How OTT and music videos hijacked B-Town stardom

By Vinayak Chakravorty

New Delhi: The most exciting screen sensation over the past 12 months has been Pratik Gandhi, about whom most of India hadn’t heard of before OTT gave us “Scam 1992”. And, if you care about Bollywood, your most embarrassing experience over roughly the same period would be a tie between watching “Radhe” and “Laxmii”, respectively starring the industry’s biggest superstars, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar.

Over the past year much has changed for stardom in the Hindi entertainment industry. The only occasions B-Town stars made news were when they posted pictures or videos on Instagram (mostly while vacationing in Maldives or getting vaxed for Covid). The odd set of stars took it upon themselves to tweet about the importance of wearing a mask, and nearly all of them, by turns, used social media to carp about how much they longed to go back to a film set.

With cinema halls shut and the flow of film releases stunted, the expensive PR machinery that has driven Bollywood stardom for years is fast running out of ideas to keep the limelight trained on their high-profile clients. The public is losing interest.

Rather, limelight in showbiz as we traditionally know it has all but been hijacked by two different breeds of artistes on two very different platforms.

The first is OTT, which has become a playground for a set of actors who have been living in the shadows of our superstars for long. Spurred by the advent of streaming culture, these actors have found due space to shine. These are artists who do not hanker after image specifics — many of them do not even hire the service of publicists — but have managed to build a fan base by showcasing the sort of versatility that constricted Bollywood writing hardly ever allowed them to. 

From Manoj Bajpayee to Pankaj Tripathi, from Shefali Shah to Rasika Dugal, the list of such actors has impressively grown in the digital domain since last year.

Clearly, it is a great time to be an actor on OTT, for the only way to court fame in the digital space is by flaunting acting chops and the guts to take risks with roles and subjects. Suddenly, Vikrant Massey’s low-key act as the complex protagonist in “Haseen Dillruba” garners more interest than Salman Khan managed with his one-dimensional machoman in “Radhe”, which was hyped for months before release.

OTT is currently crafting the new definition of stardom. Content-driven performance is the all-new route to becoming the entertainment industry’s newsmakers, thanks to the impact that the rise of streaming culture has ushered.

There is a second lot of showbiz personalities, too, which is hijacking the thunder of the Bollywood star, and creating a direct dent in old-school movie glamour. These are artists belonging to the world of music videos.

Suddenly, music videos are trending topics. From the moment they are announced to the moment they actually trend on YouTube, social media reaction to non-film tracks over the past year has marked a culture shift in what defines popular music in India.

Sidharth Shukla, Shehnaaz Gill, Himanshi Khurana, Asim Riaz, Paras Chhabra, Nikki Tamboli have been among the top draws in music videos over the past months. By coincidence, they are all “Bigg Boss” sensations from the same season.

Image courtesy of (File photos)

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