5 Qs With Viacom18’s Ajit Andhare On The Great Indian Content Debate

Stories have acquired shades, reflecting a more nuanced audience that’s not looking for oversimplification, he believes

Telling stories has been fundamental to each society. From exchanging tales around a campfire to simply explaining directions to writing powerful pieces, humans have clearly navigated their way through life in the form of stories. 

Over the years, there has been a paradigm shift in the use of mediums as well. In these years, the human race has indulged in written words, videos, and of course, their own voices to express themselves. Today, with a renewed digital landscape and new online platforms, there are more stories than ever and more opportunities to have your voice heard.

Giving us a sense of how content storytelling has evolved over the last decade, we spoke with Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Studios who is a senior leader in Indian Media & Entertainment with 25 years of experience across consumer & media sectors building factories, brands, companies, TV series & films. Ajit has led Viacom18 Studios to become a force to reckon with in the Indian film an ecosystem with unparalleled commercial & critical success winning 6 Best film National awards over the last 7 years.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q1. How has content storytelling evolved over the last decade?

Stories have acquired shades, reflecting a more nuanced audience that’s not looking for oversimplification. So you are seeing complex characters with all their vulnerability & vices and not just picture-perfect people playing out ideal or cardboard lives. There is more colour, shades & even depth in the evolving modern storytelling.   

Q2. What according to you are the genres that are gaining ground in India?

I see two broad streams- crime on one hand is the staple for digital content, say the kind of content you see in a Mirzapur, Sacred Games, Asur.  At the same time, heart-warming realism in shows like Aspirants, Scam, Taj Mahal1989, Panchayat, Little things, Gullak too is gaining grounds.  

Q3. How can content creators strike a balance between OTT and theatrical releases?

Each medium offers a different opportunity and it's about using it to the best effect. Theatrical spectacles rely on larger-than-life drama, escapism & community-centered stories while OTT allows you to explore deeper stories that seek to enhance the experience of dense personal viewing. Triggers are very different.  

Q4. Do you think quality content has the ability to sell itself, given a large amount of content is available for consumers to pick from?

Advocacy has always been the lifeline of strong content. With an explosion in viewing choices, word of mouth becomes the winning driver. One can buy attention briefly, but not engagement, which comes purely from merit of the content.  

Q5. What are some of the emerging trends on the consumer consumption front?

Universal stories are a trend that never goes away. But it's hard to find these. The other trend is catering to cohorts or consumers group who would respond to a certain type of story or niche.    

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