Writer-director Soumik Sen on why filmmakers should explore the censor-free medium, the internet
UDTA Punjab’s recent run-in with the censor board has led to a lot of questions on a director’s creative license. While filmmakers took to social media platforms to express their opinions, Soumik Sen—who has written and directed the recently-released web movie, Badman, starring veteran actor Gulshan Grover—tells us about the liberating alternative offered by the internet. The Mumbai-based filmmaker explains how the future of the entertainment industry might lie online.
Relating his experience of making the country’s first ‘mockumentary’ on retired Hindi film villains, Sen (who debuted with Gulaab Gang) says that since there is no censor board, he “could use expletives” and “do certain things, which, if you do in a film, you know that because of one shot of somebody screaming an abuse, your whole film becomes ‘adult’”. Although a clip—where Chunky Pandey spoofs a rape scene from the 80’s—was cut because it was seen to be “in bad taste” by an internal committee, his movie went online with minimal changes and no censors.
Film with a view
Badman was released on Voot, a recent addition to the OTT (over-the top) online video platforms, joining the likes of Hotstar, Ozee and Ditto. The success of a web feature film does not depend on any ‘box office’ collections, but on the number of views, downloads and ratings by viewers. As a director, Sen feels that the only major challenge of shooting a web movie is its low cost. With a limited budget, you have to shoot in a limited number of days and “everyone has to be on their toes” he says.
The theatre complex
With subscription-based or advertising-driven modules, a viewer’s monthly subscription will cost less than most movie tickets (under Rs 200) or can even be free of cost. With the growing popularity of web series such as TVF Pitchers and Permanent Roommates, web movies are another step towards digitising the entertainment industry says Sen. But he adds that, unlike in the West, where big budget web series are becoming the norm, “our entertainment monetisation is still primarily theatres, the multiplexes, ‘the movie going experience’.” Meanwhile, Netflix and Amazon originals have set a new bar for online entertainment, he concludes.
After the success of Badman, Sen is working on more ideas specifically for the online platform, in addition to working on a gritty thriller and a feature film on the life of magician PC Sorcar for the big screen.
Sen feels that the West has advanced a lot more faster with the online entertainment business than India. For him, web series in the US and the UK, such as Fargo and Black Mirror, take the cake when it comes to good screenplay and high production value.