Countdown 2022: The Over-the-Top Year!

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Ajay Devgn in Runway 34, which did extremely well on OTT but not in movie halls. Photo: Universal Communications

A mere three years ago, you would have considered this impossible: that the number of OTT film releases and theatrical cinema in the same year would practically run parallel to each other.

That big-name filmmakers, like Karan Johar (Gehraiyaan and Govinda Naam Mera), Vashu Bhagnani (Cuttputlli) or Ali Abbas Zafar (Jogi) would release films with stars on OTT, and Madhur Bhandarkar (Babli Bouncer against India Lockdown) and even big players like T-Series Films and Friday Filmworks balanced both areas.

And speaking of budgets, there was, frankly, not that wide a difference: for there were small films also released on the big screen and stars as huge as Akshay Kumar (Cuttputlli) and Deepika Padukone (Gehraiyaan) who led the A-list OTT.

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But even more than the cinema that took its chances with OTT (this time, unlike in 2020 and 2021, movies were designed for OTT and not released on streaming platforms out of economic compulsions), there was the ever-growing attachment to series of all hues. While Amazon Prime Video, Disney+Hotstar and Netflix led the platforms in this fare, SonyLIV, ALTBalaji, Voot and MX Player came next, with others following, including Amazon miniTV and similar other Apps for mobiles.

The three big decision-makers for the audience this year were Convenience, Economics and Variety.

Convenience:

Whether films or series (or short films, which is a culture in itself!), the viewer had the facility to watch them all at his will and convenience on personal gadgets like laptops or mobiles apart from television. This enabled the consumer to reject a bad product mid-route or, at the other extreme, binge-watch a 10-episode 500-minute long series at one go. What’s more, you did not have to take the trouble in the technical sense to travel to a venue to watch a film. And you were not paying either for the admission ticket or the exorbitant food and beverage.

Economics

And that is the related factor—the economics involved. At anything from Rs. 500 to 2000 for three months, a consumer got access to a huge buffet of entertainment on streaming services. As a film insider quipped, “But when you go to a theatre to watch a film, as most ‘plexes (where most watch a film nowadays) are located around shopping malls and food courts, a family of four can easily end up spending around Rs. 6000 at one go. How many can afford that? And if the film does not measure up, it can make you frustrated.” Post-pandemic, this factor has been decidedly accentuated for obvious reasons.

Variety

OTT facilitates exposure to variety that you can probably never get in a movie-hall. Long stories made with comparative lavish scales vie with refreshing themes and treatment in cinema as well. Films like Darlings or Sharmaji Namkeen were clearly risky releases for the big screen despite their caliber. On the other hand, web series like Khakee: The Bihar Chapter, Tanaav, Panchayat 2 and Four More Shots Please 3 were examples of the endless spectrum of varied kinds of entertainment that the audience could relish at personal convenience.

Duranga 2 was a bold series that was part of the OTT buffet. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

And experimentation could be the name of the game along in not only movies but also series. Gehraiyaan, Thar and Love Hostel were but three examples of movies that would not have stood a chance at the theatres due to their unconventional subjects. And, similarly, the content of Modern Love Mumbai, She 2 or a Duranga was unthinkable for more conventional avenues.

On the other hand, several films meant for big-screen entertainment (both from Mumbai and as pan-Indian releases from the South) plummeted without trace (Shamshera, Liger), whileothers “succeeded” on small scale (as in appreciation in sections, like Rocketry, or only when later streamed on OTT, like Runway 34.

Clearly then, 2022 was the over-the-top year in more than one sense.

 

 

 

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