Today, we have our choices in the fingertips. OTT platforms are ranging to a wide spectrum of audience. Giving upper-hand to effortless domestic viewing. Though we had streaming platforms like Hotstar & Sun NXT before, which where digital hubs of Star & Sun network respectively, the entry of Amazon Prime & Netflix has predominantly changed the envelope of viewership & pre release economics for Malayalam films.
We, Malayalam cinema, have gone too far with the age old tradition of DVD’s & TV premieres, had if anyone missed good content from theatres you must have to wait ages for it’s DVD release or miniscreen premiere. The business of big films were absolutely dependent on its theatrical business, which was exactly why big multi starrer like Double Barrel, and Gangster ought to become disaster ventures. If it was released in today’s circumstances with digital rights it would have at least fetch breakeven for the producers.
Filmmakers are no more making films for the namesake of return of investment or for domestic audience, with digital streaming on the forefront they are aiming at the global audience. These years are bringing a huge difference: we are getting to see ‘Local is international’ films from Malayalam. Films like Ee Ma Yau, Kumbalangi Nights, Jallikattu, Sudani From Nigeria are handling globally appealing themes. On the other hand, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Unda e.t.c are talking Pan Indian politics. Makers are no more fooling around with their audience, they are designing films not just for big screen, but also considering small screens. People can pause & rewind any scene they want.
Amazon Prime and Netflix
Films are barged into trending topics post theatrical release as well as post digital release. If the content is good it will attract audience. Several people across the country & outside India are watching Malayalam films with subtitles, there are people anticipating online releases of acclaimed films. While, right subtitling is also crucial in peeling the humour & nuances in dialogues, these streaming platforms make sure to provide for quality subtitling as well.
In Kerala, even though a large amount of general audience are using illegal means for watching newly DVD released movies, through telegram channels & torrentz. Some of them aren’t even aware of the fact that, what they are watching is a pirated print. The huge advertisement campaigns of OTT platforms across televisions and newspapers has made way for a giant leap in ‘legal’ streaming. Amazon Prime & Netflix has entered the market on a steamy note. If i’m right, the first few films to make it to these from the mainstream are Maheshinte Prathikaram & Angamaly Diaries in Netflix.
Ente Ummante Peru in Amazon Prime. Definitely they needed a big launch, for that a biggie is inevitable. Prithviraj Sukumaran’s debut directorial Mohanlal starrer Lucifer released with humongous hype, it went out to redefine the overseas market capabilities of Malayalam Industry. It had overseas business on par with Tamil/Telugu/Hindi biggies. So this is it. Amazon prime’s gargantuan entry was by streaming Lucifer. They marketed the film with never seen before promo’s, full page paper ads for a miniscreen premiere in every major newspapers might be the first time ever? television channels instantly showed promos of Lucifer online release date.
Amazon prime started to rule Kerala market from then, ever after they are into instant streaming of big films like Ishq, Kumbalangi Nights, Unda, Pathinettam Padi, Ambili, Virus etc. Now they are having minimum one big Malayalam film releasing per month. Actually even before Lucifer, they took up films like Mikhael, Malayalam dubbed versions of Peranbu, and Yatra, Joseph and many more. Amazon prime also offers a vintage Malayalam library of classics. With Mohanlal and Priyadarshan films holding huge share. The major competitor Netflix hasn’t extended their contemporary or classic Malayalam library since their early acquisition of Kumbalangi Nights and Angamaly Diaries, though films like Sudani From Nigeria, Uyare, Njan Prakashan are added in the course of time.
Hyperlink platforms like Hotstar, Sunnext, Zee5 are now conscious of online streaming. Hotstar had direct online premiere of prithviraj’s sci-fi flick Nine. It has a plethora of vintage films including that of Padmarajan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan & Bharathan etc. While SunNext has most of mid 2000’s quality films. Maayanadhi, Charlie are some recent classics: which are also made available with subtitles.
Zee5 and Others
After the Television channel launch of Zee Network’s Zee Keralam, they too are constantly building a digital hub of films that are premiered in the channel. Madhuraraja was one major acquisition made by Zee5. But, no subtitles is the major drawback. Eros Now used to take rights whole together (distribution + video + audio) and stream films on their site. On the other hand, one of the biggest Malayalam News & entertainment portals – ‘Manorama’ has newly launched “Manorama Max” featuring Ashraf Hamsa’s Thamasha. The platform is making available every film telecasted in Mazhavil Manorama and current affairs live. On a steamy note, MX Player is a streaming platform of it’s own which has few Malayalam films & interviews of Malayalam stars.
Producers are benefited with the era of Digital Streaming. The pre release economics will be much more bigger with Digital rights. Anwar Rasheed’s upcoming big budget film Trance has reportedly made big deals with OTT platforms for digital rights. Vineeth Sreenivasan in a recent interview with Vivek Ranjit had said about how he loves to make web serials & is looking forward to the growth of OTT’s.
Apart from all these, streaming sites are also generating new opportunities for the industry people. Angamaly Diaries fame Sarath Appani was casted in a web series Auto Shankar funded by Zee5. Indrajith Sukumaran plays an important role in Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Tamil web series Queen which is a MX Original. Recently Malayalam Actors Neeraj Madhav & Priyamani made appearances in the Hindi web series The Family Man of Amazon prime. Definitely we will get to see Original Motion Pictures & web series in Malayalam language, funded by these streaming Networks soon. Touch wood.