Home >Industry >Media >Small southern films benefit from release on streaming services

New Delhi: The long shutdown of movie theatres has benefited many niche, small-budget south Indian language films, especially in Tamil and Malayalam, that do not cast bigger stars and get lost in the clutter of releases multiple releases in theatres.

It is common for southern movie industries to see more than half a dozen releases every week, a much higher volume compared to Bollywood. However, by premiering directly on OTT platforms, titles like Nayattu on Netflix, Thank You Brother on aha Video and Thaen on SonyLIV, have managed to avert marketing and distribution expenses in an industry that still prefers big star vehicles. Media experts say costs of acquiring small south films are also low, to the tune of 2-3 crore, making them easy investment with good returns.

“It is unfortunate that these films could not get a release in theatres. However, for the small and medium-budget titles, it has always been a struggle to get enough theatrical windows and it will only get worse now as theatres reopen and the big films will queue up, reducing opportunities for smaller films," said Ajit Thakur, CEO, aha calling OTT a blessing in disguise for these movies.

Platforms like aha, Thakur added, have marketed the titles they acquire with teasers, trailers and exhaustive media interactions. While aha will continue to acquire films for digital premieres even after theatrical release, Thakur said the past few months have seen traction for direct-to-digital releases such as Bhanumathi & Ramakrishna, Johaar, Colour Photo and Thank You Brother.

Pratiksha Rao, director, content acquisition, Netflix India said the platform is seeing tremendous success for films from south India including titles like Jagame Thandhiram, Nayattu, Mandela and Miss India. “Streaming has brought in more innovation and experimentation in storytelling. Creators have the ability to tell the story of their choice, the way they want, knowing that every story can find its audience, without limitations on format or duration. With our continued and growing curation of films in different local languages, we are delighted to see how those stories are watched outside of their native language region and find audiences across India and around the world," Rao said.

“As we've had the opportunity to bring a more diverse set of films from different regions of our country, specifically from south India, we've seen more and more of our members discover and engage with these films. With subtitles and dubs, the language barrier has lowered and we are thrilled to see that more audiences are discovering this cinema," she added.

Sanjeev Lamba, executive producer, Hungama Originals, Hungama Digital Media said even before the pandemic, theatre-going had become largely restricted to event films and not every new offering has that kind of scale.

“Earlier, people would wait for DVDs to catch up on such films, that has been replaced by streaming platforms. Plus, these films are now reaching native Tamil or Malayalam speakers who live outside the state and may not have been able to watch them in theatres which may also not offer subtitles for those interested in cinema but unable to understand the language," Lamba said.

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