Benita Chacko

Behind the scenes with the cast of 'Panchayat' and 'Pitchers'

Actors Gopal Datt, Ronjini Chakraborty, Faisal Malik and Sunita Rajwar delve into the success of their OTT shows, creative process and the opportunities that OTT offers.

Pitchers and Panchayat. Two shows created by the same production house, The Viral Fever (TVF), but presenting two starkly different worlds. While Pitchers narrates the struggles of urban startup entrepreneurs based in Mumbai, Panchayat brings to life a rural drama based in a fictitious village called Phulera.

With OTT viewing still being a largely urban phenomena, Pitchers may seem like a more familiar setup for the viewers. The show's language, dressing and perspectives is in alignment with their own.

Meanwhile, Panchayat exposes the audience to a world that they may have largely seen only during their summer holidays. Maybe during a trip to their grandparents homes. Yet, both the shows enjoyed tremendous success.

At the seventh edition of vdonxt asia Conference hosted by afaqs!, I moderated a panel discussion with the cast of these two shows delving into their success, the creative process, and the challenges and opportunities on OTT. The panellists included Gopal Datt and Ronjini Chakraborty from Pitchers, and Faisal Malik and Sunita Rajwar from Panchayat.

Datt attributed the success of Pitchers to its relatability. "The content and characters are so relatable. Engineering has become a popular course and many youth are pursing it today. The story is their lives, language and thought process."

Malik suggested that the same factor brought success for Panchayat as well. He said that Indians prefer to watch stories from their own land.

"We're still largely people from the villages. We have all come from that world. We all find a connect with our ancestral village and that makes it relatable."

All the four actors have worked in multiple mediums in their career. In fact, they all started their careers with films and then went on to do television or web series. Does every medium demand a different approach from the actor?

Rajwar, who has dabbled in films, television, theatre and OTT, said that the basic approach remains the same - to understand the character, and what the writer and director wants from the character. In television, OTT and films, the camera does the work and the actors only need to emote.

Speaking about her character of Kranti Devi in the show, she said, "The writing was very strong and that did half the work. The language, costume and other characters in the show perform half the duties. So, what the audience sees is not just the work I've done, but also teamwork."

While these actors are hugely popular on OTT today, they have long years of struggle behind them. And, this also involved a battle against typecasting. At different points in their career, they have all felt that they kept getting similar kind of roles. But with their OTT debut, they've got the opportunities to play diverse characters.

However, Chakraborty clarifies that OTT doesn't completely solve the problem of typecasting.

"In OTT, even a supporting character has a story and graph. So, there's more opportunity to explore the character. But typecasting hasn't completely gone. It's a universal factor not limited by the medium. The actor needs to keep proving his/her versatility. The struggle of getting out of being typecast is tough and long. One needs to be firm about not going to play that role anymore. Only then will the directors, producers and casting people begin to see you in different roles."

You can watch the full panel discussion below:

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