The teaser for 'Drishyam 2', a sequel to the original cult hit 'Drishyam' has been received with widespread anticipation. As the second Amazon Original film after Fahad Faasil's 'C U Soon', the film marks a change in an industry that was previously reliant on the theatre business, as it is the first big-budget multistarrer to have a direct online release.
Written and directed by Jeethu Joseph and produced by Ashirvad Cinemas, the film has retained most of the original cast, including Mohanlal as George kutty, Meena, Ansiba and Esther Anil.
This is a marked departure from the stance of 'Drishyam's producer Anthony Perumbavoor, who heads the Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) which in August issued a statement that they were unwilling to work with filmmakers going for online releases. The order created issues for Vijay Babu whose 'Sufiyum Sujathayum' premiered on Prime as well as the Tovino Thomas starrer 'Kilometers and Kilometers' which had to seek permission from the organisation to be streamed.
Mohanlal had previously expressed his delight to work with Prime Video, as it had taken films to viewers across the world.
Several big-budget Malayalam films like Nivin Pauly's 'Thuramukham' and Fahad Faasil's 'Malik' have eschewed online releases and are holding out for a traditional theatre reception in 2021. Fears of piracy and loss of income have been voiced as many films inevitably get pirated onto illegal streaming platforms almost as soon as they are released online.
However, the new and more virulent strain of COVID-19 has shuttered hopes of theatre-openings for the beginning of 2021, which is what probably prompted a change of heart for the makers of 'Drishyam 2'.
Amazon, Netflix and other OTT companies have been steadily eyeing the opportunities outside India's biggest film industry that is Bollywood. A study conducted by Ernst and Young estimated the gross box office collections of Hindi cinema in 2019 to be above ₹45 billion despite the failure of several anticipated projects.
Netflix released its first original film in Tamil, the anthology 'Paava Kadhaigal' in December, whilst Amazon Prime began to make inroads into the Tamil industry by releasing 'Soorarai Pottru'. Malayalam Oscar contender 'Jallikkattu' also premiered on Amazon Prime as did 'Halal Love Story'. The first Telugu Amazon Original film 'Middle-Class Melodies' also came out this year.
Despite the pull of Bollywood, OTT streaming platforms have now begun to diversify their content and are now providing greater exposure to film industries which did not have much reach due to language and cultural barriers. Subtitles, dubbing and the sheer convenience of availability have managed to push Malayalam films to the radar of national and international cinephiles.
This push to streaming provides hope for an industry that has been reeling under the impact of the pandemic and uncertainty over the future of theatre releases. For the Indian film industry, valued by Ernst and Young at over 2 billion dollars in 2019, online releases seem the safest bet to make a profit and reach more viewers.
'Drishyam 2' will release online on January 26.