Akshay Bardapurkar: Industry no longer bound by narrow vision of old gatekeepers

Akshay Bardapurkar: Industry no longer bound by narrow vision of old gatekeepers
Akshay Bardapurkar of Planet Marathi OTT with Madhuri Dixit

One of the more successful regional OTT players, Planet Marathi has tapped into a global audience for its impressive slate of original content, which goes to show that stories that are both diverse and compelling invariably find takers transcending geographies.

Shedding light on the wave of change triggered by OTT platforms, Planet Marathi’s founder Akshay Bardapurkar says that the medium has dismantled the gatekeeping culture where only a few powerful people decided what the audience should watch.

“In the past, the industry’s ‘gatekeepers’ with a narrow vision decided the fate of content,” Bardapurkar said. “Many good stories went unnoticed or were never told for this reason. A simple example is the Marathi industry. For decades, Marathi-language content did not receive the recognition that was its due because it failed to fit into the rules of commercial ‘mainstream’ entertainment.”

This has rendered the gatekeeper powerless and it has given the keys to content’s true stakeholders: the storytellers.

“With OTT coming into the picture, it has taken power away from gatekeepers and given ‘viewers’ the key to this world,” the film producer and OTT pioneer said. “Having democratised ]content, OTT platforms are a ]window for audiences into the world of differentiated content across the globe. Content makers are now tasked with keeping the viewers excited and engaged with breakthrough stories, and genuine storytellers do not shy away from this challenge,” he added.

Talking about the best picture Oscar win of ‘CODA’, Bardapurkar said that the time has come for OTT content to shine through. “Such recognition will pull OTT content out from the sidelines into the spotlight. I feel milestones like this only help encourage other content powerhouses, open more doors and change sensibilities in the industry,” Bardapurkar said.

Of course, he was quick to add a dose of realism. It is imperative to make good content, but it is also important to look closely at what clicks with the audience and how it benefits the platform. For Planet Marathi, it is the constant demand for fresh content from the viewers.

“Speaking about what is working for Planet Marathi, I personally believe is our viewer sentiment,” Bardapurkar said. “Viewers today are not naive; they are global citizens, well connected with the world, and up to date on the latest information. They seek fresh concepts, a high-quality viewing experience and smart storylines. Interestingly, their tastes being global, they don’t fuss around with the language.”

The sentiment automatically pushes Marathi content to compete with global content. “This sentiment is the great propeller of Planet Marathi because we are looking to tell global stories to a world audience. An interesting point to note is that although most of our viewers are Marathi speakers, or are familiar with the language and live all around the world, we also have a considerable number of viewers who do not speak or understand the language,” Bardapurkar said.

And he concluded by noting: “The stickiness of this audience is purely driven by the stories that resonate with them. Our past productions, such as ‘June’ and ‘Pondicherry’, are unique in their own ways, which was why they were appreciated by the audience.”

–By Akshay Acharya