Ajay Devgn: As a theatre owner (as well), I feel no threat from direct-OTT releases.
Rhea Srivastava -
With the coronavirus pandemic threatening to affect the theatre business significantly and keeping audiences at home even once multiplexes start reopening, many OTT platforms have taken advantage of their newfound status as the sole providers of content for the audience. Amidst all of this, streaming service Disney+ Hotstar launched its brand new campaign - “Multiplex: First Day First Show ki Home Delivery” which is a bouquet of seven high-profile Bollywood films which will now be released directly on the service.
Amongst these are Ajay Devgn starrer Bhuj: The Pride of India, and to promote the film’s release, Devgn joined his colleagues from the industry which include Akshay Kumar (Laxmmi Bomb), Abhishek Bachchan (The Big Bull), Alia Bhatt (Sadak 2) and emcee Varun Dhawan.
As expected, there was some discussion on what this trend may mean for the future of films in the theatre. As a producer (he is producing The Big Bull) and a theatre owner (he owns a multiplex chain called NY Cinemas which directly competes with INOX and PVR Cinemas), Ajay Devgn had a balanced take:
“The pandemic looms now, but will eventually pass. Whenever that happens, whether it is now or next year, we will go back to the ‘normalcy’ of films releasing in theatres first. But what it has done now is show us that it is possible to create a system where theatres and OTT platforms can cohabitate the same space. There were films which weren’t released or even made earlier… not everyone can have that big Friday release. With OTT platforms, we can ensure that more films get made and more talent gets recognised. If that ecosystem is created, it will only benefit everyone. As a theatre owner, I don’t feel bad or threatened that films are being released online because if more films start getting made, it will only benefit exhibitors in the future. The business of movies will always keep running. It’s up to the audience how they choose to consume them.”
He also talked about how it is the industry’s foremost responsibility to ensure that the audience feels safe and happy while watching a movie, a sentiment that was shared by the other actors on the panel. “People’s health is the biggest priority right now. We want everyone to cheer up, and releasing our films online is the best way to provide them with happiness.” Devgn shared the poster of his upcoming film Bhuj: The Pride of India which is releasing on Disney+ Hotstar sometime after July. Additionally, Abhishek Bachchan spoke about their collaborations over time and The Big Bull, which Devgn is producing.
Meanwhile, when asked on how Hotstar intends to make their platform more accessible to Tier-2 and 3 demographics in the country, Chairman of Disney India, Uday Shankar, said, “Disney+ Hotstar is unique in the way its content is curated. It is one of the few services that have very popular live sports programmes, the entire Disney Studios roster, all of the television shows under the Star Network and now some really big movies. We are already big in rural areas and small towns and this will only help us expand.”
Ajay Devgn’s film Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is the highest-grossing film of 2020 in India, and the 9th highest-grossing film of the year so far. Bhuj: The Pride of India releases on Disney+ Hotstar soon and also stars Sonakshi Sinha and Sanjay Dutt.