*Nuhash Humayun shares his insights about digital content creation. Juneyna Kabir is all ears.
Do you think there’s been a shift in the way people watch cinema in Bangladesh?
Yes, there are about 200,000 Netflix users in Bangladesh right now. But people were watching content online even before that. Fan favourites, like dramas by Mosharraf Karim, receive millions of views overnight. There is also an interesting shift in the actors being chosen. Gone are the days of veteran actors or theatre performers being cast in films. YouTubers and social media influencers have become top picks for cinema. I suppose it is a way for stakeholders.
Does this method of casting reduce the quality of the production?
I believe it does. Our media is trying really hard to catch up with the online age. Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we get it all wrong. The quality is reducing because we’re looking to get views rather than make great content, so we make it catchy and easy. I would say it’s not always for the best that everything is online now.
Compared to other world cinema genres, there isn’t much Bangla content on Netflix. Is there a push for people working in film like yourself to get their work on Netflix, or is it more focused on regional platforms like Bioscope and Iflix?
Bangladeshi filmmakers who want to go big and international are trying to get their content on a platform called Hoichoi that is trying to launch here are good enough for now. Overall I think it is going to work out and we will see much more Bangla content in the digital arena.
What is the biggest challenge for filmmakers trying to make it big in the digital entertainment world?
What we struggle with most is getting people to stream content that is behind a paywall. It is just not in the culture of consuming entertainment. We would rather pay many times the amount to physically go to the cinema, than watch something online. Even if it is free, people are not willing to go through a 3-step subscription process. In India and neighboring countries, the shift is already taking place. It’s a huge challenge for platforms and creators alike here.
Did you face this issue for any of your films?
The latest two things that I’ve made are Pizza Bhai for Bioscope and 700 Taka for Iflix, both of which did really well. The interesting thing was that a lot of the people watched it on Youtube just to watch our movie, and we have stats for that. So maybe if something is a hit then people will go through the trouble to watch it.
The other trick as a filmmaker is trying to understand that online audiences are very different from the people watching TV. Their backgrounds, sense of humor and expectations are different. In a sense, I am more comfortable making things online because I feel like I am part of that generation who grew up with the internet.
How do you navigate around copyright issues and leakages in a country where intellectual property laws are rarely enforced?
When leakages occur, there is very little the platforms can do about it. They are trying to be more strict about copyright laws now but I don’t know how far that’s going to go. Personally, I am less interested in making royalties and more in having people view my content. If something is going viral or has become more accessible to people, in a way I am glad because I am a young filmmaker who’s been in the industry for a surprise.