Atul Kulkarni: The OTT v/s cinema yarn is redundant; it’s all about coexistence today

Atul Kulkarni: The OTT v/s cinema yarn is redundant; it’s all about coexistence today

Atul Kulkarni: The OTT v/s cinema narrative is redundant; it’s all about coexistence today – Times of India

In a span of over two decades that Atul Kulkarni has been active in showbiz, the actor has worked across mediums, including cinema, theatre and TV. A recent addition to that is the OTT space where Atul has done some interesting work and won appreciation for the same, the latest being a web show with Ajay Devgn, and the Yami Gautam starrer film A Thursday. In a chat with us, the actor spoke at length about the space, why he is selectively in the limelight, and his fitness mantra. Excerpts:
‘No point debating on the supremacy of a particular medium’
Among the hottest discussions in the industry today is the one about OTT eating up into the cinema space. While there have been multiple takes on this, Atul feels it’s pointless to pitch two or more mediums against each other. “I think the narrative that OTT will take over movies and other platforms is redundant. It’s the same as the TV v/s cinema debate back in the 90s and there’s no point going back there because neither has TV gone away, nor have films,” he says, adding, “OTT is a very personal space when it come to consumption, whereas TV, cinema or theatre are collective and appointed viewing experiences. Every platform has an audience and I think the way forward is through coexistence.”

The Demand-Supply equation
The Happy Journey actor also feels that the talk about rising opportunities for actors, writers and makers due to OTT is nothing but logical growth. He says that the major difference today, compared to a few years ago, is that the hours of consumption of content has gone up drastically. “Since hours of consumption of content have gone up, so has the supply. And that has led to more opportunities. It’s the logical increase in demand that has led to increase in supply and opportunities.”

Ask him if he subscribes to the belief that the ‘star system’ is now gradually fading, and it’s the ‘actor system’ that’s coming to the fore, and he says, “I think we should see what’s been happening around the world ever since entertainment avenues beyond theatre, operas and cinema started popping up. But cinema has always been a medium of the masses, so let’s talk about that. Earlier, your only accessibility to a film star was through the cover of a magazine, and cinema commanded the entertainment space. With TV, tourism, video games, internet etc, cinema went down on the priority list of people. Social media made stars even more accessible. So yes, there’s definitely been an effect on the star system, so to say. Today, you have social media stars who probably enjoy their 30-40 days of fame, compared to the 30-40 years of stardom that a film star enjoys. But everyone is a star in their own right. To cut the long story short, the definition of a star isn’t concrete. So, there’s no definite answer to whether the star system is vanishing or not.”

‘The story, role and director are things that draw me to a role’
“Language has never mattered to me much,” says Atul, who shot to fame with Kamal Haasan’s Hey Ram, which was released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi simultaneously. Having worked extensively in the Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam industries, among others, Atul says that language is not the criteria he chooses a role on. “I was introduced to the north and south at the same time through Hey Ram. In the last 22 years, I have worked across films in eight languages. So that’s not what drives my choice. I focus on the script and my role. Very simply put, the story, the role and the director matter the most to me while choosing a role,” he says, adding, “Actors are not content creators. They choose from whatever is offered to them. I love acting. It’s as simple as that when it comes to working across genres.”

‘Don’t let other people define your life’
In an era of image building and PR machinery, Atul is a solid exception. He handles his social media platforms on his own, is rarely seen at parties or award functions, and makes very few press appearances. Ask him if it’s a conscious decision and he says, “See, I am in a profession where spotlight is a must. It’s a necessity. But it’s up to me to decide what to do and where to be present, depending on what I am comfortable with and what I feel is necessary. I don’t agree with doing something that’s against my temperament or personality. Others may have a different perception and that’s fine. But I have done these things in a certain way and will continue to.” The actor also feels that while it’s important to evolve with time and understand the new things happening around you, it’s not necessary to do something just because someone thinks it’s trending and should be done. He adds, “Parents tell their kids to become engineers and doctors because that commands a certain status in the society. Following trends on social media is similar. Do it if you feel like doing it, but don’t let other people define your life for you.”

‘Will do a Marathi film when something interesting comes up’
While he has done multiple, acclaimed Marathi films over the years, Atul hasn’t had a Marathi release since 2015’s Rajwade and Sons. He says, “It’s not a conscious decision. There was a time when I had back-to-back Marathi releases – Popat, Premachi Goshta and Happy Journey. Before that there was a gap too. Like I said, I choose projects based on the story and roles. And I haven’t had an interesting story or role coming to me for a Marathi film. When that happens, I’ll do the film.”

Atul’s fitness mantra
He says, “The first step is to not abuse your body with things like smoking, drinking alcohol, staying up late and having bad food habits. When this is taken care of, maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes easy. I eat everything; I have never followed a diet. But I take care of eating on time, and have the right portion size. That, with three days of basic exercise in a week, is enough if you have taken the first step right.”

On working in multiple regional industries…
Atul says, “Different regions across the country have different cultural and political identification. That obviously seeps into working styles as well. Each industry and unit has a style of work that’s affected by the demographics and culture of those regions. Calling it the ‘south film industry’ is a mistake we make. In truth it is four big industries – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada – that are at work based on what I said before.”


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