As the world continues to reel under the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the only thing that seems bleaker than the present… is the future. Even the most optimistic among us believe that the world will never be the same again.
Cinema is among the industries that have taken a major hit, and Siddharth Anand Kumar, Vice-President of Yoodlee films, believes a change is in order. “We are going to have to learn to fit ourselves to the new situation and figure out how we do things going forward,” he says.
In a step towards that, Yoodlee Films is conducting online auditions for their upcoming film, Comedy Couple. This will be a direct-to-digital release as well.
“We’ve been amazed by the response. People love acting and we are giving them that opportunity,” says Siddharth, adding this will not be a one-off thing.
Calling open auditions a “logistical nightmare” in a city like Mumbai, Siddharth believes moving things online will help in tapping new talent from across the country. “Also, in these times, even after the lockdown ends, people will still be nervous about stepping out. I believe we should do our bit to keep the crowding down.”
Yoodlee Films recently turned its sights on regional content and, as a first venture, backed the critically-acclaimed KD (2019). “We are concentrating on Tamil and Marathi. We are also in talks to do something in Telugu. Vernacular content is going to be the talk of the town,” says Siddharth, who has “scaled up” with Yoodlee’s second venture in Tamil. “We are also bankrolling actor Karthik Kumar’s directorial debut that stars big names like Bhagyaraj and Ambika. You can’t always make a film like KD without familiar faces.”
This is a trend that will determine the content on OTT platforms in days to come, says Siddharth. “When OTT started, the aim was to appeal to a very cinema literate audience. So we did subtle films like Ajji and Music Teacher. The honeymoon period, where you could make films with newcomers, is over. Now, the aim is subscriber growth, and for this, you need some recognisable faces.”
Will this focus on streaming take away the spotlight from the theatres? What will happen to the various films in the pipeline?
“This is unprecedented. We are noticing a lot of interest from the OTT platforms. It boils down to the economy aspect. When you release it on streaming, you lose out on certain avenues of revenue. But it is useful for smaller films like ours. We are in talks to go direct-to-digital on some of our films,” shares Siddharth, who adds that the more worrying factor is resumption of shooting.
“Demand for ready content will keep going up but social isolation is difficult while shooting. So, I’m not sure when it will resume in full flow. It will be tough for films under production,” says Siddharth, who has two Hindi films ready for release — Vinay Pathak-Sayani Gupta’s Axone and Jitendra Kumar’s Chaman Bahar. “But again… we don’t know when people would be comfortable going to movie theatres. For now, our predictions are just conjectural, and all we can do is hope for the best.”