India is a country of diverse languages with as many as 19,500 that are spoken and 22 that are officially recognized.
So it’s disappointing to see the lack of representation of such culturally rich languages in mainstream cinema. For years the Hindi Film Industry has dominated the global outlook of Indian cinema and has been considered the benchmark for success for filmmakers, actors and writers alike.
In fact for the 575 Hindi films made in 2019 there were 500 regional films released in various languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali among others. Then why the disparity?
For far too long we have seen the over-used clichés and stereotypes in Hindi films that provide no originality nor do they possess a fresh narrative. But this has all changed due to the recent OTT boom in India.
According to reports, 75% of OTT users are from tier 2 or tier 3 cities and most of them prefer to watch content in their native language. This proves that there isn’t a lack of demand for such movies, there is a severe lack of supply.
Even if regional films are well-made the chances that they’ll get a good run in theatres against commercial movies is slim to none. They have a better fighting chance on digital platforms where the only yardstick is to have quality content and engaging storyline.
Platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar have started licensing regional movies for their websites such as ‘Super Deluxe’, ‘Natsmarat’, ‘Ee. Ma. Yau’ ‘Jiivi’, ‘Vada Chennai’ and ‘Chekka Chivantha Vaanam’ among many others.
These movies get due recognition without being overshadowed by the glamour of Bollywood because there is a desire to expand horizons and consume content that’ll tell local stories rooted in the region it originates from.
Another reason they do so well on OTT is due to the introduction of English subtitles which leads to better understanding of the story and makes it easily accessible for all types of viewers.
Besides established platforms, various regional OTT platforms have emerged in India such as Voot, Hoichoi, Zee5 and Sun Nxt exclusively provide vernacular content on their platforms at pocket-friendly rates that can cater to a large audience.
Such streaming services encourage the production of even more local stories and can create opportunities in regional industries that propel the popularity of regional cinema worldwide.
They are creating a niche for themselves in an overly-competitive market by deploying a strategy that focuses on the consumer’s needs and viewing habits. Hence a holistic approach that makes room for all kinds of content is the way to succeed for them.
Ultimately there is no difference between a Hindi film and a regional film but we need to dismantle the notion of the former being the status quo and later being an afterthought, only then can we truly emerge as a flourishing industry that has a balance of both.
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