Taking Theater To OTT Platforms With Shreyas Talpade
Shreyas Talpade is a celebrated actor, both on the big screen and in the theater scene. After making a splash as an artist, actor, producer, and director, he is now ready to put on the hat of an entrepreneur.
His latest venture, Nine-Rasa, is an OTT platform exclusively for Theatre & Performing Arts. On our weekly podcast, Pepper Spotlight, we had a chat with him about this beginning, the impact on the theater scene, and why such a platform is the need of the hour.
From his debut in the movie Iqbal in 2005 until today, Shreyas has been nothing but a treat to watch.
Here are some of the takeaways from this episode:
Artists and Discovery
The digital world has opened doors for new artists. Today an artist can easily display their work online and gather a loyal following. Things were not the same when Shreyas started his journey.
“I started with Rs 75 per show,” he said, and things have changed today. Back then, only a theater show or an audition was the outlet to find new talent. Today digital mediums have made the world more accessible.
After spending his time attempting many bank exams, Shreyas finally decided to dive into acting. His work was appreciated by many, and there was no stopping him. He also believes that today’s families see acting and theater as viable career options, which is a considerable change.
The Start Of A Theater OTT Platform
The year 2020 has been a year of realization for many. Being stuck indoors, we all adapted to a new lifestyle that we never thought could happen. At first, there was a level of optimism; most people thought the lockdowns were temporary. But people could no longer sit and wait for change to occur.
“We could not keep blaming 2020 and COVID and sit indoors,” said Shreyas. At some point, we had to come to terms with the new normal and face reality. This moment also forced Shreyas to think outside the box.
He started to donate to charities and causes but soon realized that it’s better to give people an opportunity. “Give someone money, you feed them once; give them a job, you feed them a lifetime.”
He decided to take theater online, and that is how Nine-Rasa came into being. “Why not go into a theater, shoot with a limited crew and then put it up on zoom and give the money back to the team,” he explained. Shreyas figures that this was the need of the hour, and he has to take the first few steps to make them happen.
The name Nine-Rasa is a play on the word “nav-ras,” which means the nine emotions. The basis of theater is the nine emotions, but they looked for a name that had a global appeal. According to Shreyas, a good brand name needs to be relatable to the field, easy to remember, and easy to say.
“We did not want a random name; we wanted the name to capture the essence of the art form,” he added.
Do We Intellectualize Theater?
If you follow the culture of live theater, you can understand this transition is not easy. We are mentally tuned into the idea that theater cannot happen online. The team at Nine-Rasa is aware of this dichotomy and is not looking for an overnight change in mindsets.
“Why do we have to intellectualize theater,” said Shreyas. Nine-Rasa is not asking people to stop watching live theater but creating a new avenue that encourages more eyeballs to the art. They aim to create a community and ecosystem that can make online theater further favorable.
A young Shreyas would see theater with his whole family, like many families he knew. It was a medium of entertainment for the masses, but we should also address the new reality we live in.
“Just because we had VCRs, DVDs, and OTT platforms, does not mean people stopped going to movie halls.”
Nine-Rasa also aims to attract new audiences to the theater. A millennial audience might not have seen live theater, but with an online platform, they can reach a large group of people who would otherwise spend a life unaware of theater’s nuances.
Helping Artists Make a Living
With Nine-Rasa, they also aim to keep the community sustained and provide sufficient monetary benefits to the artists and theater groups. This happens in three primary ways:
- When Nine-Rasa decides to shoot a play, they pay the teams for their work.
- Secondly, Nine-Rasa only buys the rights for online streaming. The performance team is free to make money from the concept at live shows. The views from the online shows can also help to drive more people and income to the events.
- Lastly, they help set up corporate shows, live streams, and dedicated viewing for national and international groups and organizations.
Actors who are yet to explode in the scene can reach more people and benefit from an online platform.
Actor To Entrepreneur
“For the longest time, I didn’t even know the spelling and pronunciation of entrepreneur,” said a joking Shreyas. As an actor, his journey of running a business has been whole new learning. However, Shreyas prides himself on his team at Nine-Rasa.
Both his team and the seniors in the film fraternity have been a huge helping hand for this venture. They have stood by his side and provided some of the most valuable feedback to make this project work.
Today the platform has a collection of one-act shows and plays in all languages. They presently feature Hindi, Marathi, and English and aim to add Tamil, Malayalam, and Urdu in the next four months. Nine-Rasa wishes to diversify the performance arts into plays, chats, stand-up comedy, and even poetry.
You can find the platform by logging into the application here. You can also check out the samples of their work and more on the social media pages.