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Sky is the limit! Planet Marathi Founder Akshay Bardapurkar talks about his big plans for the OTT

Senior journalist Jyothi Venkatesh catches up with the founder and CMD of Planet Marathi OTT Akshay Vilas Bardapurkar for a chat on the scenario for Over The Top platforms in India.



Akshay Vilas Bardapurkar, Founder of Planet Marathi OTT

In 2021, Akshay Vilas Bardapurkar launched the world’s first Marathi OTT platform called Planet Marathi, backed by Vistas Media Capital, a Singapore-based company investing in media and entertainment ventures across the globe. The ambitious go-getter has big plans for the fledgling venture. Senior journalist Jyothi Venkatesh catches up with the founder and CMD of Planet Marathi OTT Akshay Vilas Bardapurkar for a chat on the scenario for Over The Top platforms in India.

How tough was it for you to launch your own OTT Planet Marathi?

It was quite tough in the sense that we started it during the peak of the pandemic but we managed to pull it off since we are the very first Marathi OTT platform to emerge in the market. Planet Marathi OTT powered by Vistas Media Capital, has given the world it’s first-ever, exclusively Marathi OTT platform, now accessible worldwide on the Planet Marathi OTT App. Planet Marathi OTT began by green lighting five refreshingly new original shows. The Planet Marathi OTT App launched with the release of these shows on 31st August 2021.

Did you have to persuade Madhuri Dixit to officiate at the launch of Planet Marathi?

Madhuri Dixit has been one of the leading actresses in the Hindi film industry for the last three and a half decades. Being a Marathi mulgi at heart, she has immense love and fondness for the Marathi audience and content. Her debut in Marathi films was marked with the super hit film Bucket List. The actress became the official first user of Planet Marathi App as she was the one to hit the live button and launch the Planet Marathi OTT App. And just like that, the world is now ready to witness amazing Marathi films, web series and entertaining content on their very own Planet Marathi OTT App.


Madhuri Dixit Nene and Akshay Vilas Bardapurkar at the launch of Planet Marathi OTT

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What is the avowed aim of Planet Marathi?

To bring promising content, meaningful entertainment for every segment of Marathi audience! With the launch of our own indigenous app, our offerings will now reach across the world to every user who loves watching Marathi content. Our Planet Marathi Original shows are specifically curated for web series binge-viewers who love fast-paced, meaningful, and thrilling content. We have created our content with the best filmmakers, talented artists and our easily accessible app! The entertainment experience is going to be exciting because Marathi fans have never witnessed such diversity and engagement in Marathi content before!

Did the pandemic benefit you as an entrepreneur?

You can say that I did become a beneficiary of the pandemic. The pandemic started the day our film AB & CD was released all over Maharashtra and though I had no other alternative but to suspend the distribution of my film, I was lucky that the leading OTT platform Amazon Prime Video came forward to buy the streaming rights of my film at a price which enabled me to recover the entire cost of my production and I got back the money that I had invested on the film from Amazon though the lockdown had started and my film did not make any money at all at the box office. I had made the Marathi film Rege earlier before AB & CD.

What triggered the idea in you to launch your own OTT platform?

After I saw the tremendous response to the Marathi web series Samaantar, which was streamed on the OTT platform MX Player, I decided to go in for my own OTT platform. It concretized my decision to come up with my own OTT Platform. Planet Marathi has already made around 8 popular web series including the web series Anuradha with actor Tejaswini Pandit.

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Do you have any other plans of making Marathi films in the near future?

I am all set to produce a mega budgeted historical film called Mughalmardini Chhatrapati Tararani directed by Rahul Janardhan Jadhav on a budget of 24 crores. The film stars Sonalee Kulkarni in the title role.

Your friend and actor Swwapnil Joshi has also started his own OTT platform. Do you consider it a threat?

Why consider it as a threat? On the contrary, I am happy that he has also joined the game. I may make a web series for Swwapnil’s OTT and he may also act in a film that will be produced by me in the near future.

Have you faced criticism for any unconventional content on Planet Marathi?

Yes. I was trolled for streaming a bold web series of a woman who sets out to live with not just one but two different men. It was not relevant earlier but is today.

Do you think cinema faces an existential threat from OTT?

