Tamil Rockerz, the latest web series on SonyLiv, marked the OTT foray of AVM Productions, one of the oldest and most highly regarded production houses in Tamil cinema. Founded by legendary producer AV Meiyappan in 1946, AVM Productions has featured several iconic movie stars including Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan, Kamal Haasan and Kannada film icon S Rajkumar, among others.
Adapting to changing times and technology, and shifting from feature films to TV series over the past 75 years, AVM Productions is now ready to tackle the OTT revolution under the leadership of its fourth generation leaders. , Aruna Guhan and Aparna Guhan Shyam.
In this exclusive interview with Activity area, Aruna Guhan, Partner and Chief Creative Officer, AVM Productions, explains the reason behind the production house’s dive into the OTT space, plans for new content and foray into other languages. Edited excerpts:
What inspired you to get into the OTT space?
Although OTTs have been around since the 2000s, they only picked up in Tamil around 2018. We thought that would be a good way to get in as we also consume content that way ourselves. I think because the responsibility in our minds to see AVM move to the next generation and move forward with technology is still a very big part of that. OTT has its own merits as the format allows you to tell different types of stories.
What took so long to launch your first content?
We started the conversation in 2018, then by the time Tamil Rockerz came it was 2019. Then we had the Covid-19 pandemic. But, actually, the pandemic has really helped the OTT space and it’s become a plus for us.
You talked about the benefits of OTT. What are its demerits?
I wouldn’t personally say there are any demerits in terms of content. I think you can reach a wider audience, but at the same time there’s a certain format for a story that you would tell in cinema with that time frame, that kind of story. And when you read a story, you usually have a very clear idea of whether it would work for a series or a 90-minute original or for a movie.
How is the feedback for Tamil Rockerz?
Feedback has been good. It’s also very encouraging because as the fourth generation, it’s kind of the first big step we’ve taken, and the support for it has been really great.
AVM has produced several television series in the past. How is a web series different?
I feel like it’s an extension, because any movie that comes out is going to go digital anyway. For us, AVM is synonymous with a certain quality, and we also stuck to it for the production of the web series.
What was the difference between producing a web series and a traditional film?
I feel like you are more organized, especially when working with a company. Usually we post the daily spend in Tally, which goes on, but at the same time you have that micro break on a spreadsheet, where you can always see exactly which head went well. I think it’s very useful because that’s also how I work.
What type of investment went?
I think it’s more of a strategic change in terms of training someone and in a way also, as I think, hiring young people, which also helped.
Will this strategic decision have an impact on your major film productions?
I think the ideal would be a mix of the two. I feel like we should have movies coming out on digital and then we should have OTT as well. Again, it’s content-based because we’re a very content-driven brand. We don’t have a goal of X amount of content per year. On the contrary, we are very aware of what we put in the banner on the legacy of my great-grandfather’s name.
Are you also open to producing content in other languages?
I think it’s again based on the story. There is so much talent coming out of Kerala, and a big audience in Telugu as well. According to the stories, we are definitely open to exploration. AVM has also worked in all major languages in the past.
What is the feedback from film distributors on your OTT foray?
Many people ask us not to let go of cinema. Otherwise, people are really supportive and really excited that AVM has come out of hiatus and is doing something now. Other than that, the feedback we’ve received from the industry has been very good.
With cinemas rebounding from Covid, do you think this will impact OTT viewership?
I think it’s a different audience. Take Kamal Haasan’s Vikram for example. Some fans said they watched it 47 times in theaters. These things are also very encouraging for the industry. We know that when we create content, we can somehow trust it. Moreover, now the divide between Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam has disappeared. Good content is always appreciated regardless of the language.
But, I think OTT might be slowing down a bit because the ramp-up has plateaued. It will be interesting to see where this goes now. But I think because that format lends itself to a different kind of storytelling, I think they can go hand-in-hand with cinemas.