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If people are not coming to theatres, let us get inside their phones: Vikram Bhatt

At the launch of his 'theatre on the web' app called VBontheWeb, director Vikram Bhatt emphasised that the entertainment world needs to adapt to the changing needs of its audience. 

Shriram Iyengar

Praising director Vikram Bhatt's vision to launch 'VBontheWeb' app, his mentor Mahesh Bhatt said, "Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, as the world of entertainment changes its form, he has dared, like his dadaji (grandfather Vijay Bhatt), to dare and venture into the uncharted digital world." 

VBontheWebb is an OTT (Over The Top content) service that seeks to promote the concept of bringing the cinema experience to the phone screen.

The app has been created in partnership with Jio Cinemas, and developed by Ecreed, to allow video content creators to host their shows and short films on the platform. Users, Vikram emphasised, will have the advantage of paying for only the shows they want to watch. It allows users to buy a pass to watch a show/series for a fee as nominal as Rs18.

This is the first time in India that the viewers would need to only pay for shows they desire to watch and not the entire application. With this, Vikram wishes to bring about a substantial change in the digital space and give a choice to the viewers.

The pricing, Vikram added humorously, came from the minimum price for a rickshaw ride in Mumbai. "I simply asked someone what the minimum price for a rickshaw is today. They said, 'Rs18'. And I told them that's the price set," he laughed. The idea, the director elaborated, was to ensure that people from all strata of society will have access to digital content on their phones. 

Speaking about the origins of the idea, Vikram said, "There is a saying (in Hindi) 'bhaand miraasis' (travelling theatre troupes) will always look for places that are crowded, noisy. Today, everyone is on their phone. So we thought, if people are not going to come to theatres, let us get inside their phones." 

Throughout the press conference, the 1921 (2017) director, Vikram, maintained that an increasing number of audience is shifting towards the digital world, and it is important for filmmakers to adapt to this shift as well. "That day is not far, when a film will go into direct digital release. We have to see how many people watch the average-low budget films, and then we have to decide. We have got 5 million views just on the first episode. 30 million have already watched the series on the web. Now, that is a big number. We have to see if this 30 million actually see a small film in theatres. In time to come, probably a year from now, it might happen," he said.

However, the director maintained that this does not mean creators can diminish the value of the content. He added that the quality of films on his platform will be "as good as a theatrical release."

While the Bhatts are known for their specific expertise in the genre of erotic thrillers and horror, Vikram maintained that the platform will host a diverse variety of content, including comedy. "We are going to do everything (genre). We would even like to carry comedy like Awara Paagal Deewana (2012). People with all kinds of content are welcome." 

Amar Thakkar, CEO, VBontheWeb said, "The person who hosts films on the platform will know exactly how much he is making. It is like a theatre. A multiplex might have five screens, but the producer wants to know what his film made. Similarly, a short film maker or a web-series maker will want to know how much did their show earn," he said, adding, "Those reports will be shared. We are sourcing from aggregators, and various social media platforms, and through sir's (Vikram), they will come in directly."

The app launched with the original series Untouchables, directed by Vikram’s daughter Krishna Bhatt. Untouchables is a courtroom drama inspired by real-life events.

Other shows available on the app include Maya, Twisted, Rain, Tantra, Hadh; these can be viewed free of cost. Vikram also suggested that Maya 2, Twisted 2, the sequels of the series will also be launched on the app by April. 

VBontheWeb app is currently available for download on Android and iOS platforms.