Thamizh Talkies: What’s fit for OTT?

The writer is a content producer and art curator
Vijay Sethupathi, Ajith and Vikram
Vijay Sethupathi, Ajith and Vikram

Theatres are back to 100 percent occupancy and films are queuing up. The biggie releasing on the 24th, is Ajith’s Valimai. Films from other languages are also lined up and we now have more than one film coming out on a Friday, spoiling us for choice. The songs from upcoming films (Vijay’s Beast), teasers (Suriya’s Etharkum Thuninthavan) and lyric videos (including the Telugu super hit Sid Sriram song, Kalavathi) have been welcomed with more enthusiasm than normal because of the Covid lockdowns and the long breaks away from such celebratory occasions. This is not to say that we are completely safe from what now seems to have become an endemic, but somehow, we have all prepped ourselves to get back to our old normal maybe? This is still a vague question because we don’t know what lies ahead when it comes to the variants of this virus. However, the current situation seems to be “back to the calm, not the storm”.

Hence, filmmaking has come a huge circle, with one more avenue for good return on investment which sprung up both as a lifesaver and as a ‘co-platform’ for new releases. The OTT boom has merely just begun. Internationally, the OTT platform is seen more for the long format content i.e. web series. After Covid, it became the go-to space for feature films as well and the term ‘OTT Originals’ came to denote feature films as well as series. Today, a number of films have benefitted from a direct OTT premiere (a trend in Tamil which began with the Jyothika-starrer, Ponmagal Vandhaal). There is now a trend of content being demarcated as an OTT film, budget-wise, but even a small-scale film can have explosive content which can draw the audience to the big screen. Kadaisi Vivasayi is being shown in more screens in its second week. Manikandan’s most sensitive film till date has all the markings of an OTT release, but they went for the big screen and waited it out. Vikram’s Mahaan, on the other hand, has a big star cast and is a well-mounted large-scale film that premiered directly on OTT, and not in the theatres, as theatre occupancy was only at 50 percent at the time of its release.

Such decisions are hard to make for producers/filmmakers, but making money on a film awaiting a release date is the number one priority for investors. Hence, OTT platforms are an attractive choice for producers who can’t wait long. And this is a good thing for the industry. A variety of films in different budgets and star cast can still be made irrespective of fluctuations driven by the endemic.

What does all this mean for the viewer? An array of content to choose from. At any given point, we have a list of series and movies to choose from—some recommended by friends and most from what we now have formed as our ‘viewing taste’ on OTT, and the rest from whatever catches our eye at that moment. The ease with which we can begin watching a series or film on OTT and get out, if we don’t like the first ten minutes, is rather hard on the filmmakers. In a cinema hall, we are bound by the ticket money to stay on till the end. In our drawing room, we have a choice to move away. OTT has put the onus completely on the film industry now to churn out the good stuff. There is no choice in this regard.

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