'Expiry Date', the web-series currently streaming on ZEE5, has been showered with praises in both Telugu and Hindi. The thriller, directed by Shankar K Marthand, is one of the best products on Indian OTT in years. Starring Sneha Ullal, Tony Luke, Madhu Shalini, Ali Reza in key roles, this is a NorthStar Entertainment Pvt Ltd production. Producer Sharrath Marrar is quite happy with its success. It was released in Hindi on October 2 and on October 9 in Telugu. Days after the Telugu version started streaming on ZEE5, Shankar K Marthand has interacted with the media.
Congratulations, director! 'Expiry Date' has been embraced by one and all...
I feel glad about it. The reviews are quite encouraging in both Hindi and Telugu. Hindustan Times has given a spectacular rating. It really feels great.
The web-series phenomenon in the Telugu OTT universe was hardly taking off when 'Expiry Date' was materialized. How did the project fall in place?
Although the Telugu OTT universe has not seen many web-series, in English, we have had big titles like 'Game Of Thrones'. Even in Hindi, there have been quite a few popular ones. I was inspired to do something different on OTT. This is when I came to know that a producer is looking to produce a web-series. I narrated a story to that person. I love thrillers and fantasies. I like to transport the audience to a different world altogether. The producer loved the thriller that I narrated. But the project couldn't take off. I then approached Sharrath Marrar garu and narrated 'Expiry Date' to him. He loved the story. ZEE5's South Indian Creative Head Prasad Nimmakayala garu encouraged the project.
Whose idea was it to make 'Expiry Date' as a Telugu-Hindi bilingual?
The initial plan was to make it only in Telugu. But when ZEE5's head Aparna garu said that it would be worth to make it in Hindi as well, we changed the original plan. I have to thank her for the support on this occasion. I also thank Sharrath garu and Prasad garu for being pillars of support in the last one year. I also thank cinematographer Suresh, co-director Shravan and other team members.
The twists in the story have been lauded by the viewers. Isn't it?
I am glad the screenplay and the twists and turns have piqued the audience's interest. It's easy to write twists. What is the big deal is writing the climax. Prasad garu appreciated the ending and the whole screenplay. That boosted up my confidence.
Did you rope in the likes of Tony Luke, Sneha Ullal and Madhu Shalini because it's bilingual?
In OTT, casting is decided upon through deliberation. When I was cogitating over who should play Vishwa, 'Badla', the Hindi movie, happened to release on OTT. I watched the film and zeroed in on Tony Luke. When I conveyed my opinion to Sharrath garu, he too said he liked Tony in 'Badla' and asked me to go ahead. Sneha was chosen after we came to know that she was open to doing web-series. She loved the story and came on board. Madhu Shalini, too, was a unanimous choice.
'Expiry Date' has spelled the expiry of what?
(Smiles) Speaking for myself, it has ended the bad phase in my career. This success is going to be very special.
As a director, what differences have you noticed between cinema and OTT?
When you are making a film, you have to tell the story in 120 to 150 minutes. With a web-series, there is no time constraint. A scene can be stretched beyond two minutes. It offers a lot of creative freedom. The big challenge here is that each episode has to end on a nail-biting note.
What are your next projects?
I can't say anything at this moment. With 'Expiry Date' getting rave reviews, I am getting offers from web-series producers. I am in talks with ZEE5 and Sharrath Marrar garu. Offers are coming from other OTT platforms as well. As for movies, I am very much keen on them as well. Only time will tell whether I will be making a web-series again or a movie next.