Video on Demand service Hooq has launched five originals on their platform. Bhak, India’s shortlisted entry, is written and produced by emerging independent filmmakers Arjun Chatterjee and Shreyom Ghosh.
Arjun and Shreyom talk to indianexpress.com about the struggles of new independent filmmakers in India and their new show Bhak.
How much of a difference does it make when you helm a film for a platform like Hooq and say stronger contenders like Amazon Prime and Netflix?
Arjun: Definitely, at some level, it makes a difference. But, on a personal level, it is more about the opportunity given to us. Hooq is definitely younger than Netflix or Amazon Prime in India. But, then Hooq is giving an opportunity to younger, newer and independent filmmakers like us, which otherwise is quite rare. The fact that Hooq is coming up with originals is also a step up, and we see it growing. On a commercial level, other platforms are bigger, but Hooq is giving same style of content and several similar shows.
Shreyom: Most of the other platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, almost always go with known directors and faces all the time. Over here, on Hooq, we have an opportunity. They are banking on unknown people with real talent.
How do these platforms help independent filmmakers like you?
Shreyom: There is a new phase for filmmakers coming up. Say about ten years ago if a kid said that they want to become a filmmaker, it was unheard of. It wasn’t taken seriously as everybody was becoming a doctor or lawyer or engineer. Now filmmaking is not a taboo, and it is accessible to people from outside ‘filmy’ families and circles. There is a lot of talent outside of the ‘news-worthy’ zone, and that needs to be tapped.
Bhak is about your experiences as young independent filmmakers in Bollywood.
Arjun: Bhak is based on our experiences and stories we have heard. However, when you look back at them after a couple of years, they are funny. The way Bhak came along is quite funny. Shreyom and I had come out with a pitch for a commercial project, and we lost it for some strange reasons like budget and not being able to secure known faces. So, both of us were sitting in a cafe and generally ranting to each other on how ‘crappy’ the industry is and that you don’t go ahead unless you know people. It was a funny moment for us, and we thought it would be cool to see this as an actual show on TV or something. So that day we sat down and actually wrote down stuff that would later become Bhak. It was initially a ten-minute episode sketch. We never imagined it to become anything like this. We never imagined we would actually get an opportunity to make a show, that someone would fund us and back our content. With Hooq helping us, it has become much bigger than we ever thought it would become. And we are thankful for that.
Your show features five actors, but none of them are known faces. Do you think it affects the reachability of your show?
Arjun: We chose the actors that we did because we wanted them to invest in their roles and play these characters for a longer time. In India, we always try to sell content by getting a known director or promote a show by getting known actors. We didn’t want to become that. We have a ridiculous amount of talent around us, all the time. We wanted to carry on the opportunity we got, we wanted to keep the opportunity open to good actors, not necessarily known actors.
Shreyom: We wanted to show how our characters start from scratch, struggle and grow rather than bringing in known faces. As directors, we did face a challenge while making this decision, but then we went for actors with theatre background. We got to mold their personalities, characters and make it bigger and better. Bigger actors might get picky about what they are doing, what they are willing to do on screen or say or show. Also, their PR agencies play a part, and we didn’t want that.