With not one but two big OTT releases—the International Emmy-nominated Four More Shots Please! and Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi—director Anu Menon has made a major impact
on the Internet this year. By Rashima Nagpal
Four More Shots Please! got nominated for Best Comedy Series at the
International Emmy Awards this year. What does that mean for you?
It’s like a cherry on top! The beauty of OTT is that it is beyond the norm of who
recognises what. It gets embraced by people in a personal way. For instance, I
found a very nice review [of the show] by a middle-aged white man on the Internet.
We’ve also been receiving messages from around the world. Every recognition is a
validation for the work you set out to do. [International] Emmys were a complete
surprise. In these grim times, it boosted our morale about something we made with passion. But ultimately, OTT is by the people, of the people, for the people.
What kind of content did you watch growing up?
I grew up in Delhi in a middle-class family till my 20s, in the Doordarshan era—with classic comedies like Hum Log, Ye Jo Hai Zindagi, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, etc. This was the 1980s, when we didn’t have hundreds of channels but the variety of programmes was qualitative. When I was in BITS Pilani, in the early 90s, I was exposed to Tamil cinema—Mani Ratnam’s movies, for instance. By the mid 1990s, I’d stopped watching Indian television because I couldn’t relate to it. Then, international television came in, and we were watching Friends and Seinfeld, and discovered American humour. Now, with OTT, it’s fascinating how all these worlds are merging together.
How would you describe your directing style?
I’m committed to the intent or the genre of the show or the film. I become part of the content. Waiting, for instance, was an inward-looking intimate film. With Four More Shots Please!, we wanted to give people an escape [from daily life]. Shakuntala Devi is a powerful feminist film packaged as a mainstream Bollywood family movie. I enjoy taking a genre and turning it on its head.
Do you think OTT content needs to compete with the big screen?
No, they’re very different experiences. They must coexist and feed each other. OTT has expanded the ecosystem—it has made space for more actors, writers, and directors to shine. Whereas going to the cinema is an event.
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With so many options on OTT platforms, how do you make sure the spotlight falls on your content?
It all comes down to how you package and position it. I’ve been very lucky with a platform such as Amazon Prime Video that puts the weight behind and owns its shows. It’s easy to get lost among so many options. Social media, and the many ecosystems on them, also have a role to play. But I believe if your content has merit and resonates with people, they will eventually, if not immediately, catch it.
Kashmir in the mid 1980s.
Industry, The Undoing, The Queen’s Gambit.
Films that inspired you to travel
The Before Trilogy by Richard Linklater.