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The fallout of OTTs no-Kannada policy - What everyone overlooked in Rishab Shetty’s IFFI speech

Speaking at IFFI, Rishab Shetty said that it was impossible to recover costs of films like Pedro, Shivamma, etc., from theatrical releases. 

The fallout of OTTs no-Kannada policy - What everyone overlooked in Rishab Shetty’s IFFI speech

Rishab Shetty 

Last Updated: 01.49 PM, Dec 01, 2023


In the last few days, a major subject of discussion in industry circles has been actor-filmmaker Rishab Shetty’s comments, at an IFFI press conference, about mainstream OTT platforms’ reluctance in picking Kannada content. Headlines screamed that Rishab said that OTT platforms are not open to the Kannada film industry and so on so forth. This is not news. It’s what’s been happening for quite a while, which actress-producer Ramya had also spoken about a media conclave several months ago. Netflix does not take Kannada content at all, Amazon Prime does so occasionally after a theatrical release only and often, for a limited period only, while Zee5 is sporadic about its acquisitions and focuses on the ones with big stars or box office success.

Gopal Hegde in a still from Pedro
Gopal Hegde in a still from Pedro

What most reports about Rishab’s statements overlooked is the fallout of this policy. Filmmakers like him and Rakshit Shetty, who have been backing young talent in making festival favourite films will stop doing so if they can’t get the movies across to audiences. Rishab, for instance, has produced two films that have done exceedingly well at film festivals – Pedro and Shivamma – and a third, Vaghachipani has just begun travelling the circuit. Both Pedro and Shivamma, despite being much feted and having gotten great reviews have not been able to crack OTT deals. These are not films meant for theatrical viewing, even then, Rishab has been toying with doing a limited release and then taking it to OTT, but even that hasn’t materialised yet. In the absence of an OTT deal that could help Rishab recover his costs, what will happen is that over time his banner will stop producing such films and, instead, back young talent that makes more ‘commercially viable’ cinema.


This is more or less what Rakshit Shetty has also said. Rakshit’s Paramvah Studios has a few films that are ready for release, which he knows are not going to be box office money-spinners, like, for instance, Mithya, Strawberry, Abracadabra, among others. These are films that have been made by filmmakers who Rakshit has immense confidence in and has, hence, encouraged to make their first projects on subjects that are close to their heart in the way they want to present it. But with their next films, the expectation is that they figure out how to tell such stories in a way that makes monetary sense too. Ramya, who made Swathi Mutthina Male Haniye as a direct-to-OTT project, had to eventually take the Raj B Shetty and Siri Ravikumar led film to theatres without a streaming partner on board. It remains to be seen if she will continue to take such risks and produce smaller films without an assurance of an OTT outing.

OTT platforms have been citing that their deals with certain commercial films backfired and that the new policy of taking selected Kannada content only ater a theatrical release has stemmed from this. R Chandru's Kabzaa is widely cited as one of the films that has caused this drastic shift in the OTT market for Kannada cinema.  

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