Amazon Prime Video strikes a hat-trick in disappointing the OTT audience. Is it time for Netflix to hit a sixer and conquer the webspace?

Sajid Ali -

Amazon Prime Video strikes a hat-trick in disappointing the OTT audience. Is it time for Netflix to hit a sixer and conquer the webspace?

In the recent global situation, all businesses and professions have taken a toll in every possible manner. Amongst these, the film industry is one that has been affected beyond one's imagination. Many may think that no one cares about what happens to the film industry, looking at all the other pressing issues going on that needs to be focused on. To be honest if not for those artists and content creators the little bit of sanity left in us humans would’ve probably taken an ugly turn. This was materialised by leading streaming platforms across the globe and we saw a tremendous amount of increase in titles in their respective libraries. In India, tapping the regional content was very important and the streaming giants dived in deep to source content in order to compete with each other, hence, saving the drowning film industry.

The first among the lot, to grab the attention was Amazon Prime Video who made an announcement of 7 films from different languages which were direct to web release. This announcement from Prime Video shook everyone up, from the filmmakers to its competitors. Prime Video has been aggressive with their approach; they didn’t stop with it but also went to approach Thalapathy’s Master which, unfortunately, was turned down by the producers. 

The first direct to web release was Jyotika’s Ponmagal Vandhal on 29th May 2020 which was awaited by the subscribers and the people from the industry to see how it fares as a direct OTT release. All eyes were on the film, even if you could argue the fact that there were positive reviews for the film on social media, it did not sit well with the critics. It literally opened to mixed reviews aggregating it down to an average watch. Then an argument broke open which debated on how to measure the success of a film which is directly released on a streaming platform? Unfortunately, there are no statistics to support the success factor. But Ponmagal Vandhal couldn’t live up to the hype, it created among the audience.

Even before Ponmagal Vandhal was released, “RK Nagar” produced by Venkat Prabhu was released on April 28th, 2020 on Netflix. It was disheartening to see it go down mercilessly with pouring negative reviews from the critics and the viewers. 

Amazon Prime Video had placed a huge bet on many films and thought that the Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann starrer Gulabo Sitabo will connect with the audience. I personally loved the film, but I can understand why most of them didn’t like it. They couldn’t connect with the characters' ethnicity or they found the pacing a little slow for a comedy. Even if Gulabo Sitabo had released in theatres instead of OTT, it would have still received the same response as it did on its digital debut. 

Third film Penguin, among the 7 announced by Prime Video was released last night. Penguin’s trailer and promos were extremely promising and viewers were expecting an indigenous psycho-thriller. Unfortunately, it garnered more negative reviews compared to PMV. Critics are calling it a star show with no substance. Also stating that if not for Keerthy Suresh this wouldn’t have landed a direct OTT release. With its latest release, Amazon Prime Video has continued to disappoint the OTT audience who are well versed with the basic nuances of the filmmaking. 

Staying on the topic, it looks like Amazon Prime Video may have tapped out, but it paves the way for its competitors to up their game. We see Netflix with a good line-up of releases in the coming months. To begin with, Andhaghaaram directed by Vignarajan, produced by Atlee is probably to release on Netflix soon, an official announcement is awaited. Netflix is known for its international series and movies and they surely don’t disappoint on that front. It has its highs and lows but mostly highs. On the regional front, Netflix is quite weak and they need to acquire or announce a huge release that will lure more subscribers towards them. Anushka Sharma’s Bulbbul trailer dropped on Friday and promises to be a dark fantasy followed by Karan Johar’s Gunjan Saxena, which will have a Netflix release as well. Having said that and with Netflix streaming quality, if it spices it up with South Indian films it would definitely be a treat to its loyal subscribers. 

In contrast to these two platforms, we see Disney+ Hotstar which is supposed to announce big titles to release directly on their streaming platform. This includes titles like Laxmmi Bomb, Sadak 2, Bhuj, Shiddat etc. But their recent big-budget adaptation of Artemis Fowl was nothing less than a disaster. 

The Tamil films which have landed a direct to web release thus far are too mainstream and that’s a huge drawback when they cater to an audience with diverse taste. Even amongst these huge starry releases, there were silent performers on other streaming platforms. Their approach was universal and filmmaking was at its best, which includes Chintu Ka Birthday (ZEE5), Kadakh (Sony LIV) and AXONE (Netflix). These titles were diverse in nature, an interesting watch and a perfect example of how to impress the audience with limited resources and not just starry appearances.

In this past three months, none of the direct releases which skipped a theatrical release on any of the streaming platforms has made a strong impression. Are the streaming giants focusing just on names instead of substance or are they in a rat race to churn out more regional content, that substance really doesn’t matter to them? Has streaming platforms become the new theatres where films release just because it’s been made? Hope they pace themselves and start acquiring interesting titles in the coming months, beyond what has already been announced.

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  • good article perfectly articulated and compared

  • By AARYA R at 04:05 pm, 23 November 2020