Shoojit Sircar on Ficci Frames summit: Happy with the performance of Gulabo Sitabo on the digital platform

The Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer OTT debut movie was released digitally on June 12 on Amazon Prime Video. Movie director Shoojit Sircar said he is “happy with the way the film has fared on the digital medium so far”. Gulabo Sitabo was the first film to go for a direct-to-digital release, due to the COVID-19 pandemic induced lockdown.

Gulabo Sitabo director addressed the Ficci Frames summit on Thursday and revealed that as a filmmaker he believes in one project at a time policy, and this was the reason he didn’t want to hang on to one movie because it would not be commercially feasible. “There is a freshness and shelf life to a film. I make one film at a time…if I would have waited till August, I would have been in a minus. I have got a very secluded audience,” Sircar said.

He further added that his decision ignited a trend of digital release which is the new normal in these challenging times for the industry. He believes that his experiment with a digital release was successful and is happy with the performance of the film. He further disclosed that the producers were worried that as soon as theatres resume business there would be a rush of film releases and their film might not get a proper theatrical window.

Numbers suggest that the producers of Gulabo Sitabo reportedly earned Rs 65 crore because of the digital release, which is way more than covered for the film’s estimated Rs 35-crore budget. While discussing his future projects and plans, Sircar mentioned that he is aiming for a January 2021 theatrical release for his next movie, Sardar Udham Singh. While the timeline seems a bit daunting to him because the bulk of the post-production work is due currently.

Filmmaker Vikram Malhotra said, choosing for direct-to-digital releases is a “tactical decision” till the time normalcy resumes. Malhotra’s production Shakuntala Devi is all set for digital release on Amazon Prime Video on 31 July. Further, Malhotra added that he doesn’t believe OTT platforms to just be an alternative in the pandemic times since theatres are out of business. OTTs have a global reach and this feature can be exploited to reach broader global audiences with the content. The idea is to principally go “where our customers are”, Malhotra said.

Disney+Hotstar is set to release seven Bollywood productions between July and October starting with late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film, Dil Bechara on July 24. Netflix has also acquired Janhvi Kapoor’s Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl. The subscriptions on OTT platform have seen a stark increase in the lockdown period. Saugata Mukherjee, head of original content at SonyLIV said, “This development seems to be indicative of a habit formation rather than an offshoot of a prolonged lockdown.”

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