Mumbai: Gulabo Sitabo was the first Hindi movie to bypass a theatrical release and premiere directly onto OTT, which was much to the consternation of exhibitors who have threatened retaliatory action; while this happened under the Covid-19 situation all over the world, experts spoke about how OTT and movie theatres shall co-exist without OTT being a long-term threat to movie theatres.
On day 3 of E-FICCI FRAMES, a panel discussion titled, Changing Theatrical Windows – Direct to OTT was moderated by Film Trade Analyst & Journalist Taran Adarsh, The panel consisted of some biggies such as Vikram Malhotra, Founder – Abundantia Entertainment Pvt Ltd, Saugata Mukherjee, Head of Original Content – SonyLIV, Shoojit Sircar, Film Director and Producer, Madhur Bhandarkar, Film Director, Carter Pilcher, CEO – Shorts TV, UK and Filmmaker Ram Madhvani.
Setting the context moderator Taran Adarsh said, “With OTT being the new norm which is what everyone these days is talking about within and outside the film industry.If this continues for a longer time, more and more films may come or premiere on the digital platforms.”
Speaking about what prompted a film like ‘Gulaabo Sitaabo’to take the OTT route Director Shoojit Sircar said, “I think when I started making ‘GulaaboSitaabo’ of course it was a theatrical film and I shot the film to be conceived like a theatrical release. As a filmmaker I can’t even think of making a film without thinking of a theatre. The movie was all ready and set and the big event was set for January, but I think we all know what happened so unfortunately, that’s when my radars were all active that should I hold on to the film or should I sit with it.”
“I am thankful that Amazon treated ‘Gulaabo Sitaabo’ as a big event; normally it doesn’t happen this way, it just gets released, but so far I am quite happy the way it has fared on the digital medium and the reactions that I have got. It was quite a deliberate attempt and I’m still understanding this experiment, it just been four weeks that film has released. I am still breathing it and let’s see in future what else I am going to experiment with.” said Sircar.
Another big Bollywood film, Shakuntaladevi which is also slated for a direct to OTT release had its producer Vikram Malhotra on the panel. Malhotra said, “The movie was written, conceived and was in post-production as a theatrical film; we even announced the release date on the 8th of May in the public domain. But for me and the team that was involved in the decision, it was really very simple because this shift from of theatrical window and going straight to digital is actually a win-win situation from where we are looking at it.”
“A film on digital gets treated with the same respect as a theatrical release and most importantly, there are two considerations which we kept in mind and my director Anu Menon and my lead talent in the form of Vidya Balan and Sanya Malhotra unequivocally supported this one.” said the producer of the film.
Speaking about the releases of 6 new movies on Disney+Hotstar and its significance to the industry, Producer-Director Madhur Bhandarkar said, “We have to look into a larger perspective, I feel what the other panelist said that this is very pragmatic very practical in studio of filming lying in a limbo situation that you don’t know what is the outcome and the pandemic is not only in India but is global.”
“With the kind of investment that is there so many friends of mine who have made movies and interest rates are going from the bank or private funders and it is basically a very bad situation and in today’s times, we don’t know how long it’s going to prolong and how long it will take for the theatres to open and will people will come or the fear psychosis will be there.”
“A lot of movies are getting released on OTT platforms and it is a need of the hour and it is not only in India but globally, people are trying to reach out to the OTT platforms obviously and with money being there and people wanting to see new stuff sitting at home in lockdown.I think this is definitely a phase.” said Madhur Bhandarkar.
Bringing in the very important OTT point of view, the Original Content boss of SonyLIV, Saugata Mukherjee said, “These are unreal times and no one really planned for it and people have had to take some pragmatic decisions. Theatres are not going anywhere but let’s look at the positive side; atleast you have the OTT platforms today to take on the finesse of getting your film across to your audience.”
Sharing the bright side of taking films directly onto OTT platforms, Director of the latest Disney+Hotstar Original Aarya Ram Madhvani said, “There is a line in ‘Aarya’ which says ‘trust is good, but control is better’ and I am going to change that line and I’m going to say, ‘trust is good but remote control is better’ because what has now happened is that you have given the power actually and truly to the audience, you are no longer asking me as an audience and all of us who are also makers and audiences.”
Contributing from the short-film viewer behavior perspective, ShortsTV’s CEO Carter Pilcher said, “We straddle both in the theatrical side and the OTT side, we released all Oscar-nominated short films into a big theatrical release in the United States and I think all of us would like to keep theatres alive, all this huge growth that we are seeing in OTT platforms and I think it’s coming in lots of genre and we are seeing it across genres, but especially more in family genre but I think one of the outcomes of this pandemic is that people are far experimenting with new genres and we have seen a 40% people experimenting with ShortsTV.”
While these are unprecedented times, I am sure all of us miss going to watch movies on the big-screen with a big tub of popcorn. While OTT has proved to be the saviour for movie producers, when the world once again becomes a happier place to live; films shall be first released at movie theatres and then onto TV and Digital. The panel too closed on the thought that OTT & Theatre shall and will co-exist.