Actor-producer Anushka Sharma feels nothing can substitute the experience of watching a film on the big screen, and thinks that the post-COVID era will usher in a new wave where OTT platforms will "parallely exist" with theatres.
"Let's be very honest, these are extraordinary circumstances that we are all experiencing. I think, to judge anything on the basis of this time would probably not be valid," Anushka told IANS, when asked if the digital medium was filling a void of content due to the shutdown of the film industry amid the pandemic.
The actress was speaking to the media even as she released her production venture Bulbbul, a supernatural thriller, on Netflix.
Directed by long-time lyricist and dialogue writer Anvita Dutt, the film traverses the journey of a young girl named Bulbbul from innocence to strength, with the looming shadow of the legend of a 'chudail'.
The period drama, featuring Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Rahul Bose, Paoli Dam and Parambrata Chatterjee, began streaming on Netflix from June 24 onwards.
"I think the digital platforms have, not just because of COVID-19, but over the years, established themselves in a way that they are creating a wave with the content that they're doing. They have a wider reach. Filmmakers like us are able to explore ideas and stories that you otherwise wouldn't be able to, because of let's say, the pressures of a box-office release," added the actor.
She continued: "You have to mount a film in a particular way with stars, and you know there are certain stories and certain concepts that are harder to push (in cinema), although you understand that there is a huge audience for that in the country."
That is where the digital platforms take the spotlight. "That has been proven right with these platforms, where certain stories, like all the shows that have done well or all the movies that have done well on these platforms, found that audience in India. They have reached out to people and got appreciation and applause from the audience. So, I think this audience is here for content and content only. And you don't have to fall back on certain tropes of theatricals, which can be a bit limiting," added Anushka, who turned producer at the age of 25.
She launched her production house Clean Slate Filmz with her brother Karnesh Ssharma, and has backed unconventional stories, bankrolling films like NH10, Pari, Phillauri, and the web-series Paatal Lok, which was Anushka’s debut digital production and turned out to be a massive hit.
While the digital world is booming, Anushka, whose Bollywood journey shows that she is always up for experimenting, maintains that it isn't a threat to the big screen.
"At the same time, I feel that theatrical releases are here to stay in India because we, as a society and a culture, enjoy celebrating," said the actor.
She explained: "We have so many festivals. We like to come together and have an experience. I think movies give you that. When you go into a theatre and the lights go off and the big screen comes on, I think that's an experience you cannot substitute and that's why I feel like you will always have theatrical releases."
Now, Anushka feels OTT platforms will "parallely exist" with the big screen.
"Everyone will become aware of the kind of things that you can create for theatre and the kind of things you can create for these platforms. I think that sort of understanding writers and producers will start to have... They already do... I think that is something that demarcation will be quite clear and apparent," said the actor.
She again asserted that nothing can substitute the cinematic experience.
"I would say it is like a transition of a new wave of something. And it has lots of plus points. There's so much employment that's been generated within the industry because of these platforms. For filmmakers like us, (it gives us a chance to) tell varied stories. It becomes so easy. It gives an opportunity to so many more writers and directors to come forward, you know, and it will only improve," said the actor, who had her debut in Bollywood opposite superstar Shah Rukh Khan in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
Watch the trailer for Bulbbul here.