We look back at how the web has evolved in the last five years and, from the wealth of talent that has emerged from it, speak to those who stood out to us
In October 2014, The Viral Fever (TVF) put out the first episode of their web series, Permanent Roommates on YouTube. A month after the show’s final episode aired, it became the first Indian YouTube channel to cross 1 million subscribers. Almost five years later, the web space is bigger than ever - there are 29 streaming platforms and counting. Even big Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan and Akshay Kumar are jumping into the fray. While Indian web content still leaves a lot to be desired, we’re thankful to this medium for giving us some great performers, writers, storytellers and more. We look back at how the web has evolved over the past five years and, from the wealth of talent that has emerged from it, pick the 12 who have stood out to us, in no particular order:
Starring in Better Life Foundation, writing and starring in PushpavalliWhat the web has given her
“If I didn’t have the option to write my own show, I would be the fat best friend for the rest of my life. I would’ve played Sweetu from Kal Ho Naa Ho for the rest of my life. The web has given me the opportunity to write my own scripts and a show where I’m the lead, where I’m carrying it on my shoulders.”A scene she's proudest of
“Pushpavalli season 2, episode 7 - there’s a scene without dialogues and it’s purely my acting performance. I’m from a theatre background where spoken words are fine but if you can pull through a scene in silence, that’s something. Our reference was Emma Thompson from Love Actually - remember that scene where she finds out her husband bought a necklace and it’s not for her? That scene hurt me so much.”What's next
Pushpavalli season 2, another series she's pitching to different networks.
Starring in Delhi Crime, Selection Day, MirzapurHis breakthrough moment
“This film Sidhharth made by Richie Mehta, creator of Delhi Crime. I played the lead and also wrote the dialogues. I had actually quit acting for five years and was teaching at the National School of Drama because I wasn’t getting good roles. But when I got this, the actor in me was revived. I got a few awards and nominations and also got to travel all over the world and attend major festivals like Venice and Toronto. It changed my life.”What the web has given him
“On the web, the characterisation you get has a lot more detailing, even if you’re not the protagonist. Whereas in film, even if you get a significant role, there’s a limitation. Writing plays a very important role on the web and because the roles are better, we’re able to do better.”What's next
Delhi Crime Season 2, Mirzapur Season 2, another Amazon show and two films - Commando 3 and Panga.
Directing Better Life Foundation, Pushpavalli, and The Office (India)What the web has given her
“Access. Good scripts and edgier content, and people willing to back those projects. Even today, with the industry changing, there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through to direct a film. On the web, if you do one show and you are decent, you get another. You get to pick atypical, unconventional, progressive, nice scripts that show women in a light other than the typical rona dhona.”A scene she's proudest of
“Better Life Season 1 was a very small-budget production, tiny, very crunched on time. Pushpavalli, too had a very tight budget, we were tight on time…We had 18 days to shoot it. And it was quite a miracle - the fact that it turned out nicely. And that there is a season 2. That is an accomplishment I take great pride in.”What's next
Pushpavalli season 2.
Writing and directing Laakhon Mein EkWhat the web has given him
“Freedom. It helps your work reach a wider and a more targeted spectrum of people. It gives you exciting opportunities to talk about subjects that other people don’t. Once you have that dagger of your Friday numbers not having to be calculated, even your producer, financiers and studios will back you.”A scene he's proudest of
“A scene in season 2, episode 7 of Laakhon Mein Ek. The hospital staff, along with Shreya Pathare (Shweta Tripathi), are discussing why they became doctors. Shooting a scene where five people are just sitting and discussing their lives, with absolutely no conflict whatsoever, is the toughest to execute because nothing really happens. It’s one of those scenes which doesn’t really change the course of the series. But if you don’t have it, you’ll really miss it.”What's next
Something “exciting” that he is contract-bound to stay mum about.
Writing and directing Permanent Roommates, Yeh Meri Family, TriplingHis breakthrough moment
“Our first video, Rowdies (a spoof of Roadies), gave us confidence. The biggest breakthrough was when we released Permanent Roommates, because it was India’s first ever digital show. The response to it gave us the confidence that audiences were ready to watch this type of content. The industry woke up to the fact that we could long-form. Everyone started saying they wanted to do films and shows with us.”A scene he's proudest of
“Permanent Roommates season one, episode four. Mikesh and Tanya come to this flat and they meet Jitu and a girl who are about to get married. It was a tricky sequence to shoot and perform and we had absolutely no time. We had just one chance to shoot the whole thing. Nobody had any idea what I was trying to do and the way I was blocking the scene. But it turned out really well.”What's next
