We need a balanced OTT ecosystem: Vijay Jayapal

Pleased that Indian audiences will finally get to watch ‘Nirvana Inn’ as it gets set for its ‘World Digital Premiere’ on Cinemapreneur on December 11, filmmaker Vijay Jayapal whose Hindi-language psychological horror drama starring Adil Hussain, Rajshri Deshpande and Sandhya Mridul had its World Premiere at the prestigious 24th Busan International Film festival in 2019, says, “It has travelled multiple festivals across the world. However, due to the pandemic, we could not show it here. Although I will miss the physical screening, but it is great that Indian audiences will finally get to watch it.”

The film, which was shot in Manali, Majuli and Chennai, follows the story of a boatman who becomes the caretaker of a Himalayan resort after an attempted suicide.

The idea for this film came to Jayapal after he read a news report about a suicidal commercial airlines pilot who crashed the jet with passengers aboard.

“I stumbled upon that piece around six years back, and it never left me. When I wrote the film, it was supposed to be in Tamil and Malayalam,” says the director, whose debut film ‘Revelations’ was also premiered at Busan.

But once he was convinced that Adil Hussain should play the lead, he decided to make the movie in Hindi.

“I am a big fan of his work. This movie needed a certain kind of performance — at the core, it is a very dramatic story, but the treatment had to be very subtle and performance understated. The entire story hinges on the protagonist. I wanted an actor who would bring that subtlety and intensity. The first name that came to mind was that of Adil Hussain. That is when it became a Hindi film. In fact, he had already watched my previous film, something that prompted him to read the script,” says Jayapal.

Talking about the digital premiere on Cinemapreneur, the director feels that considering the fact that cinemas are not completely functional and several mainstream films are now premiering in OTT platforms, it made much sense to show it on the said platform. “During the lockdown, traditional mainstream films suddenly started penetrating in the OTT space, something that has created a certain imbalance for independent films which for the last five years have been dependent on such OTT platforms.

Things have never been easy for independent cinema but with the pandemic, they have become worse. We will have to innovate and find new ways to reach out to the audience.”

Lamenting the fact that major film festivals were cancelled this year owing to Covid-19 and one does not really know if they would be held in 2021 too, Jayapal says, “Yes, festival-goers are quite disappointed. For independent filmmakers too, these festivals are very important, not just for screening but also meeting others from the fraternity, watching movies by other directors and masterclasses etc.”

Optimistic that in the post Covid world too, digital would continue to be an important tool for filmmakers like him, he adds, “It is the way forward. Even before the pandemic, the world’s dynamic of watching films was changing, thanks to OTT platforms. The bigger films were going to theatres while smaller ones were being consumed by the digital space. And I have always believed that in a country like India, there is an audience for every kind of film. Therefore, people are bound to stay connected with digital for independent films even when things come back to normal.”

Stressing that the critical acclaim enjoyed by his debut film helped get producers for ‘Nirvana Inn’, the filmmaker says, ” ‘Revelations’ was the film that gave me an identity. The producers for my latest one are all first-timers. In fact, the lead one messaged me after seeing my first film on a digital platform.”

Jayapal, who has been writing for the past eight months says he is ready with many new scrips. “I’ll start pitching them in 2021 though I am yet to decide the one which I would like to make first.”