Planet Bollywood
Trend Analysis - releasing films on digital platforms
- Anish Mohanty           Let us know what you think about this feature article

'Phir Se', starring Kunal Kohli and featuring Jennifer Winget in the lead roles, became the first Hindi film to release directly on Netflix or on any digital platform for that matter. The film, which was languishing in the cans for almost three years, finally reached out to the audience, albeit on a digital platform. Actor Anand Tiwari's directorial debut 'Love Per Square Foot', media veteran Ronnie Screwvala first production under his banner RSVP, released shortly after 'Phir Se'. It is interesting to note that both these films were slated to release in theatres but due to various reasons, made their way into Netflix. Is this a healthy trend? Is it the beginning of something that will last for several years?

I firmly believe that films should be first viewed on the screen and later, can be consumed on television or your computer screen. 'Phir Se' was supposed to release in 2015. The trailer was out and it declared the release date clearly. The film got embroiled in a controversy which led to a court case and then, it just got stuck. One assumes that the makers were finding it hard to find it hard to sell this non-starcast film after the legal tussle and they were not able to find a way to release the film. Until Netflix happened. Netflix must have paid a steep price to buy this film which would have, at least, helped them recover a part of their investment. Despite doing some god work as an actor, Vicky Kaushal does not have any box-office pull. Being the maverick that he is, Ronnie Screwvala must have realised that releasing this film digitally was a better financial proposition than putting it out in theatres. Maybe, he realised that the deal with him Netflix will fetch him more returns and his film a bigger audience than it would have eventually got had it released in theatres. Back in the 90s, bigwigs like Yash Chopra and Mahesh Bhatt, amongst others, explored the idea of releasing films on the small screen, that is, television. Mahesh Bhatt released his Rahul Roy-Pooja Bhatt starrer 'Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayi' on Zee TV and 'Humko Ishq Ne Maara', presented by Yash Chopra, premiered on television. After doing the calculations, they must have arrived at the conclusion that the satellite rights would be higher than the box-office returns on these films. For some reason, this trend did not last for long. Filmmakers were not averse to selling the satellite rights of their films but only after they were done with releasing them in theatres.

It is a known fact that majority of Hindi films releasing in any given years end up losing money at the box-office. There are several films which, despite having saleable names, could not secure a release for themselves in the theatres. Anees Bazmee might be one of the most successful directors in the industry but a couple of his films like 'Benaam' (Ajay Devgn, Bhumika Chawla, Sameera Reddy) and 'It's My Life' (Harman Baweja, Genelia D'Souza) could never see a release for themselves. One wonders whether, if we had Netflix or Amazon Prime Video back in the day, these films would have managed to find an audience for them. Kunal Kohli and team must have heaved a sigh of relief when they realised Netflix was going to grant their film an audience and some financial returns as well. If the makers of a film feel that it has the potential to do well at the box-office, they will not be foolish to release it on a digital streaming platform. However, if they feel that the film would fail to bring audience to the theatres, putting it out digitally would not be a bad option at all.

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