Producers realise it. So do stars and other talented actors seeking offbeat creative challenges. Personal entertainment offered by streaming giants like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix will be the chosen medium of entertainment for the majority in the future. And that future may be nearer than it seems.The Indian market hasn’t seen any mind-boggling deal, such as the one worth $275 million that Netflix had paid for the 2019 four-film contract with Hollywood actor Adam Sandler. That said, a rapid increase in the number of exclusive originals and films released online for the first time indicates that the streaming giants are exploring the potential of the local market with a greater degree of seriousness than earlier. Signs of a redefined approach to the business of entertainment could be observed after the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic struck India hard.In the middle of discussions on whether or not producers should take the online route to avoid long delays, the Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmii, a bigstar release, was released on Disney- Hotstar on November 9 last year. A laughably bad horror comedy, Laxmii surprised most by reportedly breaking the viewership record of Sushant Singh Rajput’s last release, Dil Bechara. More importantly, however, its release indicated that Kumar wanted to comprehend the challenges posed by the multibillion-dollar industry for him and other major players on the big screen.Not all stars will take the plunge to explore the world of over-the-top (OTT) platforms — at least, not any time soon. That said, working for OTT platforms is becoming increasingly attractive, leading to competition among those who wish to exploit the wide-ranging possibilities of roles and subjects on offer. Among those in the fray are stars who had failed to make the audiences gravitate to cinemas for a while. One of them is Abhay Deol, whose latest web outing is 1962: The War in the Hills, a war drama series, in which he is well-cast although the show has fallen short of expectations.From 70 mm to 24”Saif Ali Khan, whose big-screen career had experienced a few setbacks, signed on the dotted line and performed remarkably in Sacred Games, which had a gripping first season followed by a less-acclaimed but decent enough second season. Khan was recently seen in Tandav, a hyped political drama that fell flat on its face. Still, the series was a reminder that the actor has understood the importance of establishing his identity on the web before his peers get there. Emraan Hashmi, in the espionage drama Bard of Blood, performed creditably, which seemed to suggest that his first web series is unlikely to be his last.That these actors have chosen the route of OTT platforms suggests that other big-screen stars seeking comeback opportunities may make similar moves and, thereby, emerge as competitors for those who are mostly younger, and trying to establish themselves as new-generation actors catering to urban audiences across the country.Streaming giants are producing stars already, such as the winsome foursome of Four More Shots Please!, the Indian version of Sex and the City. Shefali Shah, who is either very choosy or gets routinely ignored for meaty roles for the big screen, came up with a stunning performance as an investigating cop in the Emmywinning crime drama Delhi Crime. Sobhita Dhulipala left a mark with her performances in Bard of Blood and Made in Heaven.For any actor seeking to make a big impact on Indian viewers, success as a performer on the big screen and OTT platforms may become comparably important soon. As new names join the list of those in the list of established ones on OTT platforms, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who has taken a big step ahead, is waiting to be crowned as the first Indian superstar on the web.Apart from his riveting performance in Sacred Games, the actor has had many online releases in which he has essayed a variety of characters. In Raat Akeli Hai, he is a small-town cop investigating a murder. In Ghoomketu, he is an aspiring writer. In the particularly well-made Serious Men, he plays an astronomer’s assistant and takes one’s breath away.Level Playing ScreenWith his performances in web series like Sacred Games and Mirzapur, apart from a superb turn in Ludo, Pankaj Tripathi has repeatedly proved that he is a fine actor capable of competing with the best. Meaty roles for veterans with impeccable credentials like Manoj Bajpayee (The Family Man) and Kay Kay Menon (Special OPS) indicates that actors of substance can expect to find roles that drive their shows, a dream for any performing artist.The OTT platform is such a new phenomenon that it is impossible to predict how much it will expand and how soon. As we return home and surrender our tired selves to the diversity on offer today, what can be said for sure is that it will have the odd superstar, its A-listers and young aspirants. More work on offer means more opportunities. That would mean more surprising outcomes as the Friday release of an OTT star, who may or may not be a significant presence on the big screen, competes with a Ranveer Singh film at the theatres for consumer eyeballs some day.