Interview Hindi

Streaming platforms are finding the right mean between film and television: Ranvir Shorey


The actor, who features in Ajitpal Singh's web-series Tabbar (2021), released on SonyLIV on Dussehra, speaks about the changing rules of the game, the challenges and the future.

Shriram Iyengar

It is a hectic PR day when we catch up with Ranvir Shorey. Surrounded by cameras, with little time for a break, the actor is talking about his web-series, Tabbar.

Created by Harman Wadala and directed by Ajitpal Singh, the web-series, with a strong cast that includes Supriya Pathak and Pavan Malhotra, sees Shorey play the menacing Ajit Sodhi.

Shorey, who seems to be in fine form trading jests with his co-stars, says, "It is imperative that you have a good cast, especially a cast like this. I am just honoured to be in the same frame as Pavan Malhotra and Supriya Pathak. That was one incentive to take up this project.

"More than anything, what happens when you work with good actors is that you are not trying to get the scene done. You are trying to explore the scene. Once there is a playfulness to the scene, it blossoms."

Shorey has been incredibly productive professionally through the pandemic, and Tabbar just adds to his oeuvre. The series tells the story of a family which is transformed from a happy, quiet, rural household into one of intrigue and deceit after one bad event. This event is linked directly to Ajit Sodhi, the ruthless businessman and politician played by the actor.

Tabbar review: Pavan Malhotra leads this thrilling tale of morality, crime and familial bonds

About his character, Shorey says, "He is at a transitory stage in his life, going from being a businessman to a politician. Second, the baggage he carries of his family and how that spurs him to create conflict in another family, it is very complex and layered as a character, and the situations he is in, these automatically become interesting to play.

"I had heard of [filmmaker] Ajitpal Singh, and was keen to work with him," he continued. "Second, the script was really good. Third, the cast was amazing. These three things were very exciting for me to jump on it."

During the pandemic, the actor has found a niche and success across genres on OTT platforms. Whether as the sly NRI on the hilarious Metro Park (2020-2021), the encounter-specialist cop in Lootcase (2020), the adulterous character with a corpse on his hands in the underrated Kadakh (2020) and, more recently, in the different Sunflower (2021), Shorey has enjoyed the changing domain.

On the rise of OTT platforms, he says, "I think streaming platforms are finding the right mean between film and television. The bane of television was there was no end. There was a beginning and a middle and then it would just go on. Although if you see HBO, they had limited series. It is the culture of limited series that streaming platforms have brought in to India, which is a victory."

This, the actor believes, has spurred the creation of diverse stories, narratives and styles. "Now — at least I feel — in the past couple of years, there are so many different kinds of stories being told, so many different kinds of genres being explored."

Ranvir Shorey in a still from Santosh Sivan's Mumbaikar

"Earlier everything used to be generic. In a mainsteram Hindi film, it used to be a generic Hindi space, which was not anywhere. It could be anywhere. It was targeted at the larger audience. Now you see geography-specific, dialect-specific, character-specific genres," he said.

This has come, he emphasizes, because the audience is more aware and 'cinema literate'. "The audience is exposed to international storytelling, different kinds of presentations, narratives," he explains. "Audiences are far more cinema-literate now than they were earlier. That creates pressure on people to do better. The coming of OTT platforms has offered the opportunity to people to make different kinds of stories."

Could this affect the recovery of the theatrical business model after the pandemic? Maybe, says Shorey. "I think theatres would take longer to recover. But I definitely think they would get back to their past glory. Give it some time. The trauma of the past two years is not going to disappear. To reach the same heights will take some time, but it will get there. Nothing can replace the theatrical experience."

The actor has reason to be optimistic. With Hasal already announced, he is also part of Santosh Sivan's Mumbaikar. A remake of Lokesh Kanagaraj's Tamil hit Maanagaram (2017), the film will see Shorey team up with Vijay Sethupathi and Vikrant Massey. "Working with Santosh sir, it is a huge thing for me to have him directing me," says Shorey.

On Sethupathi, he says, "What a great time I had with him! He is such a big star and so down-to-earth. Even when we were shooting in Mumbai, there were crowds looking for him. For somebody who is so big, he is really down-to-earth. Very professional. I really enjoyed working with him."

In addition to these projects, Shorey has the procedural legal drama IPC 420 lined up for release. The ensemble film, he reveals, is directed by Manish Gupta, who wrote Section 375 (2019) and Sarkar (2005).

Having had a brush with COVID-19 in February this year, the actor just feels grateful to be alive. "I am a lot more grateful in the last two years," he said. "Grateful to be alive, grateful to be working."

Tabbar was released on 15 October on SonyLIV. Shorey adds, laughing, "If it were not for OTT platforms, I might have been bankrupt."

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