3 min read.Updated: 30 Jun 2021, 03:02 PM ISTLata Jha
Movies in the four South Indian languages, particularly Tamil and Telugu, are contributing 10-25% to overall viewership.
While niche, experimental films have been discovered beyond their home states, mass-market offerings starring popular actors have also grabbed eyeballs.
Movies in the four South Indian languages, particularly Tamil and Telugu, including their dubbed Hindi versions, are bringing big returns for streaming platforms, contributing 10-25% to overall viewership, following the trend of their popularity on satellite television.
While niche, experimental films have been discovered beyond their home states, mass-market offerings starring actors like Dhanush, Rajinikanth, Allu Arjun on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and MX Player have also grabbed eyeballs, as families come together to watch stars. Earlier this month, Jio Cinema started a Malayalam special bringing six titles, including two that had premiered directly on the digital platform.
Tamil film Jagame Thandhiram on Netflix drew an equal share of audience from outside India as it attracted from within the country, said Pratiksha Rao, director, content acquisition, Netflix India. The Dhanush-starrer has been in the top 10 row in 12 countries outside India and has been number one in the top 10 row in seven countries, including India, Malaysia and the UAE. It was subtitled and dubbed in multiple Indian and other languages, including English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
Over the past year, southern films like Nayattu (Malayalam), Andhaghaaram (Tamil), Pitta Kathalu (Telugu), Paava Kadhaigal (Tamil), Cinema Bandi (Telugu) and Mandela (Tamil) have all featured in the top 10 row in India.
Action, thriller and romance remain big genres, followed by drama and horror. “As we've had the opportunity to bring more and diverse set of films from different regions of our country, specifically from the south of India, we've seen more and more of our members discover and engage with them," said Rao.
“Subtitles and dubs remove the barriers of language, and allow great stories from across the country to find a global audience," she said.
The platform is looking at growing its original and licensed programming across multiple Indian languages, including Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.
The love and affinity for south Indian cinema have crossed over from linear television channels to OTT platforms, said Mansi Shrivastava, senior vice-president and head- content acquisitions and partnerships at MX Player. “India thrives on cinema and many of these films come with not just larger-than-life protagonists but several layers of romance, drama and comedy," Shrivastava said naming titles like World Famous Lover (Telugu), Chennai Central (dub of Tamil film Vada Chennai) and Sarrainodu (Telugu) among their popular ones.
Nearly 12% of the overall consumption on MX comes from southern films, including their dubbed versions. Seeing the demand and opportunity in the south Indian market, Vibhu Agarwal, CEO and founder, Ullu, said the company was planning to partner with a southern platform and dub content for Hindi audiences.
Siddhartha Roy, chief operating officer, Hungama Digital Media, said the platform has seen a lot of repeat viewing for southern titles and audiences come from both metros as well as non-metros where phones are the primary mode of viewing. Some of the Tamil film titles also see traction in countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
“Global players are bringing in content from across the world and similar will be the opportunity for south Indian movies. Viewers want to sample different types of content," said Vishal Shah, managing partner, west at GroupM-owned media agency MediaCom India.
The other big advantage that OTT has is of being personal—one does not have to share the content with anyone and hence not be shy or afraid to try new content or genres to decide whether it is suitable or not, he said. “If new Hindi or English content is not available to support and pump-up viewership, the platforms are only going to look elsewhere," he added.
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