It’s official: No ban on simultaneous release of Malayalam films

List of box-office woes does not end with piracy, with other issues like the influx of OTT platforms warranting immediate intervention.

Multiplexes in India reopened this Thursday for public screening after nearly seven months, and they are offering incentives along with their channel partners to woo cinema lovers back to the auditoriums. Representational image: iStock

Film buffs outside Kerala, chill.

All Malayalam films will have simultaneous release outside Kerala, contrary to recent reports suggesting otherwise. No official decision has been taken in this regard — and wait — there is not even a proposal to restrict their release to Kerala territory alone.

What perhaps led to the kerfuffle was a few producers’ independent decision to withhold release of their films outside Kerala, citing piracy threats.

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“There is no move to restrict release to Kerala or any territory. Owing to the piracy threat, certain producers have decided to delay the release, which is understandable, given how serious the threat of piracy is. But as an organisation, we have not taken any decision in this regard. In fact, such a proposal did not even come up for discussion,” says M. Ranjith, president of the Kerala Producers’ Association, adding that piracy is a major issue, prompting many producers to postpone the release of their films, especially in major Indian cities.

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What set the cat among pigeons was Anjaam Pathiraa’s producer Ashiq Usman’s decision to delay its release by two weeks though the film garnered rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. Believe it or not, during the first two weeks, no pirated version was available anywhere. But two-three days after its release across India, the prints started cropping up on several platforms.

For Ashiq, it was a clear case of once bitten, twice shy.

“I had a terrible experience with my previous film (Allu Ramendran), and obviously I did not want to take a chance this time. I was shocked to see copies of Allu Ramendran surfacing online within 48 hours after its release. It was deeply painful and distressing. In fact, the rest of India is where the problem lies, not international cities like Dubai or Melbourne. In India, Chennai, Bengaluru and Mangaluru (or its outskirts) are the key centres where piracy happens. Outside of India, Malaysia too is risky and that’s why we don’t release films there these days,” says Ashiq, offering a quick peek into the whole trade-piracy vortex.

Anwar Rasheed’s Trance, starring Fahadh Faasil, too did not have a wide release, adopting the same strategy to tackle piracy.

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The list of box-office woes does not end there, with other issues like the influx of OTT platforms warranting immediate intervention.

What has come up for discussion officially is the issue of films being uploaded on OTT platforms within a short span (sometimes, fewer than 30 days) after their release. Incidentally, Shylock, a multi-budget film, is now streaming online just 32 days after its release, throwing up questions like why should the viewer take the trouble of visiting a theatre if the film lands at your home in a month or so.

“This issue of films being released on streaming sites has already been discussed. Theatre owners and exhibitors have already expressed concern about this trend. We have not arrived at a decision yet, but soon we will address the concerns raised,” says Ranjith.

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Interestingly, in Tamil Nadu, theatre owners have asked for a 60-day window for OTT and 100 days for satellite releases. Perhaps, it’s time Malayalam industry followed suit.

Meanwhile, some of the most-awaited Malayalam films are gearing up to have simultaneous release all across the globe, clearly suggesting that there are no such restrictions.

Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, starring Mohanlal, will have a grand release on March 26.

Confirming the same, Priyadarshan, the director of Marakkar, dubbed one of the most expensive films in Malayalam, says, “Malayalam and Tamil versions will be released all over the world on the opening day itself. We are planning to have other dubbed versions too, but that call will be taken later.”

So chill,that first day first show is yours as well.

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