Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull will release on OTT this year, while Salman Khan’s Radhe will have a theatrical release.
Abhishek Bachchan’s The Big Bull will release on OTT this year, while Salman Khan’s Radhe will have a theatrical release.

Attaining a fine balance: How OTTs and theatres will cope with coexistence in 2021

As theatres start opening up in the country, will the convenience of OTTs, which is so fitting in with our culture today, be replaced? We talk to actors and filmmakers to understand if there is a middle ground.
By Juhi Chakraborty
PUBLISHED ON JAN 26, 2021 06:51 PM IST

The experience of sitting in a dark room with strangers watching your favourite stars on a big screen was replaced by watching content in the comforts of the home last year, owing to the pandemic. But as things are crawling back to normalcy and theatres also leaping back into the normal function mode, will the convenience of OTTs, which is so fitting in with our culture today, be replaced? Or will it win the battle of OTT vs theatres? Or is there a middle ground possible one that would see a happy coexistence between both.

Bhumi Pednekar, who had two OTT releases last year — Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and Durgamati, says, “Of course a cinematic experience is unique in itself but with OTTs, the reach has increased. Today you can watch anything on your phone sitting in your bedroom. It has evolved from solo viewing experience into a family viewing experience now more. Both have their own charm and both are here to stay, there is no either or.”

Gearing up for the OTT release of two of his films, Big Bull and Chehre, producer Anand Pandit says even after the pandemic, both OTT and theatres will work together and not against each other.

“I see it in a positive way because this way, the industry is expanding.I firmly believe that nothing can replace the excitement of watching movies on the silver screen. But due to the pandemic, the dynamics of entertainment and delivering it has undergone many changes. The big OTT wave is here to stay. But, it need not be one or the other when we talk of theatres and OTT platforms. The brighter side of this story is that both can coexist, and complement one another. They don’t have to share an adversarial relationship because OTT platforms have rescued producers from mounting losses by releasing their films during the pandemic,” he notes.

There are filmmakers who are already on the path of that coexistence from their end and are making projects for both the big screen and OTTs.

“It is also up to the directors to maintain that balance and decide which content suits which platforms,” shares trade analyst Atul Mohan.

Akarsh Khurana recently helmed a web series Mismatched and is directing Taapsee Pannu starrer sports drama, Rashmi Rocket and he feels that a healthy coexistence is definitely possible.

“The crisis that we went through last year with the pandemic, it opened up new avenues for the entertainment industry. Now, there are more options but what has happened is that it has shown us the trailer of what can happen. OTT has a growing and loyal audience and cinema does too. Now all platforms will get their time in the sun,” he says.

Her films Shakuntala Devi, originally meant for theatrical release, made its way on a digital platform and Vidya Balan acknowledges that things have shifted in the entertainment realm.

“OTTs are going to be big on everyone’s agenda now and I am talking about actors here in our country. But I think that does not mean that films would take a backseat or anything. As actors we would love to amp it up further and be part of different stories on different platforms,” she points out.

Due to the pandemic, the dynamics of entertainment and delivering it has undergone many changes, feels Siddharth Anand Kumar, VP, TV & Films, Saregama and Yoodlee Films.

He further adds, “These mediums have been at odds with each other and that needs to change. I think there has to be a co-existence. Ultimately for any business to succeed, you have to make it convenient for the consumers. And I think both OTT and theatres have different convenience attached to them.”

But there are surely challenges that will be posed in the way of this co-existence. “An audience gets a monthly subscription of a platform under 100 bucks. So we have to first ask if the audience will pay that much money or more for a one time ticket of a film,” asks Mohan.

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