Actor Akshay Kumar on Monday said theatres have the “first birth right” over movies and though he”s excited his upcoming “Laxmmi Bomb” will stream digitally, he feels sad it couldn”t release on the big screen.

The horror-comedy is set to stream on Disney+Hotstar, bypassing a theatrical release as screens remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The streamer announced its slate of seven film which will have a direct-to-digital release, including Ajay Devgn’s “Bhuj: The Pride of India”, Abhishek Bachchan starrer “The Big Bull”, and “Sadak 2”, featuring Alia Bhatt.

In a virtual press conference, Akshay said OTT release was the only wise option in the current scenario.

“To be honest, today I am excited for this platform. But yes, I’ll say that I am also sad for theatres. After all, movies are theatres first birth right. But in the current situation, everyone’s safety is of utmost priority.

“Today with theatres being shut and people watching movies on OTT platforms, if I can make my fans happy by releasing film on Disney+Hotstar— which is a big platform with a massive reach—then I am glad,” Akshay told reporters.

“Laxmmi Bomb” would be the actor’s first digital release in a career of nearly three decades.

His “Sooryavanshi” co-star and longtime friend, Devgn, said he was equally thrilled to see his patriotic drama “Bhuj: The Pride of India” release on the platform.

“First thing that you want when you make a film is that more and more people get to watch it. The base of Disney+Hotstar is so huge that when ‘Bhuj’ will come every person will try to watch the film, besides the fact that the film should be good. We have tried to make a good film,” the actor told reporters.

Adding to Akshay’s comments, Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company APAC and Chairman, Star and Disney India, said no one but only fans of artistes have the right over films.

“If anyone has birth right over films, it’s the film goers and film fans. Fans of the actors, directors who want to see these films and it is our duty to show them films.

“What’s going to happen now is that our industry will grow bigger, be more successful, more people will be able to work, we will be able to produce more films. Theatres as well digital screens will survive and grow together with films.”

Shankar was of the view that a similar debate arose when TV first started airing films, with many fearing that people would stop going to cinema halls.

“But that didn’t happen. Cinema halls grew, more people started watching films, our screens grew, the economics of our films also grew.

“The digital premiere will give industry a new lease of life. It”s going to create a completely new world. Theatres will continue to be very important because it”s an experience in itself to go there,” he added.

As theatres continue to remain shut, release of many films have been affected.

Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi biopic were among the first films to opt for a digital release on Amazon Prime Video, a move that had irked theatre owners and exhibitors.

Shankar said the digital medium will become an essential outlet for the industry.

“People visit a cinema hall maximum five times a year but watch more number of films on their TV and mobile phones… This will become a huge outlet for our industry to showcase more work. We should see this as big leap for our film industry today,” he added.


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'Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl' poster

‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ poster

Lined up for OTT premieres after ‘Gulabo Sitabo’, over the next several movies are small to medium budget films such as the Vidya Balan-starrer ‘Shakuntala Devi’ and ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 15, 2020, 9:34 AM IST

The Amitabh Bachchan-Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Gulabo Sitabo shows that the direct-to-digital-release way can profitably work for Bollywood films made at a restrained budget, at a time the industry is reeling under the after-effects of shutdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, big ticket Bollywood entertainers are still maintaining distance from OTT release, and would prefer to wait for cinema halls to reopen.

Lined up for OTT premieres after Gulabo Sitabo, over the next several movies are small to medium budget films such as the Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi and Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.

Other films whose names are doing the rounds are the Alia Bhatt-starrer Sadak 2, Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride Of India, Anurag Basu’s Ludo, Khaali Peeli starring Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday, Shershaah starring Sidharth Malhotra, the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer The Big Bull, Mimi starring Kriti Sanon, the Kunal Kemmu-starrer Lootcase, the Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawaani, and Roohi Afzana featuring Rajkummar Rao.

The late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s upcoming film Dil Bechara was also being considered for a direct to OTT release, according to reports.

Unconfirmed reports have also indicated that the Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmmi Bomb is in line for a direct-to-OTT release, although nothing is confirmed. Rumours suggest the makers of the film are asking for a steep price of well over Rs 100 crore to sell the right for direct OTT premiere, owing to the presence of superstar Akshay.

In fact, streaming platform Amazon Prime Video, in a bid to revolutionise the way we might watch films in the future, recently confirmed films across five Indian languages for digital release.

Their direct-to-home menu features the recently-released Tamil legal drama Ponmagal Vandhal starring Jyotika, the Keerthy Suresh starrer Penguin (Tamil and Telugu), Sufiyum Sujatayum (Malayalam) starring Aditi Rao Hydari, Law (Kannada) starring Ragini Chandran and Siri Prahlad, and Danish Sait’s next film French Biryani (Kannada).

