Home >Industry >Media >South Indian stars take first steps towards direct-to-digital releases
South Indian stars take first steps towards direct-to-digital releases
2 min read.Updated: 30 Aug 2020, 01:28 PM ISTLata Jha
Last week, Tamil superstar Suriya announced the release of his action drama Soorarai Pottru, also produced him, on Amazon Prime Video this October. Amazon has also snapped up V, a Telugu language action thriller starring Nani
NEW DELHI: Nearly three months after their Bollywood counterparts, popular South Indian stars have started taking their films meant for theatrical release to streaming platforms with the pandemic showing no signs of abating.
As uncertainty persists about reopening of cinemas across India coupled with audience still wary about venturing out in the short to medium-term, big names in the Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam film industries are slowly taking the plunge. Trade experts have so far seen south India as a massy, single screen heavy market where people still hero-worship their stars and throng to theatres to see their offerings.
Last week, Tamil superstar Suriya announced the release of his action drama Soorarai Pottru, also produced him, on Amazon Prime Video this October. Amazon has also snapped up V, a Telugu language action thriller starring Nani. Young Malayalam actor Tovino Thomas’ Kilometres and Kilometres is all set for an OTT release while Fahadh Faasil, touted as one of the most dependable names in the Malayalam fraternity, has just announced a film called CU Soon, shot during the lockdown that will stream on Amazon.
"It is true that south Indian stars have always been more keen on theatrical releases, they work with a traditional mindset that way where they feel their fans would best enjoy watching them on the big screen," said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar.
To be sure, even as multiplexes try to hold the fort, south India is throwing up examples of old single screens shutting shop as the pandemic rages on.
In June, two iconic independent theatres in Chennai, AVM Rajeswari and Maharani, announced closures. The news came close on the heels of Sapna, another popular destination in Thrissur, Kerala, being sold off to a business group.
Johar added that actors can now foresee tough times and are possibly getting restless, with no clarity from the government on reopening of theatres and the fact that cinemas would need a gestation period of three to four weeks even after reopening before they can accommodate a high-profile project.
Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said a direct OTT release would ordinarily spell doom for a south Indian star’s career.
"They have cultivated their fan bases like political parties do and believe in concepts like first day and first show," Pillai said. "However, post covid, not only will their remunerations come down by at least 50%, the way films are marketed will change, the number of people coming to theatres will be fewer and stardom therefore will definitely take a beating."
Trade experts like Johar point out that like Bollywood which started its direct-to-digital run with more urban-centric, niche narratives like Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi, the south Indian films taking the plunge as of now are also more concept-driven and not hardcore commercial ventures.
Also, Bollywood stars had received both pleas and threats from theatre owners initially to not bypass the theatrical medium, which south Indian names have not been spared either.
Soon after the Soorarai Pottru announcement, director Hari wrote a letter to Suriya asking him to rethink his decision, adding that as a fan of the actor, he wished to watch his film on the big screen and that "people from the industry must not forget that they have achieved their fame through theatrical releases."
In May, when Suriya had taken wife Jyothika’s legal drama Ponmagal Vandhal, that he had produced, to Amazon, the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association had voiced strong protests, with general secretary, Panneerselvam, saying tfilms starring Suriya, would not be released in theatres if the move was not shelved.