OTT format lends itself for a different kind of story-telling: Aruna Guhan
Tamil Rockerz, the latest web series on SonyLiv, marked the OTT foray of AVM Productions, one of Tamil cinema’s oldest and most reputed production houses. Founded by legendary producer AV Meiyappan in 1946, AVM Productions introduced several iconic film stars including Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan and Kannada film icon S Rajkumar, among others.
Adapting to the changing times and technology, and embracing feature films to TV series in the past 75 years, AVM Productions is now geared up to face the OTT revolution under its fourth generation leaders—Aruna Guhan and Aparna Guhan Shyam.
In this exclusive interview with BusinessLine, Aruna Guhan, Partner and Creative director, AVM Productions, shares the reason for production house’s dive into the OTT space, plans for new content and foray into other languages. Edited excerpts:
What prompted you to foray into the OTT space?
Although OTTs have been there since the 2000s, it picked up in Tamil only around 2018. We felt it would be a good medium to get into because we were also consuming content that way ourselves. I think because the responsibility in our minds of seeing AVM through to the next generation and moving forward with technology is always a really big part of that. OTT has its own merits because the format enables you to tell different kinds of stories.
What took this long to launch your first content?
We started the conversation in 2018 and then by the time Tamil Rockerz came about, it was 2019. Then we had the Covid-19 pandemic. But, actually, the pandemic really helped the OTT space and it became an advantage for us.
You talked about the advantages of OTT. What are its demerits?
I wouldn’t personally say there are demerits in terms of content. I feel you can reach a larger audience, but at the same time there is a certain format to a story you would tell in cinema with that time span, that kind of story. And when you read a story, usually you have a very clear idea of whether it would work for a series or a 90-minute original or for a film.
How is the feedback for Tamil Rockerz?
The feedback has been good. It’s also really heartening because as the fourth generation, this is the kind of first big step that we have taken, and the support for it has been really great.
AVM has produced several TV series in the past. How different is a web series?
I feel like it’s an extension, because any movie being released is anyway going to come into digital. For us, AVM is synonymous with a certain quality, and we stuck to that in terms of making the web series as well.
How different was producing a web series as opposed to a traditional film?
I feel like you are more organised especially when you’re working with a corporate. Usually, we put out daily expenses in Tally, which still goes on, but at the same time you have that micro breakup on a spreadsheet, wherein you can always see exactly which head has gone well. I think that that’s very helpful because that’s also how I work.
What sort of investment has gone?
I think it’s been more of a strategic change in terms of getting someone a little bit trained and in a certain way also like I think hiring young people that’s kind of helped as well.
Will this strategic move impact your big film productions?
I feel like ideally it should be a mix of both. I feel like we should have films that come on digital and then we should have OTT as well. Again, it’s based on the content because we are a very content-focused brand. We don’t have a target of X amount of content in a year. Rather, we are very mindful of what we are putting in the banner on the legacy of my great grandfather’s name.
Are you open to producing content in other languages as well?
I think it’s again story-based. There’s so much talent coming out of Kerala, and great audience in Telugu as well. Depending on the stories, we are definitely open to explore. AVM has also worked in all the major languages in the past.
What’s the feedback from film distributors on your OTT foray?
A lot of people ask us not to let go of the cinema. Otherwise, people are really supportive and really excited that AVM has come out of the break and is making something now. Other than that, the feedback we got from the industry has been very good.
With theatres bouncing back after Covid, do you think it will impact OTT viewership?
I think that it is a different kind of audience. Take Kamal Haasan’s Vikram for example. Some fans said they watched it 47 times in the theatre. Those things are very heartening for the industry as well. We know that when we make content, we can sort of rely on that. Also, now the divide between Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam is all gone. Good content is always appreciated irrespective of the language.
But, I think that OTT might slow down a little bit because the surge has plateaued. It will be interesting to see where it will go now. But I do think that as that format lends for a different kind of storytelling, I think they can go hand-in-hand with cinemas.
September 05, 2022