With Breathe: Into the Shadows, actor AbhishekBachchan made his debut on a global streaming platform. He talked to G20 about his experiences. Excerpts:
Q. Making your foray into the OTT space with ‘Breathe: Into the Shadows’, was it an exciting proposition for you? What are your thoughts on OTT platforms?
A. It was never a criteria for me. When I met Mayank and Vikram for the first time and they told me the basic plot, design of what they were planning to do with Breathe: Into The Shadows, it was an instant yes from my end.
I think it’s a very, very exciting medium and it’s exciting because of the great content that is being produced out there. Amazon Prime Video alone if you see the kind of shows they have come up with, they’ve been exceptional especially from India. What’s really nice is that the focus is entirely on the content — no-one of the other frills matter. And that’s very exciting. Now, if you discuss cinema, the requirements are different and the audience is different. There’s a huge distinction between Indian cinema and Western cinema. I don’t think there’s a big distinction — to the naked eye — between Indian streaming content and international streaming content. Indian cinema is catering to a different sensibility and an Indian diaspora which has particular requirements as to why they go to a movie hall to watch a movie. You’re not faced with those requirements on a streaming platform. The minute you upload the content, the world is your audience — you have to cater to a world audience and speak a visual language that is acceptable and palatable to everybody. For example, if we were to make Breathe: Into The Shadows as a Hindi movie , one of the requirements — and a wonderful requirement in my opinion — is we have to break into a song and dance at some point of time. If I do that on Amazon Prime Video on an Amazon Original Web Series first of all they might not pass it; secondly, anyone outside the Indian diaspora is not going to understand the style of narrative. Because of these attributes, the concentration is entirely on the content. It’s got nothing to do with the kind of actor you are, what your history is, the scale you have — none of that matters — which are all points you use in cinema in India to aid you into luring the audience into the cinema hall. You’re not tied down by those tropes on a streaming platform.
Q. When you were offered the role of Dr Avinash Sabharwal, what about it did you find compelling enough to say yes?
A. The setting, the story, the premise and the screenplay. It’s fantastically written in my opinion. Bhavani Iyer, Vikram Tuli, Arshad Syed and Mayank have done a stupendous job. The twists and turns are wonderful. The detailing of the characters, the nuances were all so exciting.
Q. Was preparing for this role different from what you would have done for cinema?
A. I think the only difference is the amount of detailing you go into, you actually get to perform. Let me elaborate. In cinema, you do your prep, character sketch and you go into a lot of details but you might not be able to use those details due to the lack of time. Over here, as opposed to three hours, I have nine hours, so the smallest of details, I can act upon.
Q. There would be a character arc, so was there anything challenging in the role?
A. I think to balance off the time. Mayank, as a director, allows you the freedom to take your time in the scene. He allows the character to react as naturally as possible. That, for an actor, can easily become an indulgent performance. The biggest challenge is how not to become indulgent in your performance and still take your time realistically with the scene and not bore the viewer.
Q. How was it working with Nithya Menen and Amit Sadh, who are both very talented?
A. It was a revelation. I have known Amit for a long time; love the intensity and presence he has brought to his character. His character doesn’t have many dialogues but he has a presence about it which is very intimidating and to perform that without the aid of words is very demanding and he’s done it wonderfully.
(This interview was conducted before the actor was diagnosed with Covid-19.)