New Delhi, October 10
Amazon Prime Video serves “many Indias” and caters to the country’s many storytelling cultures rather than focusing on just one language, top executives of the streaming service said as they announced their new line-up for the upcoming festive season.
The slate of nine films, announced on Friday, includes Varun Dhawan-Sara Ali Khan’s “Coolie No 1”, Rajkummar Rao-Hansal Mehta’ “Chhalaang”, Bhumi Pednekar’s “Durgavati” as well as Tamil film “Soorarai Pottru’” starring Suriya, Telugu film “Middle Class Melodies” and Malayalam drama “Halal Love Story”.
The curated offering, like the previously announced slate of movies that included “Gulabo Sitabo” and “Shakuntala Devi” in June, will bypass a theatrical release and premiere directly on the service. Theatres have been shut in India since March due to the coronavirus pandemic but are set to open from October 15 with a stringent set of dos and don’ts.
“As a service, we’ve always been talking about the many Indias that we serve. We programme for many languages,” Gaurav Gandhi, director and country general manager, Amazon Prime Video India, told PTI.
Amazon Prime Video has been able to take language films in different territories not only giving them a worldwide market but also introducing them to new audiences, he said.
“For us, customers across those languages are super important and it’s not just at the language level of content but also from the point of access to our service, the UI (user interface). A couple of years ago, we launched Hindi, Tamil and Telugu user interfaces.
“So from our point of view, we programme for the many, many Indias and not just one language or the other,” Gandhi told PTI on a question about the streamer’s focus on content from south India.
Giving an insight into the performance of previous Indian films released by the service, he said they were watched in over 4,000 cities and towns and internationally in over 180 countries within a short period.
“In case of many of our regional films — Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam — 50 per cent of the viewing came from outside their home state which is quite unique for these films. What streaming can do for these films is to be able to give them a true national release and get customers from around the country to access the cinema,” Gandhi added.
Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, content, Amazon Prime Video India, said the acquisitions were a way to provide producer-partners with a worldwide release “at a time when they were pretty constrained”.
He said the success of the first slate of movie premieres gave Amazon Prime Video the confidence to go for bigger titles during the festive period between October and December.
Subramaniam said it is important to build “deep and strategic relationships” in various film markets, which have their own content, taste and preferences and a robust entertainment industry supporting it.
“We were able to do that because we made that our focus from the very first day. We didn’t come to these languages at the second stage. At the time of launch, we launched Tamil and Telugu alongside Hindi, Marathi and Bengali and then within a year, we went to Kannada and Malayalam as well. The business of film was around much before we came in and it is important to respect that. There are powerhouse producers and studios down south, who have been doing great work and it’s important to be able to engage with them and build a portfolio…,” Subramaniam told PTI.
These communities had their own culture of storytelling, which was not necessarily influenced by the Hindi film industry, for instance, Subramaniam said. The aim, he added, was to give a platform to creative minds from across the country without language being a barrier.
“If you look at the Malayalam cinema, they tell everyday stories. And if you look at the Telugu cinema, then they have a lot of drama. Our preferences are to cater to those communities first, creatively. Second, if you think about these communities, they are pretty large. It’s really unfair to call them regional languages. I always call them local languages because in those markets, Hindi is a local language. In Hindi markets, they have the same perception,” he said.
According to Gandhi, most films which got 50 per cent viewership outside of their home state would not find other distribution avenues.
“But we’re able to get these films to the customers on the preferred device, on the preferred plan, on their preferred time and at the safety of their houses. So all of these play a role in how we have sort of expanded the viewing days of the cinema and much beyond just the home local market,” he added.
There was some resistance from theatre chains when Amazon Prime Video announced its first slate in June but Subramaniam said their focus had always been on the customers and helping producers understand the “next best alternative” when a certain “distribution pipeline” was completely shut off.
“When something is disruptive, there’s always some amount of friction,” he said.
Calling customers the ultimate in the ecosystem, Gandhi said the streamer was an avenue just like multiplexes or television.
Subramaniam said he was grateful for the enthusiasm with which they have been welcomed in every market.
“We are not going after just the volume. We have always believed in a curated approach. Building a portfolio of films takes time as we have seen in the languages we have opened up whether it is Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarati,” he said. PTI