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Opinion: Why are Telugu producers pushing remakes for direct-to-OTT releases?

We explore the many reasons why Telugu production houses are preferring to release remakes directly on OTT...

Srivathsan Nadadhur
Jun 30, 2021
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Subtitles have truly changed the way we look at cinema and web shows. As long as subtitles exist, language is no barrier on OTT platforms and has given viewers a chance to appreciate a story in its original form without losing its essence. The many months of lockdown over the last two years were a perfect excuse to latch onto pathbreaking content across many languages. This has already changed the way producers look at remakes, given a certain section of crowds would've already watched the original version. This factor is certainly playing on the minds of many Telugu producers who're bankrolling remakes and need to decide between OTT and theatres as a release option.

Right in 2020, Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya, the Telugu remake of the Malayalam film Maheshinte Prathikaaram, starring Satyadev and Roopa Kodavayur, opted to release directly on Netflix. The film garnered immense appreciation for not tampering with the essence of the original and earned rave reviews from critics and audiences. However, had the film directly released in theatres, it would've been conveniently labelled 'niche' going by popular diktats in the Telugu film land. The producers Arka Media and Praveena Paruchuri made a smart decision with the Netflix release at the right time when the reopening of theatres was some distance away and it was impractical to delay the release any longer. 

The situation isn't exactly different in 2021 either. Even though theatres are reopening soon in the Telugu states in July, film producers aren't yet confident that normalcy would set in anytime soon. Nithiin wrapped Maestro, the remake of AndhaDhun quickly, but wasn't sure if the remake of a film as popular as AndhaDhun could draw crowds at this hour and sold it to Disney+ Hotstar amid the uncertainty. The bigger surprise came from Suresh Productions with Drushyam 2 and Narappa (remakes of Drishyam 2 and Asura) both starring Venkatesh. The original versions of both movies, Asuran and Drishyam 2, were massive hits, widely watched on OTT and producer Suresh Babu wanted to play safe by releasing the remakes directly on OTT too.

Among all the above-mentioned films, it at least makes sense to have released the remake of Maheshinte Prathikaaram on OTT because only a miniscule section of audiences would've streamed it in Malayalam and additionally, the film wasn't available to watch on a leading OTT platform in 2020 (i.e. with subtitles). With the likes of Maestro, Narappa and Drushyam 2 though, what's the point of releasing the remake directly on OTT when audiences can watch the more popular original (in most cases, the better version)? What's the very point of remaking a film and releasing it on OTT, more so from a viewer's perspective? All that producers are doing here is to play smart with their business sense while OTT platforms find a way to draw subscribers with the releases.

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