Info-tech

When Google plays a movie

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 20, 2017

A still from the film Ondu motteya kathe   -  The Hindu

A still from the film ’Ondu Motteya Kathe’   -  The Hindu

Film producers have begun to reach viewers directly, via digital platforms

In the era before the internet, it was common to stand in long lines to buy movie tickets. With some exceptions, that has become a thing of the past, thanks to online booking facilities. In a few years, perhaps even these may see a decline thanks to producers making their movies available to viewers via digital platforms such as Google Play and Netflix.

The Kannada film industry has been at the vanguard of this shift. Case in point: Ondu Motteya Kathe, a romantic comedy about Janardhan, a bald, young introvert in a desperate bid to find a soulmate within a year — an astrologer has told him he will be a lifelong bachelor if he doesn’t get married within that time.

Interestingly, this low-budget flick, made by a group of youngsters from Mangaluru, in the local Kannada dialect, does not feature any known names from the Kannada film industry. Despite this, it did well at the box office, got recognition at national and international film festivals, and was also screened on a television entertainment channel.

Director and producer Pawan Kumar, who made the film under his banner, Pawan Kumar Studios, along with the Mangaluru-based Mango Pickle Entertainment, has now launched the film on Google Play and Netflix.

Digital play

Kumar told BusinessLine that he chose to release the movie on the digital platforms “to create more legal and affordable options for audiences”, thereby defeating piracy. U-turn, a movie produced and directed by him and released in 2016, was also released on Google Play, Netflix, Vimeo, iTunes and YouTube.

To be sure, Kannada films aren’t the only ones on digital platforms. Sairat (Marathi), Visaaranai (Tamil), Brahmotsavam and Janatha Garage (Telugu) and a few others have also jumped onto the digital bandwagon, apart from a host of Bollywood movies.

Ondu Motteya Kathe has two options on Google Play: Buy at ₹190 (standard definition) or ₹250 (HD) and Rent at ₹100 (SD) or ₹150 (HD).

While the price may seem steep given that ticket prices for Kannada films in Mangaluru’s multiplexes range from ₹80 to ₹150, Shreemukha, an entrepreneur from Sullia in Dakshina Kannada district, points out that “many people can watch the film together on a smart television with one download”.

In the long run, one segment that could be affected by the advent of movies on digital platforms is television. Many who miss watching a movie in a theatre prefer the digital mode as television channels have frequent and long ad breaks. A good home theatre system allows them to watch the film uninterrupted on a fairly big screen with excellent sound.

At the moment, most Kannada films are unable to release on multiple digital platforms as producers sell all the rights to television channels. Given this, said an official from a Kannada channel, who did not want to be identified, “there may not be any immediate impact on television channels”. Also, downloads on mobile and other devices sometimes have issues such as buffering, which can put a viewer off.

However, he admitted, they could be hit a few years down the line, as the ‘pay-and-watch’ model evolves and more people have smartphones and internet linkages.

Indeed, it’s early days yet and the digital avenue has not quite been generating much revenue. “But it will grow with time,” says Kumar, oozing confidence.

Published on October 20, 2017
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