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Master is out on Amazon Prime, but Hindi version won't be till the Ides of March

While filmmakers in the South are being quick to release their films on OTT platforms, the Hindi film industry is adhering to the eight-week rule.

Fenil Seta

When theatres reopened in the North in October 2020, a tussle was going on between filmmakers and multiplexes over a couple of issues. One related to shortening the window between theatrical and OTT (over-the-top) release from the traditional eight weeks to four or even three, as demanded by some producers. The multiplex owners and exhibitors were unwilling as they feared it would reduce turnout in their properties.

In the South, producers were able to override the objections of theatre owners and manage quicker OTT release for their films. The Telugu Christmas hit, Solo Brathuke So Better (2020), arrived on the pay-per-view platform Zee Plex within a week of its theatrical release. The Ravi Teja-starrer Krack (2021), which has done very well, was released in cinemas on 10 January and on Allu Aravind’s OTT platform, aha, on 5 February. The digital release was deferred by a week from the original date, 29 January, to support its successful run in cinemas, but that was it. And Vijay’s Master (2021), the biggest post-pandemic grosser so far, was released on Amazon Prime Video within 16 days of its theatrical release.

However, the situation is different in Hindi cinema. The films here are not doing well and yet producers are adhering to the eight-week rule. The first major theatrical release after the lockdown, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari (2020), did arrive on Zee Plex within a month but it was released on Zee5, an SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) platform, after almost two months.

T-Series released two films, Indoo Ki Jawani (2020) and Madam Chief Minister (2021), in cinemas and both these films are also adhering to the eight-week rule. So much so that Vijay The Master, the Hindi dubbed version of Master, will also be released digitally only in mid-March, after the film completes its eight-week run in cinemas.

The theatrical and digital rights of Vijay The Master rest with B4U and despite the original Tamil and Telugu versions having already been released on Amazon Prime Video, the company has decided not to follow suit. Vikas Sahni of B4U confirmed this development to this reporter.

A trade expert said, “It’s really praiseworthy that producers and distributors in [Hindi cinema] are still following the eight-week rule for OTT release of their films. But with their Southern counterparts releasing their films online within a fortnight, even their blockbuster films, one wonders if they would also follow suit.”

The worry is genuine as there are already murmurs going around in the trade about Salman Khan’s Eid biggie, Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, seeking quicker release on Zee Plex, if not on Zee5. Whether this leads to a fresh tiff between the two parties is something only time can tell.