25 TVF originals and its first feature film.
The score and cinematography of TVF shows including Pitchers, Humorously Yours, Permanent Roommates.His dream project
“There are some game-changing songs I’m planning to release. Very interesting music videos, nothing like anything anyone has ever seen here. When you look at the Top 100 on Billboard, you see Kanye West and Ed Sheeran - the aim is to represent India on that international scale.”A song or scene he's most proud of
“I’ve put out around 72 songs so it’s a bit like choosing your children. I’m particularly proud of what I’ve shot in Pitchers. With very little means, we pulled off something that has a cinematic vibe, even compared to what’s shot with much better cameras.”What's next
Forming an internal music team at TVF, which created an independent soundtrack for Kota Factory.
Starring in Little Things, Girl In The CityHer dream project
“Any role that challenges me as an actor and sees beyond the ‘girl next door’ I have played often. I'd definitely like to do an action thriller with all the stunts!”Her breakthrough moment
“It’s still sinking in. But I really enjoyed all the acknowledgement post the cup song and the FilterCopy sketches going viral. That was perhaps when I got the most attention, which was new for me.”What's next
A web project she can’t talk about and a play called Dekh Behen.
Co-founding Pocket Aces, which has FilterCopy and Dice Media - platforms that produce Little Things, What The FolksTheir breakthrough moment
“Our first viral video, our first smash-hit web series Little Things (which is now a Netflix original), hitting million-plus subscribers on all our channels, and launching entertainment app Loco.”A scene they are proudest of
“What The Folks season 1 - when Nikhil (Veer Rajwant Singh) calls a new electrician to the Sharma household. It really talks to what you can do in a limited space with the right team. No fancy locations, no high-tech VFX, just good old-fashioned teamwork across the acting, directing, writing, music, and camera departments, all choreographing the chaos of family interactions.”What's next
Adulting season 2, What The Folks season 3 and a dozen fiction and non-fiction shows that will premiere on OTT platforms and YouTube.
Creating, writing and starring in Kota Factory, writing and starring in Yeh Meri FamilyHis breakthrough moment
“After a screening of Yeh Meri Family at the TVF office, someone came out crying and said, ‘You are a genius’ and hugged me. And it was a person I had profound respect for.”What the web has given him
“Direct engagement. Once you release a series, you are talking to people. You are reading their reactions, what they liked, what they didn’t. You start understanding your audience far better. On the web, I somehow don’t feel that pressure to preach to the audience but if I’m writing a film, I will have to see if I am politically correct.”What's next
Kota Factory season 2, another show Hostel Daze, four more shows.
Writing and starring in Tripling, starring in Permanent Roomates, ’s Not That Simple, Official CEOgiriWhat the web has given him
“The room to experiment. Films, over the years, have gone towards safer territories, because of the box office, release and publicity involved. I was in season 2 of corporate drama series It’s Not That Simple. It’s a very evolved take on relationships and how they function today. Nobody was black or white, all the characters were grey. I cannot imagine doing this in a Bollywood film. I don’t think the audience has the appetite.”His breakthrough moment
“Permanent Roommates definitely put the spotlight on me. Suddenly people were aware of my existence. Before that, people knew I was an actor, but nobody considered me the protagonist.”What's next
A role in Rajkummar Rao-starrer Made in China and the part of Ram Jethmalani in a web show.
Starring in Pitchers, Permanent Roommates, Kota Factory, TVF BachelorsWhat the web has given him
“More relatable content and language. The language is one thing people find refreshing on the web. The way people talk in real life is reflected more on the web.”A scene he's proudest of
“My introduction scene in Pitchers. We talked a lot about how a corporate guy like him would be, and when we finally cracked that idea, it felt great. Kota Factory has this long scene in which the teacher talks about reality of Kota. It was different in the script - when we shot it and I acted it out, it wasn’t as generic as I first thought. It became fresh.”What's next
Projects that he cannot talk about yet.
AIB Sketches, The Office, Delhi Crime, TVF BachelorsHis breakthrough moment
“There are quite a few in Delhi Crime, like the one where we’re talking about why crime happens. When I was doing it, (director) Richie Mehta told me he doesn’t want any emotion because for them, it’s an everyday thing. So when we cracked that, I felt it was very interesting.”What the web has given him
“I feel that films are the story of a hero and heroine and their journey. The web is more like reading a novel where there are multiple characters, subplots and smaller stories. That’s why it’s a lot more interesting, there are so many tracks and stories in one project.”What's next
The Office Season 2.