A small and moderate budget is the string that connects the films switching to OTT route as cinemas remain shut amid the virus crisis.

One report claimed that the OTT platform bought the premiere rights of Gulabo Sitabo for Rs 60-65 crore, which means that the makers made profit of around Rs 30-35 crore with the film, said to be made on an approximate budget of Rs 30 crore.

“The value or the impact will not get lost because it was released on a digital platform instead of theatre.. Yes, I started the film with an aim to release on a cinema platform, but the situation is like this that I had to experiment with the digital platform.. At some point I had to experiment with digital and I was looking for it. Every film has its own destiny and the destiny of ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ was a digital premiere at Amazon Prime Video,” director Shoojit Sircar told IANS.

Digital world, however, does not seem to be enticing the biggies. Makers of much-anticipated films such as 83 and Sooryanvanshi have assured cinema owners that they will release their films in theatres first.

“That’s because they get good revenue from theatres,” Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at Delhi’s Delite Cinema, told IANS.

To this, trade analyst Girish Johar added: “The films that are coming on OTT are somewhat premium content. These are not big tentpole releases. Hollywood is following the same thing. Marvel Studios has pushed all the tentpole movies to 2021. OTT can’t be a revenue platform for buying Rs 200 crore film. In the case of OTT platforms, it is the time when they can get maximum subscribers as everyone is at home, that’s why they are buying new films. Cinemas need not fear as there would be jump once everything is normal, and the window will be respected by the makers as well.

“Once lockdown is over and safety precautions in place, theatrical revenue will jump by more than 20 per cent because there is a lot of pent up demand,” Girish added.

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Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn on Friday took to Twitter to share a fan art video comprising sketches of his various photographs. The clip shows sketches of some of the major characters portrayed by the versatile actor.

Posting the clip, the 51-year-old expressed his gratitude to the makers of the sketch and said, “These look fantastic. Great effort from all of you. @rishinotsaint @sketchersdiary #VishalPatil #AkshayChavan @bijoydasart #VinayShinde #NitinHerekar @AviVinay.”

Soon after uploading the footage, it garnered reactions from his fans and followers, with more than 5,000 people hitting like to the post.

Ajay’s fans and admirers also dropped comments appreciating the actor. See some of the comments:

Earlier, on the World Environment Day, the Shivaay actor shared a photo with his son Yug to mark the day. “Nurture Nature. Preserve our PLANET. Mother Earth is as sensitive as you & I are. #WorldEnvironmentDay,” read the caption.

Ajay has a number of movies in his kitty and the list includes Chhalaang, The Big Bull, Maidaan, Golmaal 5, Kaithi Remake and Bhuj: The Pride Of India. Recently, reports were doing the rounds on social media that he was planning to release Bhuj: The Pride of India and The Big Bull on OTT platforms.

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Ajay Devgn (L), Abhishek Bachchan (R)

Ajay Devgn (L), Abhishek Bachchan (R)

As per reports, meetings are taking place for ‘Bhuj: The Pride of India’ and ‘The Big Bull’ to release directly on OTT.

The coronavirus pandemic and the following pan-India lockdown have hit the country massively. The entertainment world is no alien to this as several projects were shelved and movies’ release dates postponed indefinitely.

Shoojit Sircar will also release his upcoming film Gulabo Sitabo on OTT platform as the cinema halls remain shut.

After the trailer launch, Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khuranna-starrer Gulabo Sitabo is set to premier worldwide June 12 onwards.

Now, a recent report in Bollywood Hungama claims that Ajay Devgn is in talks to release two of his upcoming projects on OTT platform.

The Raid actor has the war drama Bhuj: The Pride of India and The Big Bull releasing under his banner. Ajay features as the lead actor in the former and plays the role of a producer for the latter.

The report stated that it would be a two film-deal. Since the reopening of the theatres remains uncertain, the stakeholders believe it is best to release the films on OTT site.

The shooting for Bhuj: The Pride of India is at its concluding stage with just patch work left. The Big Bull is presently at the post–production stage, added the report.

It was further revealed the makers of the war drama are exploring by-pass options on the edit table for the patch work scenes to be worked out with visual effects.

“The meetings are taking place at the moment and decision will be taken within a week,” Bollywood Hungama was quoted as saying.

Talking about Bhuj: The Pride of India, it is a war action film set during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Sharad Kelkar, Amy Virk and Nora Fatehi will join Ajay in pivotal roles.

On the other hand, The Big Bull is a financial crime film, directed by Kookie Gulati and the story is based on real-life accounts. The film has Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. Ileana D’Cruz, Ram Kapoor, and Sumit Vats will play other important characters.

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