Thamizh Talkies: The OTT year
The writer is a film producer and an art curator
It’s that time of the year again where the word ‘review’ gets a whole new meaning not just in newspaper columns but also in our lives. All the 365 days are glanced at and the good/bad balance sheet made. The various Top 100/50/20/10 film and song lists will surface. From films to actors to ‘newsmakers’, everyone gets categorised and listed in a countdown. Year-end means the time for itemised bunch of favourites… Who made it? Who didn’t? Which film rocked us out of our senses? Which didn’t? Which song stood taller than the rest? Well, usually this is how it usually is, until we got used to the ‘new normal’. Covid-19 caught up with us and shocked our senses into re-prioritising our lives, and therefore, our check lists as well.
Cinema as we know it this year, shrunk literally and figuratively from larger-than-life 35mm and IMAX screens into frames that fit into the palm of our hands. The screens in our drawing room became the theatre for our weekend movies and weekly shows. The new streaming content also became ‘short form’ because of lockdown and shooting restrictions. The film fraternity came together to make stories which reflected the covid times, with some stories hitting the mark and some failing. But the effort to make something new, to provide work for the millions who were otherwise used to working in large numbers for daily shoots, kept the industry going. The fact remains that the main after-effect of this Covid year lies in making a mass medium like cinema into a niche/personal/individual medium now. In general, movie-watching as a family was meant for films like Soorarai Pottru and Mookuthi Amman, while the anthologies and web-series remained an individual viewing choice.
To that extent, 2020 can be dubbed the ‘OTT year’ in world entertainment and specifically, in Indian entertainment. Big movies across languages got their release on digital platforms. Popcorn tubs were replaced with homemade dosas. The distractions of landline phones and doorbells notwithstanding, the new and old content on OTT has been received well. The tier-3 towns of India will have to be brought into affordable mobile and internet data plans to enable maximum reach for these digital platforms. For now, satellite television fills in the revenue that would otherwise come from single screens. Even then, the experience of watching a film in a movie hall stays unparalleled, but the fear is that it will be relegated to nostalgia as we move ahead into a year where masks and sanitizers and social distancing will still continue to be the norm.
Into that year, may we see new content which is bold and brazen, with more new writers and directors emerging into spotlight to narrate their stories. Into this new light, may we see inspiring performances and lose ourselves in breathtaking music and emotions. May the movies enthrall us albeit from the comfort of our homes.