The Ondu Motteya Kathe and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana maker took home the award for Pioneering Contributions to New Wave Cinema at the inaugural edition of the OTTplay Awards 2022.
Last Updated: 03.49 PM, Sep 13, 2022
Kannada actor-filmmaker Raj B Shetty is not a fan of award shows. And yet, last Saturday evening he was in Mumbai, along with fellow actor-filmmaker Rishab Shetty, attending the first-ever OTTplay Awards and Conclave 2022. “I really felt good because of the mix of people who were there. Also, the focus was strictly on recognizing the right talent; it was all about the awards and not the glitz and glamour associated with most such events. When I was invited to the OTTplay Awards and Conclave 2022, I was told that the intention was to present a fair playing ground to people from films and series from across the country and that OTTplay would attempt to stick to this as far as possible. That honesty really appealed to me,” says Raj.
The Ondu Motteya Kathe and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana director adds, “When you see artistes who are par excellence in their fields, normally, the tendency is to judge him/her based on the language he/she works in. That hierarchy has always been there. But to keep that aside and place everyone on a level playing field and then put them onstage side-by-side takes a lot of courage, because these things are normally dictated by the market. The fact that OTTplay decided to create a space for talent; that thought was warm and made me happy. The people who were in attendance and taking home awards really made me feel that OTTplay Awards 2022 is the true definition of an awards show.”
The OTTplay Awards 2022, though, was instituted as a platform to recognize the best in the business of OTT content, an area that Kannada cinema, in particular, is still lagging far behind. In fact, both Raj and Rishab, who took home an award for Pioneering Contributions to New Wave Cinema, do not have direct-to-OTT releases. Did Raj feel that Kannada cinema was under-represented at the event? “As an industry, we need to take responsibility for the lack of direct-to-OTT releases and the perceived lack of interest by platforms to pick up Kannada content. Platforms are nothing but business and that is how it should be run. Only profits can save the industry. If I make Kannada films but don’t create an audience for it, the fault lies squarely with me. Today, when Kannada cinema travels the world, we feel proud, but at the same time, if there is still content that does not find takers, we need to own up to it and take responsibility. We need to make better films and capture audiences from across different corners, then, this under-representation problem, which has been created by us, will be solved. It may take a couple of years, though,” he explains.
As for his own award at the OTTplay Awards 2022, Raj says, “That was a pleasant surprise. I am two films old as a filmmaker (Ondu Motteya Kathe and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana), both of which were widely appreciated during their theatrical runs and did really well on OTT too. Ondu Motteya Kathe came on Netflix while GGVV was sold to Zee5. In fact, with GGVV, Zee5 had certain expectations in terms of increase in subscriptions, and it surpassed that. The week GGVV debuted on Zee5, it was their No.1 streamed movie across all their language verticals. Our team was very proud of it. Honestly, though, I don’t know if I deserve this award, because I see great filmmakers around me in other industries. In a sense, I feel I may have snatched an award from a more deserving candidate.”
There is no denying, though, that Raj has been making films that are completely rooted in local culture, and yet universally appealing, which is the benchmark of new wave cinema. “Doing ‘rooted’ cinema in Kannada is a risky proposition right now, because we don’t have OTT platforms picking this content or are not paying what it deserves. Theatre business is still volatile. In Malayalam and Tamil, a lot of experimentation with content has been happening, so they have become the face of popular cinema. But I am glad that Rishab and I have won this award. I do not consider myself a pioneer. The only effort is to write stories that are close to me, make films that resonate with me. If the credit of being a pioneer of a certain kind of film comes to me, I am glad. I am thankful to OTTplay for considering us for this award,” he signs off.