Kochi: The OTT explosion that India saw during the pandemic years not only changed the way audiences consumed movies but has somewhat ended the regional divide, said panellists who spoke on 'blurring lines of regional entertainment' at Techspectations 2023 in Kochi on Friday. No longer are Malayalam films seen only in Kerala and select releasing centres. Nor can Hindi films be considered pan-Indian films, they opined.
Filmmaker Santhosh Sivan first heard the term ‘OTT’ when he was in Los Angeles, a few years ago. “I didn’t think a new medium could change the world of cinema. But things changed during the pandemic,” said the filmmaker, as the discussion o kickstarted.
The discussion, anchored by filmmaker-actor Shankar Ramakrishnan, also had director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval, Sony Pictures Network India’s content head Saugata Mukherjee, producer Supriya Menon and actress Mamtha Mohandas along with Santhosh as the panellists.
‘We are mainstream, not just regional’
Producer Supriya Menon, who helmed films like 'Jana Gana Mana', said as a producer, it is both exciting and scary that the lines of regional entertainment are blurring. “Boundaries don’t exist anymore and it's time we redefined the word ‘regional.’ For me, Hindi is also regional today and Malayalam can be mainstream.” She was also of the opinion that Malayalam is an industry that quickly adapted to the requirements of OTT and was the most prolific during COVID time. “I would say the Kerala model can be replicated by others too,” she added.
‘OTT has its own stars’
From a time that demanded the presence of stars for the success of movies, the OTT era transported us to a time where content rules, said the panellists. According to Sony Pictures Network India’s content head Saugata Mukherjee, OTT platforms have generated their own stars. “For instance, take the show Rocket Boys that we streamed a while ago. It had many good actors,” he said, referring to the popularity enjoyed by the show despite the absence of big names.
‘Piracy a big challenge’
During the interaction with the audience, panellists agreed that piracy indeed was one of the biggest concerns. Saugata Mukherjee said, “We are constantly trying to improve the systems, but sometimes, smarter people bypass the security that we put in place. However, it is also a moral issue, as we lose a lot of revenue due to it. I hope people understand this better.”
‘OTT demands more authentic content’
Actor Mamtha Mohandas, who has been in the industry for 16 years, opined that there is no difference in what an actor brings to the table for theatre or OTT content. “But, I think we need to be more authentic while creating OTT content,” she said. The changing scenario demands everyone involved in content creation be more updated, as it is consumed globally.
‘Comedy movies work better in theatre’
‘Android Kunjappan…’ director Ratheesh Balakrishnan, who made his second film ‘Kanakam Kamini Kalaham’ during the pandemic, said he felt some of the OTT releases don’t get the publicity they deserve. He also said that comedy movies work better in theatres. “Often, the laughter triggered in one corner of the theatre has a contagious effect on the rest of the audience, while watching comedy movies. I feel it isn’t as effective while watching those movies on OTT,” he said.