'I'm trying to move away from what I've done before, not because I'm not happy with what it was, but because I have already done that.'
As a Web consumer, Tamannaah Bhatia says she has a 'short attention span', something which helps her stay attuned to the needs and expectations of the audiences.
And it was the engaging script of the Tamil crime thriller November Story that attracted her towards the seven-episode series.
"Pre-COVID, I was listening to (the scripts of) a lot of Web shows because I was interested in exploring the Web space. But I'm not your typical web consumer because I have a very short attention span.
"If I'm watching a series, I'll either shut it in 15 minutes or finish the whole thing. It helps my work as well because it should be able to hold my attention as a viewer before I can make anyone else go through it," Bhatia tells PTI in a telephonic interview from Mumbai.
In the Disney+ Hotstar VIP show, the 31-year-old actor plays Anuradha, an ethical hacker.
After she finds her crime novelist-father Ganesan (G M Kumar), who has Alzheimer's, with the dead body of a woman in their abandoned house, Anuradha claims he is inocent and embarks on a journey to unveil the truth.
Bhatia, who has predominantly appeared in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi films like the Baahubali series, Paiyaa and the remake of Himmatwala, describes her character as an 'authentic' girl-next-door.
"In my movies, I have had the good fortune of playing the girl-next-door, but not really in an authentic way. I have often played a little more glamorous version.
"Anuradha is that everyday Chennai girl, who can be your neighbour. Ordinary people when put in extraordinary situations can really do things that are beyond their imagination. So this is one of those characters," she says.
There are two things that matter in the Web space, she feels.
"Firstly, you have to connect with the protagonist. You should want the people to go through with you on that journey. Secondly, you have to be intrigued about what's going to happen next," she says.
"For us content creators, we need to make sure that you want to watch the next episode. You need to get hooked on to the characters or the narrative, otherwise people will lose track very soon."
While the Mumbai-born actor claims she is not an avid fan of the whodunnit formula, she believes crime stories work well for the digital space, courtesy the element of suspense.
The series is helmed by Ram Subramanian and produced by the Ananda Vikatan Group, and Bhatia said she was on board right from the moment the director narrated the story to her.
"When Ram came along, I didn't know what to expect because he had not done any work before. But he was the writer of this web show and Anand Vikatan produced it, we had Disney+ Hotstar already on board.
"I was just hearing Ram talk and thought I had seen three episodes. I felt like I wanted to know what's going to happen next," she recalls.
Given the severity of the second coronavirus wave in the country, the actor said the OTT is 'probably our only medium' to watch content.
"After the first wave had hit, people were still going to the theatres. Telugu cinema was seeing a reasonable response, sometimes even a good response for certain films. But essentially, we don't know how long, but people will have to watch a lot more Web content because going out is not exactly an option at this point of time. At least not the safest," she observes.
Bhatia believes that things have to become normal once again for people to go back to the theatres.
"But, in the meanwhile, the atmosphere is so grim that you really need content that takes you into a world, something that even mentally it insinuates to think (about something else than what's going on)" she adds.
Besides November Story, Bhatia has a string of films, including That Is Mahalakshmi, the Telugu remake of 2014's Hindi hit Queen, sports drama Seetimaarr (Telugu) and Bole Chudiyan in Hindi, lined up for release.
While she is not averse to her projects releasing on OTT, the actor said it was a business decision that needs to be made by the producers and distributors.
Bhatia, however, emphasises that it was best for the content to release on the Web because it "tends to become stale" after a point of time.
"Some content is relevant to the present situation, two years later it might not be relevant anymore. Content will be time bound, people will create it and put it out. We will not be able to hold on to it for too long."
The actor, who has completed 16 years in cinema, said she has been on a "quest of reinventing" herself for quite some time.
"I'm really changing myself as a performer. I'm trying to move away from what I've done before, not because I'm not happy with what it was, but because I have already done that. I also want to give my audience the content that is more universal," she says.
Bhatia is happy that November Story is a valuable addition to her filmography.
"The barrier of language is getting a lot more blur than it was before. As an artiste, you just want to focus more on creating good content and then you know if it is good, people will watch it, even if it is in a language they don't actually speak in."
Slated to start streaming from May 20 on Disney+ Hotstar VIP, the series also stars Pasupathy, Aruldass and Vivek Prasanna.
November Story will be also released in Hindi and Telugu.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com