Amritpal Singh Bindra and Anand Tiwari are back with a newly produced web series titled Official Chukyagiri that is set to premiere on September 7. In an exclusive conversation with IndianExpress.com, the talented turks spoke about the quirky title, the idea behind it and the future plans of their company Still & Still Moving Pictures.
How did Official Chukyagiri happen?
Amrit: Chukyagiri is an idea that came from Arre (an Indian entertainment content platform that produces and publishes videos and web series through its online channel). The idea was they wanted to do a show on office politics shown through the eyes of an intern. That was their one-line brief and we took a crack at it and things fell in place. I directed the first episode. Unfortunately since I was shooting a lot of other things, I couldn’t take up directing the subsequent ones. So we got an able director in the form of Sizil Srivastava to direct episodes 2 to 5. We were involved in the writing along with Sumit Batheja who wrote Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. This is also his first web series.
What is this web series all about?
Anand: This web series is a dramedy as opposed to a comedy. At the time when it was commissioned, everyone was scared to do anything away from the space of comedy because that is what everybody thought would work on the internet. But we were certain that this web series was always going to be something that would have drama at its forefront. The series tells the story of Spandan Chukya who is an office intern and from his eyes you get to see the big bad world of corporate politics. You will also get to see other aspects of the corporate world through other characters. Gopal Dutt, who plays the office peon, has an important role. He is to Spandan what Krishna was to Arjun in Mahabharat. He keeps giving great anecdotes throughout the show and he is the silent viewer to the entire mess that the corporate world is. So we have made all our characters interesting and slightly contrasting from each other to create more drama. And credit should go to Amrit and Sumit for developing each of these characters.
Who came up with the word Chukyagiri?
Amrit: Chukyagiri came from Arre. Just like we had Gandhigiri in Munnnabhai, Chukiyagiri is something similar in the corporate space where Chukya comes up with his own ways of dealing with tricky situations and everything about the show becomes part of his Chukyagiri.
All actors in the web series look solid. How did you go about with the casting?
Amrit: That is the first question most asked after seeing the trailer. How did you get that cast? It has an anti-climatic story. Anand pulled out his phone and called all his theater friends and got them to do all these roles. So we cast these actors overnight. At the cost of sounding immodest, the idea of getting film people to work on digital platforms was something that we started with Bang Baaja Baaraat. Before that everything on digital was about new talent and creating fresh faces.
Anand: We have an inhouse casting director now who does all the casting for our digital shows. We are are also looking for fresh faces but only those who are good actors.
What do you make of the sudden explosion of multiple web series in the digital space?
Amrit: On one hand, it’s great that there is an explosion because a lot of alternate content has got a place on the digital platform and those who were not enjoying Indian television now has the chance to access content that is different in its nature and variety. This is the good part. Unfortunately, now since everyone is trying to scale up, there is a big danger of quality loss which is something that everyone is struggling with including content providers like us. Also, the other big mystery that we have to solve is that of economics. How long can one survive on an ad and subscription based model? In India, historically consumers are not used to paying for the content they are watching digitally. However, there are a couple of new OTTs (Over-the-top-content) that are exploring these options. So we will have to wait and how those pan out. But yes, future does hold some amount of consolidation.
Anand: It took TV years to become the giant that it is today while it took digital platforms only months to become big. Everybody has a digital platform today. On internet, the world becomes your oyster. If digital plays its card right, very soon it can created a hybrid where broadcast and broadband will become a single thing.
Is it easier to get brands to sponsor a web series?
Amrit: It’s not impossible but now with a growing number of people doing web series, it is going to get tougher. Also many feel when it’s a branded content, the brand takes care of entire production cost which is a myth because even brands on big shows are covering only 20 to 40 percent of the actual cost. So that’s a challenge that we have to meet. But from a brand’s perspective, this is an exciting space to be in.
How advantageous is the absence of censorship on internet to you as filmmakers?
Anand: We are not here to titillate the audience in any way be it with violence or abuse or skin shows. Having said that there is no governmental censorship and you get to show the way people actually talk in daily lives. It is not like we force an abuse down somebody’s throats but if someone is angry and wants to say something, he will most likely abuse and we will have to show that in our series. And also I think that liberty is slowly coming into films thanks to certain controversies which happened and that we are all aware of and how censorship will now become certification as it was always meant to be. But as far as censorship on internet is concerned, all the big platforms that are managed by some of the biggest corporates around the world have have their own standards and practises that one has to adhere to. But yes, at the end of the day, for the viewer who is watching Netflix, you got to have little bit of freedom while creating content.
Amrit: I feel there is a lot of good content that will still work inside the censorship guidelines. The challenge for us content creators is not to use censorship as an excuse to not make good content. I feel there is merit in content that will not be limited by censorship rules and that is something we are clear on as a company that we don’t want to take censorship as a limiting factor while creating content.
What are the future plans of your company?
Amrit and Anand: Lot actually. We are in the midst of doing web series, Tvcs and we are also getting into films. We are doing a romantic comedy though it’s too early to give details. We are also looking at producing good content. We are not here to be the flagbearers of independent cinema. We are here to make good content that will give every age group a good cinematic experience keeping quality in mind.