Anand Pandit talks about the uncertainty created by the pandemic, the rationale behind releasing a film on OTT, the growing differences between the producers and theatre owners and more
With cinemas remaining closed or running with limited capacity under Covid-19 restrictions, it has been a difficult time for everybody in the entertainment business. The Indian film producers and the distributors are facing a dilemma over the release of their films. While there is the option of the OTT release, the big screen magic is something that no one can overlook. Producer-Distributor Anand Pandit who has been associated with films like Pyaar Ka Punchanama 2 (2015), Great Grand Masti (2016), Sarkar 3 (2018), Missing (2018), Total Dhamaal (2019), and Section 375 recently had two film releases on leading OTT platforms. Earlier, the release of his upcoming film Chehre starring Amitabh Bachchan and Emraan Hashmi, which was scheduled to hit the theatres earlier this year, had to be postponed.
Here, Anand Pandit talks about the uncertainty created by Covid-19, the rationale behind releasing a film on OTT vis-à-vis theatre, the growing differences between the producers and theatre owners owing to OTT releases, and his upcoming projects.
Chehre was all set to be released but then it had to be delayed. How disappointing has it been for you as a producer? What are the various challenges that a producer has to face while dealing with an uncertainty like Covid-19?
Well, we are in a phase of pandemic and everybody is going through a tough time. So I am more focused on the health of the people and saving lives. I am glad that my team worked well to fight Covid-19 and we have tried to set up Covid-19 care centers and facilitated sponsored vaccination to help workers associated with Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA).
The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty and as a producer it can get very challenging when you have to delay the release of your films, put a hold on meetings, and cancel the shootings. But being a positive person I always try to get over the situation. I am hopeful things will start to get normal pretty soon.
Two of your films have recently been released on OTT viz. The Big Bull on Hotstar and Well Done Baby, a Marathi film on Amazon Prime. As a producer how do you decide that a particular film can be released directly on the OTT?
Being a producer I have always believed that first and foremost the content must be appreciated by the audience. That’s really the most important thing. Once the content is liked by the audience a producer also starts to feel secure on the financial front.
It is also my responsibility to see that the content reaches the audience. We cannot keep the product unreleased forever but there are a few products which are meant to be released in theatres because they have been created for a theatrical experience and cannot be enjoyed fully on the OTT Platforms.
OTT is a need of today’s times and I am glad it’s doing well. The audience has the opportunity to enjoy the content at home or while travelling but still I would say that theatre has its own charisma and charm that can’t be ignored. Both the platforms have their own merits depending on the type of content and I believe our audiences understand very well the differences between the two platforms.
Theatre owners haven’t been particularly happy with producers opting to release their films directly on OTT. Don’t you see it as a violation of trust?
To tell you the truth, when a film is made for a theatrical release every producer wants to release it in theatres but because of the pandemic many producers tried to play safe. OTT is a good option when theatres have been shut because of the pandemic.
Now, I don’t think it’s a violation of trust because at present we are left with OTT platforms as the only alternative. And I think it’s a good opportunity while theatres are not open. The viewers are also benefiting from it as despite the pandemic and the lockdowns there are still new films coming out on different platforms.
The changing times demand a change in approach for releasing films. How do you envision the growing relevance of OTT platforms in the post pandemic world?
OTT is doing great and it’s growing really fast. Also, post pandemic OTT will keep maintaining its growth. But post pandemic once theatres open I am sure the audiences will once again be back to enjoy films in multiplexes as well as single screen theatres because the big screen will always have its magic regardless of the growth of OTT platforms.
The film industry is witnessing a very difficult phase right now and the uncertainty refuses to end. How do you see the way forward?
Well, my team has been working continuously even during the pandemic. As a producer and citizen of the country I think it’s important to spread awareness about Covid-19 and I think we will soon start seeing the desired results. Once the things are under control with vaccination in place and the public taking proper precautions I am sure we will be able to get back on the track fairly quickly.
How difficult is it really going to be to bring the audiences back to the theatres once things start getting back to normal?
It all depends on how well we are able to keep a check on the number of Covid-19 cases. Right now I am seeing the situation is being pretty much under control. I believe our audience is waiting for theatres to open and enjoy the films on the big screen. It is just a matter of time. So let’s hope for the best.
You entered the film industry around 2000 and since then you have produced, distributed and financed more than 40 films. How do you reflect back on your journey? Also tell us about your upcoming projects.
I must say God is great. He has been kind to me. I have always believed that efforts and prayers work in sync. Most of the time, prayers are answered when you put your best efforts. Sometimes when I look back I actually feel surprised how my efforts and hard work have paid dividends with the blessings of God.
As far as my upcoming projects are concerned, I have a few interesting things lined up. But, right now I can only talk about ‘Thank God’ which stars Sidharth Malhotra and Ruhi Singh. It is directed by Indra Kumar. Also, we are trying to figure out the release dates for Chehre.
Murtaza Ali Khan has been a film critic since 2010. He has curated and presented retrospectives and film festivals for various embassies and high commissions in New Delhi. He has also served on the jury for a variety of film festivals. He tweets at @MurtazaCritic