It is often believed that cinema is the medium of a director and theater is the medium of an actor. And recently, OTT has become the writer’s medium. But do they get their due once a show goes gold?
According to Charudutt Acharya, writer of Aranyak, writers are increasingly getting better deals on streaming platforms, but “it all depends on the production house and also how the OTT platform promotes and nurtures writers” . He explains, “Paatal Lok’s Sudeep Sharma got his well-deserved due not only as a writer, but also as a creator and show host. That kind of responsibility, trust, and skin in the game is good for the writers and good for the show. The general public perception is that screenwriters simply write a story and then directors bring it to life. While this is true, many fail to understand that screenwriting is a complex and difficult technical profession.
Once you have a successful series, you get enough work and credit, believes Asur screenwriter Niren Bhatt. “A Panchayat, Mirzapur or Gullak will only be made if it has something different. So writers who bring new concepts are always welcome,” he says, adding, “I have been working for more than two decades and I have to admit that the situation today is much better than it was 10 years ago in terms of opportunity and recognition.” Bhatt says that while shows like Little Things, The Family Man, Sacred Games , Delhi Crime, etc. are of diverse genres, the common thread is that the writers of these shows stood out.
Kanika Dhillon, who wrote Haseen Dillruba, calls OTT “a beautiful place”. She sees it as a stimulating and welcome support for screenwriters if they choose to explore it to the fullest: “With extended seasons, screenwriters often maintain the soul of the series by giving it the creative coherence required for a narrative at the long format As for the freedom to explore ideas, it all depends on the central idea and the commitment a writer wants to lend.
Filmmaker Rohan Sippy, who co-wrote Aranyak, admits credit is given to the writers, but there’s room for more. He notes, “In the West, writers gain recognition when they become more involved in production. Tabbar and Mirzapur are examples of shows where the writers were involved in both writing and directing and got credit – though it can be hard to tell what they got more credit for. But viewers need to understand that while the writing is likable, it’s hard to like other aspects of a show.
Sippy also thinks Indian writers deserve better credit because it’s not easy to make the jump from daily TV programming to web space. “OTT is a writer’s medium, but there are a lot of ‘creators’ on a project. In India, the boom is relatively new, so writers deserve a lot of credit and it can get better,” he says. He also feels that there is often little credit for screenwriters who adapt Western shows and concepts to Indian screens. He shares, “I hope in the years to come studios will support more writers and their creativity, instead of blindly copying concepts that have worked overseas.”