The new reels

When we have already paid for an OTT subscription, the idea of having to pay again for just one movie has not cut ice so far.

Published: 17th May 2021 08:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th May 2021 08:52 AM   |  A+A-

A still from 'Soorarai Pottru'.

A still from 'Soorarai Pottru'.

Express News Service

Little movies seem to be the order of the day. This feature called Reels on Instagram is turning us all into cinematographers and editors, apart from performers, of course. A lot of time in the lockdown is being spent on such short format content.

Maybe the heaviness of Covid-related bad news on our psyche does not let us focus on long format entertainment as much? Also, the time we have on our hands due to working from home is making us turn to the ‘arts’, both to consume and to create. Either way, it is heartening to see some of these ‘reels’ by fresh talents or those that are a mash-up of a favourite actor or director’s repertoire.

I also notice that there is a dearth of original long format content in the Tamil space for now, as the commissioned projects are either in mid-shoot or just completing post-production. In this gap, I must say that I enjoy watching short-form content like ‘reels’ simply because it takes less than a minute of my time, and the song and dance of it (which is what it is mostly) is quite fascinating.

When normal folks you have known all your life suddenly turn into Micheal Jackson or Madhuri Dixit, you go, “Whoa! Where did they hide this talent all along?”

The attention span of viewers these days is polarised, with their interest being in content that is either for tiny bits of time or long enough to be binge-worthy. Interest in a film is for when it’s star-studded and acclaimed.

One and a half years into this ‘new normal’, and there are more than half a dozen movies lying in the cans. When the theatres opened in between, the queue of films was so long that no sooner did two movies release than we were back to another lockdown and watching cinema in our drawing room. When an OTT platform buys a coveted movie, we are also compelled to subscribe to that platform.

Sometimes, it works, and at other times, it doesn’t because the idea of pay-per-view has not yet caught on (we await the numbers on the Salman Khan-starrer Radhe, but I doubt it will be as much as his collections from single-screen theatres).

So, what makes one go to the theatre for a big star movie with family and friends but stops us from doing the same when we have to pay and view at home? Is there a problem with this business model or with the content being sold?

Before we answer that question, it’s key to understand the context of content that is viewed today. It is key to understand this ‘new habit’ we have formed as viewers, of consuming good stories and well-made films/series.

The exposure to ‘content of the world’ has made us aware of the superlative levels of production quality, acting talent, and an emphasis on how good the writing should be (story, screenplay, dialogues, characterisation, plot points) in order to make us spend our time and money, in that order.

Also, when we have already paid for an OTT subscription, the idea of having to pay again for just one movie (even if it has a huge star) has not cut ice so far.

The success of Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru or Vijay’s Master on OTT should give producers and filmmakers of feature films an idea on the way ahead. A month from release, a big film can see much success and response on OTT as well.

The pay-per-view mode is not a bad idea by any means, but the content/quality of the film that is queued up for such a release has to be evaluated. And this brings us back to the basics.

A good film or series is the only way to bring in premium revenue. A good story backed by good filmmaking which includes a cast that’s apt for the story and not just for the poster… only this will determine success.

Ever since man invented motion picture technology, there has only been one golden rule for success, which needs constant attention from filmmakers and producers alike. Make a good film (and now, a series as well). But who decides what’s ‘good’? Well, that’s a topic for another column.

Sujatha Narayanan


The writer is a content producer and an art curator


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