Actors tend to build a relationship with theatre audiences and are known to pull crowds to the halls, which can trigger a sense of security for the producer. However, with OTT being a new medium, there could be a hint of uncertainty about reception.
Aslam doesn't agree with this notion. On the contrary, he feels casting actors for web is less risky than for feature films.
"When I cast a 'star' in a movie, there is no guarantee that the film is going to be a hit. Despite their track record the biggest stars of the country have given the biggest flops as well and there are many names we can go into. The reason why we cast them is not because they are good for the role or they are great actors. We cast them because Friday, Saturday, Sunday mein humein opening mil jayegi (We will get a good opening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday) but that in itself is not enough to save a movie because when you cast those stars, your budget goes up and the recovery you need to make is so much higher," he says.
Comparing the same to web series, Aslam says, "Web series are not untested. They are very well tested. Someone like a Swara or a Jaideep Ahlawat or any actor seen in the last few years are veteran actors, whose performances you have seen and that is the one thing you know that you will be able to deliver. I can't guarantee the box office if the audience will come or not but I can guarantee their performance."
He adds, "I know that Jaideep and Swara will pull off the role because I have seen them 50 times before and this is not something that is dependent on something as fickle as the audience and whether they will come or not. This is dependent on their performance, which is completely under their control. So, I would say that the risk is less because I am casting that someone's track record is good instead of casting someone because of whom I am sitting outside Gaiety Galaxy on a Friday and praying ki bhaia koi to aa jao."
Aslam's recent web show 'The Reunion: Chal Chalein Apne Ghar" released on YouTube Channel of Zoom Studios. The show tells the story of a dysfunctional family coming back under one roof.
The show starring Lillete Dubey, Kashmira Irani, Prabal Panjabi, KK Raina amongst others, was shot in an unconventional location of Orrisa. For Aslam, who is the writer and director of the show, it was a delight to explore the state'
"Once I came on board and started writing and went on recce, I realised its a state like how the North East States of India are. People really want to explore and never end up going to and when they do they realise it's beautiful. When people shoot there, they realise that there are parts of India which are over exposed and parts which are sadly never seen and Orissa happens to be one of those states. I have never seen it in mainstream media, I have never seen stories set there or characters from there. The excitement for me while writing was that it was unexplored territory and that's always fun to explore a place that has not been seen. I am glad I went there. It was hot as hell but it was completely worth it," he says