With Soorarai Pottru opting for a digital release, are other big-ticket tamil films planning to take the OTT route?

Ever since the coronavirus-induced lockdown, more than five Tamil films have been released on OTT platforms as theatres across the country were shut down. Suriya’s announcement that his Soorarai Pottru will be releasing on an OTT platform directly has left many surprised, and disappointed.

With the state’s Minister for Information and Publicity, Kadambur Raju, stating that theatres will not be allowed to reopen without a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases, the uncertainty regarding the theatrical release of big-ticket films and speculations surrounding their OTT release have only increased. Dhanush’s Jagame Thandhiram, Vishal’s Chakra, Jayam Ravi’s Bhoomi, Aishwarya Rajesh’s Ka Pae Ranasingam and Boomika, Arya’s Teddy, Santhanam’s Dikkiloona, Vaibhav’s Katteri, and Vijay’s Master are some of the films that are speculated to be going the OTT route.

But the makers of some of these films are shooting down such rumours. On Wednesday, producer Sashikanth tweeted that the team of Jagame Thandhiram is waiting to see the film only on the big screen. Bhoomi’s director Lakshman, too, trashes reports of OTT release and says, “We require five more days of shoot to complete the film. However, we’ve finished the post-production work of the footage which has been shot till now.” A production source from Boomika tells us they haven’t even discussed the release strategy yet.

A source close to Vishal informs, “Chakra’s team is awaiting nod from the government to go on floors again. The editing and dubbing work is going on. At present, OTT platforms are courting films which have completed more than 90 per cent of their work.”

Gnanavel Raja, the producer of Katteri, admits that “talks are on with OTT platforms, though nothing has been finalised”. Kotapadi J Rajesh, who is backing Ka Pae Ranasingam and Dikkiloona, too, confirmed that talks are on for an OTT release of these films, but clarified that a decision is yet to be made on their release. A source close to Santhanam informs, “Dikkiloona is likely to be released on OTT, but the actor’s Biskoth will be released in theatres. The digital platforms are trying their best to penetrate into all possible markets. If the situation continues, it looks like only films featuring Tier 1 stars will be released in theatres.”

What exhibitors have to say

The Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners’ Association had condemned the makers of Ponmagal Vandhal when they skipped the theatrical release. With Soorarai Pottru now joining the fray, what do exhibitors have to say? Nikilesh Surya of Rohini Silver Screens admits he isn’t surprised with Suriya’s move as he had also bankrolled Ponmagal Vandhal. Though he acknowledges that producers have no option in the current situation, he also adds that choosing OTT can’t be a permanent solution. “It’s true producers choose OTT out of pressure as that will minimise their losses. As exhibitors, we can’t say anything till we start running shows with minimal occupancy.”

Fans crave theatre experience

Praveen Bala, a Suriya fan, says he was disappointed when he learnt his idol’s film won’t be screened in theatres. He adds, “The only good thing is we can watch the film in two months. It’s heart-breaking otherwise.”

Though the makers of Master are insisting that the film will release first only in theatres, B Venkat, a Vijay fan, confesses he’s still nervous. “I thought only small and medium-budget films would skip theatres. Though I trust the Master crew, a big star like Suriya joining the likes of Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn in giving a nod to OTT release is a matter of concern for many fans like me,” he says.

Mixed reaction among filmmakers

As a fan, I would love to watch your (Suriya’s) films in theatres, not on OTT platforms. Cinema is God for us. God can reside anywhere, but receives more respect in a temple. I am someone who is aware of the hardships of producers. But I kindly request you to reconsider your decision.

– Hari, director

We have to adapt to the latest technology, just like how we did when cable TV, private channels and DTH were introduced. Producers can think about new projects and generate employment only if they release their pending films. We have also made a request to the government to allow the reopening of theatres. I support Suriya in his decision. Producers should receive support from others in the industry to flourish.

– Bharathirajaa, director