With just a week to go for the premiere of Venkatesh Daggubati-starrer Narappa on Amazon Prime Video on July 20, Telangana theatre owners expressed displeasure over the Telugu film’s direct-OTT release when speaking to Silverscreen India on Tuesday.
Narappa, the Telugu remake of the hit Tamil film Asuran, is directed by Srikanth Addala, and jointly produced by D Suresh Babu and Kalaippuli S Thanu. It is written by Vetrimaaran and stars Priyamani and Karthik Rathnam in the lead roles.
Speaking to Silverscreen India about the release of Narappa, Anupam Reddy, owner of Hyderabad’s Sudha Theatres and executive committee member of the Telangana State Film Chamber of Commerce, said, “We were told that the makers were re-negotiating the OTT deal, but unfortunately, I don’t think that has happened. Now, that it is officially signed, it is a big disappointment for us and this will only further increase when Virata Parvam and Drushyam 2 also fly to OTTs.”
Earlier, the TSFCC, had requested producers to wait until October to release their films in theatres before opting for direct-OTT releases. A special request was made at the time to Suresh Productions, which is also producing Virata Parvam and Drushyam 2, and a source told us on condition of anonymity that the production house was re-negotiating the deal to premiere Narappa and Drushyam 2 on OTT platforms.
The same source told us on Tuesday that Virata Parvam and Drushyam 2 are set to premiere on Netflix and Hotstar, respectively.
Balgovind Raj Tadla, secretary of Greater Telangana Exhibitors Association, and partner at Sudharshan 35mm and Devi 70mm Theatres in Hyderabad, said that the Narappa release is a huge disappointment not only to theatres owners but also moviegoers. “OTTs to provide content to your homes, but the enjoyment and immersiveness is more when watching a film in a theatre. Narappa is now just a video-on-demand and that is a sad thing,” he said, adding that the collective experience of watching films on the big screens has played a pivotal role in the growth of the cinema industry. “When you convert it into an at-home event, the charm is lost, and this is a worry to the film industry.”
However, Reddy believes that although these OTT releases are a big disappointment, it will not create any impact on the industry as a whole. He mentioned there are several films lined up to hit theatres when they open, particularly highlighting small-budget films like SR Kalyanamandapam which are ready to release on the big screen. “By July-end, we are planning to open theatres for sure. We have Narsapuram coming on July 23, Thimmarusu on July 30, and Paagal and Seetimaar along with Fast and Furious 9 on August 6. So there is plenty of content and everything will fall in place once theatres open up,” he added.
Gopal Reddy, owner of Ranga 70mm single screen theatre in Hyderabad, agrees that OTT releases will not impact theatres in the long run. “The revenues producers get from theatres is much more than when their film is released on OTTs. In cases like Narappa, the audience will miss the theatrical experience and it is a huge disappointment,” he said.
Tadla feels the performance of films on OTT can only truly be ascertained when the field is level, with theatres also functioning. “Films like Jathi Ratnalu were enjoyed more in theatres than small screens. As far as the cinema watching experience goes, the small OTT players will always be overshadowed by theatres. Theatres are where actors became stars. OTTs are probably where stars will be reduced to actors,” he said.