Where do we go from here? 2021 is midway, and we are well into another year of films queuing up for OTT release and vying for our attention at home. Every two weeks, a new film launch is being announced, and every week, a new film is getting released on one of the leading OTT platforms.
Also, now, the term 'release' itself has come to encompass films of different languages that catch our attention across South India. Someone in Tamil Nadu now knows when and where Fahadh Fasil's Malik is releasing; someone in Andhra Pradesh knows when and where 'Aruvi' Arun's Vaazhl is releasing; and of course, all of India knew when and where Jagame Thanthiram released!
Some presumed that only big budget films would see a theatre release hereafter, and that small films would find their way to OTT. But the Malayalam film, Malik, is a large-scale film that was first planned for release alongside the mighty Mohanlal film, Marakkar. In Tamil, the biggest OTT super-hit still remains Soorarai Pottru (followed by Master, which briefly had a theatre release).
There is another presumption that only when a producer does not have enough faith in a film, does it make its way to an OTT platform. The theory is that because people are waiting to see new content anyway, and so, OTT platforms can serve as an 'escape route'.
As the OTT avenue attempts to engage all kinds of viewers, it’s believed by some that a film considered poor for a theatre release may just turn out to be a gold mine in the small screen.
Original feature films are yet to be designed for OTT in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Malayalam has taken the lead here, given that Drishyam 2 and Joji were pre-sold to Amazon Prime Video, filmed during the pandemic, and released directly on OTT.
The huge buzz generated for Netflix's Navarasa is not just because of the names in it, but also the potential quality of content. The phenomenally impressive teaser is a 'clutter-breaker' already. While social media 'reviewers' and skeptics may look down on anthologies, that format has indeed come in handy for OTT players looking to create original content with stars who can participate by loaning out a bit of time.
So, where do we go from here? Up! All the way up in terms of good stories, good filmmaking and good names in the OTT arena, who can show the audience whole new worlds through their immersive stories.
The fact that global OTT players focus as much on content in other Indian languages apart from Hindi, is a game-changer. When the movie halls reopen, films will be welcomed with renewed warmth. But watching new original content on an OTT platform is an inviting option too, and this is here to stay.
(The writer is a content producer and an art curator)