Opinion: Why’s Telugu cinema not moving forward?

Extraordinary measures need to be taken to handle extraordinary times and it’s time Telugu film producers and actors realised this. Though Bollywood and Kollywood are gradually understanding that OTT is the only favourable financial option that many small-time, medium budget films can consider in the middle of a pandemic, the deafening silence in Telugu industry in this context is a tad surprising. Though Navdeep’s Run released on Aha recently, it was conceived as a web film and disappointingly enough was panned by crowds. But for the disastrous film Amrutharamam (that released on Zee5) and recent direct-to-OTT announcements like Uma Maheshwara Ugrarupasya and Ravikanth Perepu’s Krishna and his Leela or the brief rumours around Vaishnav Tej’s Uppena, there’s not been much noise about direct digital releases in Telugu.

It’s important to understand that there’s a strong reason for the same. Most of the Telugu industry producers have been distributors in the past and still continue to boast of strong distribution networks. Unlike many industries, they have a deep-rooted connection with the theatrical business. From Suresh Productions to Geetha Arts to Annapurna Productions to Dil Raju’s Sri Venkateswara Creations, the producers are directly getting affected in this uncertain situation. With theatres not slated to open any time soon, the situation isn’t going to get any better. However, it’s an unsaid understanding in the industry that the hero has a final say in crucial matters like these.

Raj Tarun has gone on record to say that Orey Bujjiga, despite having completed all formalities for a release, will only open in theatres. Satyadev has always felt Uma Maheshwara Ugrarupasya deserves a theatrical audience (though the producers have more or less convinced him that the digital route is the only way out as of now). The case is no different with many other small films in the pipeline. Is it the producers that are holding the film back or is it the actors? With the shoots all set to resume from June 15, many pending shoots of upcoming films are very likely to get wrapped up shortly. How many of them will consider a direct digital release in such a situation? It’s an irony that leading producer, distributor Allu Aravind who owns an OTT platform, hasn’t been able to convince producers about the need for an inevitable transition/solution in this hour. Jyothika’s Ponmagal Vandhal on Amazon Prime Video is an excellent example that good content with a release in 190+ countries, when marketed well, can generate wonders. Is the industry listening?

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