The debate on OTT platforms versus movie theatres rages on in the Indian entertainment industry. Film exhibitors are threatening to “boycott” and “ban” those filmmakers who are now taking their movies directly to the digital platform. But there are some big-budget films which won’t budge from their big-screen positioning, no matter how long they have to wait for the lockdown to end. Here are the pending Bollywood releases that won’t, and I repeat, won’t go digital.
Directed by the redoubtable Rohit Shetty, whose Golmaal is the most successful Bollywood franchise of all time, this cops-and-robbers action drama brings together one of Indian cinema’s most successful director with actor Akshay Kumar for the first time. The two have shot the most dearth-defying and jaw-dropping stunt scenes which, according to the film’s director, will go to waste on the home-viewing medium. For the film’s climactic hijinks, Rohit has roped in Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh alongside Akshay. Sources from the film’s core crew verify that Sooryavanshi, “will wait it out”.
The film’s producer Reliance Entertainment’s CEO Shibasish Sarkar confirms, “We are expecting theatres to be functional in the next 3 to 6 months… say, by September. We will hold our release till normalcy comes back for a theatrical experience of these films.”
Helmed by the epic visionary Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose Devdas and Bajirao Mastani have re-written some rules of commercial Hindi cinema, Gangubai Kathiawadi
casts the talented Alia Bhatt. She essays a courtesan who grows into a formidable and much-feared figure in the red-light districts of Mumbai. Though 2020 has not been a prosperous year for Bollywood films featuring female heroes in a central role, the combination of Bhansali and Bhatt is expected to create box office magic. This would be the first film to resume shooting once the lockdown ends. And no, under zero circumstances will it go on the OTT platform. “I make films for the big screen. I’ll let the world know when I make a film for the digital platform,” Bhansali told me.
Recreating the events of India’s grand victory during the 1983 Cricket World Cup, this Kabir Khan-directed sports epic stars Ranveer Singh as the iconic Indian batsman Kapil Dev and Ranveer’s real life wife and actor Deepika Padukone as the cricketer’s wife Roma. In addition, there is an impressive slew of actors playing real-life cricketers. But the main focus of interest is Ranveer’s unbelievable physical transformation as Kapil. “Cinema and cricket are religion in India. When the two come together there is bound to be a humongous amount of interest in the product,” says Kapil. ’83, which was to release in April 2020, will wait for normalcy to be restored so that audiences can watch the biggest fusion of cricket and cinema since Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan.
Coolie No 1
One of India’s most prolific and consistently successful filmmaker David Dhawan teams up with his star-son Varun Dhawan for a remake of David Dhawan’s 1995 hit Coolie No 1 that featured Govinda in the lead. The remake, or the recreation as my friend David calls it, is very different from the original. “As different as Govinda and my son Varun Dhawan are as actors,” he shares. David admits there is ample pressure to release the film on the digital platform. “But for 30 years my audience has been with me. They’ve clapped, cheered and danced in movie theatres for my films. I can’t let them down,” adds David. So no, no OTT for Varun’s ‘Coolie’ act with Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Sarah playing the role that his now sister-in-law Karisma Kapoor originally did.
Radhe: India’s Most Wanted Bhai
Speaking of the OTT platform, while most of the other A-listers have succumbed to the temptation (the zeros in their cheques) to work in a web series, Salman just won’t relent. He won’t even consider going digital, and certainly not with his pending feature film. Radhe: India’s Most Wanted Bhai, an unofficial sequel to the 2008 hit Wanted, was to be Salman’s Eid 2020 release. It may now be the Christmas or New Year release, or whatever. But there’s no question of releasing the film in the digital domain. Director Prabhudeva notes, “Salman Khan is Salman Khan. He is forever a larger-than-life experience. He is one of those stars who can tempt back the audiences into theatres.”