Not at all! Marathi films like Jhimma, Pandu and Pawankhind are running in theatres in a big way after the theatres were reopened. Take it from me; theatrical exhibition will always do better any day than the OTT platforms. Basically, today there are different kinds of audiences. Entertainment is also a need of human beings and forms do change over the years. OTT is an additional medium and you can make money by selling to an OTT platform in addition to releasing your film in theatres.

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Can producers be denied the right to sell the films to an OTT platform before they are released in theatres?

Producers cannot be denied the right to sell their films to OTT platforms before release.

Do you think regional shows have the potential to do better on OTT platforms than Hindi ones?

Narcos, Money Heist etc. are also regional shows from abroad. In this game, nobody is the loser and it is always the audience who is the winner.

Our main aim is to reach a large number of audiences by streaming a good web series that will tempt even a Bengali OTT platform like Hoichoi or a Tamil OTT platform like Sun Next to approach us with the offer to dub our own Marathi web series like Anuradha into Bengali or Tamil and stream them on their own respective OTT platforms.

What is your approach when you buy the rights of films for your OTT Platform?

I buy the streaming rights for my OTT platform for 7 or 10 or 15 years or even lifelong in some cases. Though I sold my film to Amazon Prime Video through an aggregator, there are foreign platforms like Netflix that will not buy from you directly. I am open to any producer in India walking in to my office to pitch his film for Planet Marathi OTT.

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What do you think about the OTT scenario today? Do you think it will make inroads in a bigger way tomorrow?

OTT is in fact the writer’s medium just as cinema is that of the director and TV that of the producer. But then OTT too has its own limitations, fund-wise. It all depends on the zone you need and the requirement. But all said and done, I’d not at all hesitate to state that OTT is definitely the circle of hope for tomorrow.

What kind of a library does Planet Marathi OTT boast of currently?

Currently, Planet Marathi OTT App has a rich content library of over a 1000+ hours’ worth of binge-worthy content that will tantalize the Marathi audience. It includes films, web shows, plays, music, karaoke and so much more. The best thing about exclusive content in Marathi is that the content is refreshingly original, entertaining and curated for the audience’s likability. Planet Marathi has bundled all of the offerings in a subscription cost of just a rupee per day!  The annual subscription cost is just Rs 365 and the pre-launch subscription offer made it even more pocket-friendly by giving an annual plan at Rs 199 for a year. On 31st August 2021, Planet Marathi OTT brought a new era of entertainment in the Marathi industry!

The Planet Marathi Original shows launched with the launch of this app were namely, ‘Sopa Nasata Kaahi’ – a romantic comedy; ‘Hing Pustak Talwar’ a light comedy about a group of friends; ‘Bap Beep Bap’ an emotional family drama about father son relationships; ‘Jobless’ a crime thriller about an accused fraudster struggling to prove his innocence; and a fantasy thriller ‘Parees’ that revolves around superstitions and super naturals. We had also launched an edge of the seat thriller like Anuradha.

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In my opinion, Planet Marathi OTT is exactly what global citizens of Maharashtrian origin were waiting for! Marathi content will no longer have to compete against Hollywood and Hindi content for attention on OTT platforms where Marathi is a secondary language. This App is truly defining its tagline ‘Ma Maanacha Ma Marathicha’ with the offerings.

Tell us something about your latest Marathi film Pondicherry

Pondicherry starring Saie Tamhankar, Vaibhav Tatwawadi, Amrita Khanvilkar, Mahesh Majrekar, Neena Kulkarni, Gaurav Ghatnekar and Tanmay Kulkarni has been produced by Planet Marathi in association with Creative Vibe. It is the first ever Marathi film shot on a smartphone.

Which are your forthcoming projects on the anvil?

My upcoming projects include the Marathi film ‘Goshta Eka Paithanichi’ starring Sayali Sanjeev and Subrat Joshi and directed by Shantanu Ganesh Rode. The film has been delayed in the making because of the lockdown though the teaser was released in May 2020. I have also produced my fourth Marathi venture Chandramukhi based on Vishwas Patil’s novel. Actress Kranti Redkar is all set to collaborate with me for her upcoming directorial venture, Rainbow. It will star Prasad Oak, Urmila Kothare, Sonalee Kulkarni and Rishi Saxena in the lead roles. With Rainbow, viewers will be able to experience the colourful journey of today’s relationships. Tamasha Live, Crypto Ajji, Sunny are the other films to be produced by me.