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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Ray, Unpaused, Ajeeb Dastaans: Decoding popularity of anthologies in the age of streamers

From getting different directors on board to present their distinct views on a theme or giving the audience an option to have a fling with content, anthologies are becoming the go-to type of filmmaking in the digital era.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
July 6, 2021 5:33:10 pm
anthalogies trendAccording to actor Richa Chadha, anthologies have become popular because they have shorter stories to tell.

Streaming platforms are staying true to the mantra of “something for everyone” by churning out one anthology after another, a format that offers the viewer an option to watch the movie as a short segment or a full-fledged feature, and it is here to stay, say industry insiders.

From getting different directors on board to present their distinct views on a theme or giving the audience an option to have a fling with content as opposed to the long-term commitment of a three-hour-long film amid information explosion and decreasing attention span, anthologies are becoming the go-to type of filmmaking in the digital era.

According to actor Richa Chadha, anthologies have become popular because they have shorter stories to tell. At the same time, they are not like short films, she added. “Whenever you say short film, there is a certain kind of baggage. The anthology is still a story that connects with other stories but it’s longer than your usual short film,” Richa told PTI.

unpaused amazon prime A poster of Amazon Prime Video’s anthalogy film Unpaused.

The actor, who featured in last year’s pandemic-set anthology film Unpaused for Amazon Prime Video, said different directors working together on creating something in a thematically similar space is an interesting concept.

“In Unpaused, we were talking about the lockdown. Now we are in lockdown again. But it had different directors’ points of view like classism, privilege and so many things,” she added.

Actor Harshvarrdhan Kapoor echoes Richa’s views on anthology films. “One gets to see so many directors and actors together in one project. It makes for a beautiful combination for both the people working on the anthology and the ones watching it,” Harshvarrdhan, who stars in Spotlight, a segment in the Netflix series Ray based on the legendary Satyajit Ray’s stories, said.

Spotlight director Vasan Bala believes filmmaking is going back in time. “Over 100 years ago, it all started with short films. Every generation feels we are doing something new, but ultimately we are all reinventing, picking up time slices. It is an exciting space and it has already been there,” the filmmaker told PTI.

harshvardhan kapoor Harshvarrdhan Kapoor in Ray, a Netflix anthology series based on the short stories written by Satyajit Ray. (Photo: Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor/Instagram)

Student of the Year actor Kayoze Irani, who made his directorial debut with the Netflix anthology movie Ajeeb Daastaans, also believes anthologies are here to stay. “I love the anthology system. It is great for both viewers and filmmakers. It offers short and good content to watch for viewers on a Sunday afternoon,” the director, who worked on the segment titled Ankahee, starring Shefali Shah and Manav Kaul, told PTI.

Actors Radhika Madan and Akansha Ranjan Kapoor, who also star in Spotlight, believe the viewer’s short attention span is a key factor for the increasing demand for anthologies. “There is a lack of time and attention span, so we need movies which have less runtime,” Radhika said.

Now that many films are directly releasing on streaming platforms in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the actor said people have become used to taking breaks.

Interesting and varied concepts being translated on screen for a shorter film or series is a welcome trend, noted Akansha.

Kayoze said anthologies allow the filmmakers to explore things they wouldn’t normally in a feature film. The format was free of the “trappings of feature films” like budgets, putting a song in the movie to make it more saleable or adding a new track in the story.

“With a short in the anthology, you can go as art/indie as you like, as commercial as you like. It is truly the closest to what you can do and want to do (in a film).” While the shooting period of an anthology is shorter compared with a feature film, it doesn’t mean less work, he added.

“The only difference is you shoot for less number of days but you put in as much prep time and hard work,” Kayoze said, adding he loved the idea of casting stellar performers like Shefali and Manav which he would not be able to do in a mainstream film.

Streamers are also diversifying anthologies by developing content in other languages like Tamil and Telugu.

Amazon released its Malayalam anthology film Aanum Pennum last week. Tamil anthologies Putham Pudhu Kaala (Amazon) and Paava Kadhaigal (Netflix), and Telugu anthology Pitta Kathalu (Netflix) were released last year amid peak pandemic.

Another Tamil anthology Navarasa, based on the nine emotions, is in the works at Netflix. In terms of Hindi content, Feels Like Ishq will be released on the streamer on July 23.

Everything has to do with the innovation and experimentation in storytelling that streamers have brought in, said a Netflix spokesperson. “Creators have the ability to tell the story of their choice, the way they want, knowing that every story can find its audience, without limitations on format or duration… We understand that not everything will appeal to everyone, which is why we invest in a variety of stories so that you always have something you’ll love on Netflix,” the Netflix spokesperson said.

With more and more films in the format coming up, will anthologies cause fatigue to the viewer?

Not really.

For Kayoze, the reason is simple: the stories will be different every time.

“Anthologies give you new faces, performances, good content, and in my experience, a new director. I’d rather pick up an anthology over a new series which I will have to binge-watch. It requires less commitment,” he said.

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