2020: A terrific, yet terrible year for Indian cinema
As the age-old methods of doing business gave way to snazzier, tech-driven digital platforms, Indian cinema came to terms with unexploited methods of garnering the big bucks and staying afloat
Imagine! Between March 2020 and the yearend, the Indian cinema industry has seen a transformation which will impact it forever. To make this happen, in normal times, it would have taken at least three more years to get initiated and take root.
What is this tectonic shift that has taken place which is now an enduring source of interest for cine pundits and data crunchers? It is a calamity-driven crisis situation which has been countered with advanced technology and inadequately experimented content distribution platforms till then.
Demystifying this statement, it means that as soon as the nation went into a lockdown phase since March 22 owing to Covid-19 onslaught, the over 6700 single screens and nearly 2300 multiplex screens went blank simultaneously.
In 2019, the Indian film industry had churned out close to 2500 films in dozen languages and more. As per a global study, the box-office revenue which had touched Rs 142 billion in FY 2019 was expected to reach the Rs 150 billion mark in the next fiscal.
One is not sure whether this target was achieved but it only goes to show the massive business potential of the potboilers which are churned out by major film production centres all over India. Of course, there were steep losses recorded by the movie moghuls due to the dreaded virus, running into thousands of crores ( one estimate puts it at Rs 3500 crore), which is also being construed as a projection of sorts and skeptically seen as a guesstimate.
Landing quickly on their feet, the industry conglomerates stitched together new partnerships, deepened their links with leading film banners and announced a slew of titles which they had managed to acquire from overeager filmwalas who were wanting to monetise their finished products.
This meant an altogether new route – the Over-The-Top (OTT) – which seamlessly landed in multiple homes across the world where the Indian diaspora was keen to continue the masala momentum. At the time of writing, there are over 50 OTT platforms which are either busily releasing content or readying up for the months ahead all across Indian languages.
As the silver screen has hesitantly started flashing with celluloid images in the recent weeks, the average Indian film viewer is now spoilt for choice. From the big screen to the smallest, available on mobile screens, the variety is quite impressive and the bouquet as colourful as ever. Newer markets have emerged for regional cinema across territories with sub-titled films.
Big stars like Suriya (Aakasam Nee Hadduraa), Amitabh Bachchan (Gulabo Sitabo) , Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vidya Balan, Ayushmann Khurrana among others who were only seen in a theatre near your homes are now available at the flick of a mouse or remote, with their brand new ventures, right inside your drawing rooms.
The Telugu film industry too has its OTT platforms and 'Aha', piloted by the Allu family is a prime mover along with Daggubati RaNa who has his own show going. Nani and Sudheer Babu had one of their flicks – 'V'- released in this sphere and which is now also seeing a theatrical release from the New Year Friday. The new gen stars are now finding it an exciting route to showcase their stuff, unlike the satellite TV small screen serial episodes which were only reserved for has-beens.
As differences cropped up on the nature and mode of business to be conducted between the OTT and the exhibition sector, superstars found themselves caught in the crossfire and the southern film industry had to constantly assuage its distributors and theatre owners that it will be they who will be given the first chance of exploiting the potential before the rest of them queue up.
Hindi film industry seemed to be more at peace with the new frontiers touched in technological growth as their content was multi-faceted and the markets, conveniently stratified for the marketers to campaign vigorously.
In all, 2020 became yet another epoch-making year by default by challenging the established techniques of doing business and unlocking newer venues for those who mattered and who had a clear say in how the showbiz activities should be conducted.