‘The Decisions We Make Today Are Based On Survival’: Producer S Sashikanth

Producer S Sashikanth, who has Karthik Subbaraj’s Dhanush-starrer Jagame Thandhiram coming up, besides two small films, speaks on the Covid 19 pandemic and the industry. Excerpts.

BR: You’ve Dhanush-starrer Jagame Thandhiram coming up, which is a big film. Is it a financially viable proposition when you are unsure of its release date ?

I think we need to divide the conversation into the immediate and the long-term effects of what is happening right now. That is about what is going to be the change that could happen a year or so from now versus the changes that could happen within the next six months to a year. A lot of this will be driven by the economic conditions of the various stakeholders in the chain. There will be ones who will hold on to their content, thinking that eventually when the theatres open, there will be a big crowd to watch such movies in theatres. Most of the decisions will be based on survival; the decision making will be based on if we are going to survive this phase and be in the industry. I think that’s how you’ll have to look at it. Two months into the lockdown we see that there is not enough content on OTTs and we realise that everybody exhausts things very quickly. We’ll have a situation where none of the productions would go onto the floor. There won’t be theatrical releases for OTT platforms to plug-in their digital releases. There will be a pull and push from both ends, I guess. 

BR: Do you think a scenario is possible wherein the producers take a call on where to release the film and then discuss it with the director and stars of the film?  

I would think so. I am right now working on two small films and a big one. While I can make decisions with regard to the smaller films, that’d not be possible in the case of the bigger one. It is important that the stakeholders, director and actor are all on board. They give a year while working on a film and the star also has to cater to his large audience. We have to discuss with all of them before taking a call. 

BR: One section of the audience has access to OTT but a larger section watches movies only in theatres. Will OTT releases ever reach the audience in smaller towns or am I mistaken about the penetration that OTTs have? 

The concept of procurement for a theatrical release vs OTT is completely different. Theatrical releases are dated, there is a specific date of release and we know when it’ll go off theatres, but in OTT, it is never dated. If OTTs have to penetrate a regional market, I’d say it is ideal to make this move with a big film that can drive new audiences into the platform. When a big star film is to release on OTT and draw in at least 40 lakh new subscribers, the earnings will keep the platform going for the next 4-5 years. The money and dynamics are completely different on an OTT platform. 

Anupama Chopra (audience question): Will movies have to be differently cut for OTT? Would there still be dance sequences, interval and hero entry shots that are largely enjoyed in a theatre? 

I think there is a specificity to how people watch movies on OTT vs in a closed environment where you’re already bought into the idea of watching it for two-and-a-half hours. On OTTs, you can switch off the film at every minute and there is no guarantee that the person will watch it fully. So I guess on OTTs, the content will be sharper. There won’t be space to take chances like in theatrical releases and there would be more specificity and sharpness to it. 

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