Vivek Oberoi, who plays the theatrical antagonist in Inside Edge, talks to Prachi Pinglay-Plumber about experimenting with the new platform of web series
How do you feel about playing an important role in one of the first productions of this scale on a digital platform in India?
Well…I am doing emotional cartwheels right now! I’m extremely excited. Things have never been done on this scale before and people are taking to binge watching the 10 episodes in one shot. I was amazed that people have made groups for marathon watching. After doing 40-odd films in 15 years, I’m surprised at the reach of this platform. And the infrastructure is such that the platform is available for viewing in 196 countries globally! We have people watching the series in Italy and France when we would have thought: “Who plays cricket in these countries?” I was trending worldwide for five hours, which has not happened even with a big film. With this medium, I truly think the world is your oyster.
Did you worry about another negative role, a medium that is not exactly ‘blockbuster’?
People tried to warn me against it. “Kaam nahin hai kya,” they would say, but I told them that this is the future and I want to be the first mainstream guy to jump in. It has been a great team with Excel. We have totally killed it man! I think it’s just a matter of time when the big guys jump on the ship. As far as my role goes, all I can say is, it’s good to be bad, sometimes.
And then there is this dark side of cricket?
It was a revelation when I started doing research on the story and my character. I mean, I’m a big cricket fan…one of the ‘bleeding blue’ type, but I realised that not many people know about the dark side of the game—how spot fixing and match fixing actually work. I was very disturbed that all this can happen with the game. It’s all about artful deception, and it hurts knowing it is so.
How different are the ways of reaching out to the audience in this format from a typical cinema format?
For films, we reach about 2.5 crore of the population. But for a web series, with smart phone user numbers pegged at 38-40 crores there is a 20 times jump in the potential audience.
When you are distributing a film—say you made a small, cute film on a Rs 5-crore budget—it would cost at least Rs 10 crore. So, the distribution cost can easily be much more than the budget of the film. Even if I manage to put it in the screens, there will be the headache of how it’s doing on a morning show, evening show etc. But one can watch a web series whenever, wherever. It will also mitigate piracy in a big way. It is a great platform to watch what you want, make what you want, use your discretion at just Rs40-50 a month. Look at the basic numbers right now—Amazon Prime can be subscribed at Rs 499 per year. If it reaches 10 crore people, you are looking at about Rs 5,000 crore in India. This is a multi-billion dollar game. And no amount of content is wasted. In the current set up, a film producer gets maximum one or two weeks and just the opening weekend really. Here you can watch Inside Edge 20 years later too.