Coronavirus: Get ready for the virtual entertainment amid the lockdown!

Updated: Apr 17, 2020, 08:05 IST | Mohar Basu | Mumbai

From live-streaming music gigs and comedy specials to interactive plays, mid-day gets a behind-the-scenes understanding of virtual entertainment amid the lockdown.

Vir Das and Jonita Gandhi
Vir Das and Jonita Gandhi

The film and television industry may have come to a screeching halt, but Indian viewers are, by no means, short on entertainment. When Prateek Kuhad is not live-streaming his performance on the Internet, Vir Das pops up on your laptop screen, ready with his at-home comedy special. In the three weeks of lockdown, how we consume entertainment has changed as much as how we live, with an increasing number of artistes exploring virtual gigs.

Amongst the first to tap into this was BookMyShow that enabled various virtual live properties, including performances by Indian Ocean and Karsh Kale. "Thanks to great collaborations and Instagram as the host platform, we brought live music, dramatised readings, poetry recitals and stand-up comedy sessions to the safety of viewers' homes. We kickstarted the #StayFitIndiaChallenge that features over 50 trainers offering more than 500 fitness sessions," says Albert Almeida, COO, Live Entertainment, BookMyShow.

The team of Lockdown Love during their prep
The team of Lockdown Love during their prep

He explains that they promote an upcoming offering aggressively through various social media channels to ensure maximum eyeballs. "#LiveInYourLivingRoom, which had Armaan Malik, Ankur Tewari, and Jonita Gandhi performing, amassed close to half a million viewers."

While promotion is the relatively easy part of the game, the execution poses a bigger challenge. Ask Roshan Abbas, whose company Kommune took entertainment a step ahead by curating the virtual play, Lockdown Love, that was performed over Zoom by Priyanshu Painyuli and Shriya Pilgaonkar.

Prateek Kuhad and Ankur Tiwari singing live from home
Prateek Kuhad and Ankur Tiwari singing live from home

"We experimented for two weeks with the core team to perfect the technological aspect of our play. A week went into scripting and casting, after which we prepped for the next few days. The challenge here is the [Internet's] bandwidth. We took feedback after our first preview on Sunday, and people categorically said two things — that it's a lot less personal than regular plays, and it should be made more interactive. So, we will be incorporating these aspects in our next show," explains Abbas.

While the Internet has its share of open-to-all gigs, organisers are slowly moving towards monetising the acts. For instance, Abbas's play was priced at Rs 499 per person. "The proceeds from the gig went to charity. As far as monetisation goes, there are different models to tap into different sections of the audience. Some comics are selling their shows for Rs 299 and there are four-week virtual workshops available for Rs 5,000." He adds that this could be the way ahead as brands are heavily investing in virtual content. "After all, for the next few months, this is the new normal."

Roshan Abbas
Roshan Abbas

It is evident that there is no dearth of takers — Vir Das has sold out 12 virtual shows of Vir Das At Home, tickets for which were priced at Rs 499. "Technology has made it easier for us to plan and produce shows over video calls. The audience is available out there. How long can it be sustained? That's tough to say. I hope people keep coming in larger numbers over the next few weeks. If there's a demand, there will be supply."

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