Suriya's films face ban

The Tamil Nadu Theatre And Multiplex Owners' Association has threatened to ban films starring superstar Suriya as well as those produced by his production company 2D Entertainment.

The decision follows news that the film Ponmagal Vandhal, produced by Suriya and starring his wife Jyothika, will be released directly online, bypassing traditional theatrical release.

The film was originally set for a theatre release on March 27. But that was postponed after Tamil Nadu went into a lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak and theatres were shut down indefinitely.

Now the streaming rights of this thriller by debutant director J.J. Fredrick have reportedly been bagged by Amazon Prime Video for Rs5 crore ($1 million), the film to be available on Amazon from the first week of May. Prime Video is an over-the-top (OTT) media service which streams media online, via the Internet.

Theatre owners, sore from the losses inflicted by the lockdown, have not taken kindly to this decision.

Mr R. Panneerselvam, general-secretary of the association, released a video condemning the production house's "hasty" decision and stressed that films made for theatrical release must never opt for digital release.

He said: "Seeing the news reports of Ponmagal Vandhal's release in digital platforms shocked the Theatre And Multiplex Owners' Association. It pains to know that the film will not be released in theatres.

"We have a rule that films made for big screens should be released in theatres first, followed by a digital release. We condemn the producer who has decided to sell the streaming rights.

"We contacted Suriya and requested him not to release the film on OTT platforms, but it fell on deaf ears. So, we have decided not to release any film involving Suriya or his production house."

Ponmagal Vandhal is touted as a courtroom drama featuring K. Bhagyaraj, R. Parthiepan, Pratap Pothen and Pandirarajan in important roles.

The decision could affect the release of Suriya's upcoming film Soorarai Pottru.

Although Suriya has not made a comment, producer and distributor G. Dhananjayan supported his move.

"There's a lot riding on this decision taken by 2D Entertainment and I personally think it's a smart move," Mr Dhananjayan told The New Indian Express. "I don't see theatres opening before July or August. Faced with a potential delay of six-seven months, it's only logical for a producer to opt for such a move."

Mr Dhananjayan believes that cold logic dictated this decision by the makers of Ponmagal Vandhal.

"I hear that this film was made on a budget of around Rs8 crore," he said. "Such women-centric dramas in this budget spectrum usually make about Rs10 crore with about a Rs3 crore share for the producers.

"With both OTT and satellite channels looking for brand-new content from regional industries, it only makes sense for the production house to capitalise on this demand, especially if Rs5 crore is being offered for the rights."

On Monday, more than 30 popular producers backed Suriya's decision. They released a statement saying the trend might help the producers of small and medium-budget films recover their investments.

"With the development of OTT technology, many new films started coming out worldwide directly on this platform," they said.

"After the lockdown in the country, many OTT platforms have started acquiring small and medium-budget films for direct OTT premiere, which we all have to welcome wholeheartedly.

"We must request OTT players to acquire many small and medium-budget films, which are struggling to release or stuck due to this lockdown."

Directors and producers Bharathirajaa, T.G. Thyagarajan, K. Muralidharan, T. Siva, Lyca Tamil Kumaran, S. Sashikanth, Dhananjayan, S.R. Prabhu, C.V. Kumar also argued that the makers have every right to sell their film to any platform to recover their losses.

They added that the Hindi, Telugu and other language film producers have already started to explore this avenue.

"For the film industry to operate smoothly, the three key stakeholders (producers, distributors and theatre owners) must work together and take decisions in the best interest of the industry," they said.

"We strongly request that no individual film trade association take any decision and announce it unilaterally, which may hurt the interest of a film producer who is trying to protect his business.

"Post lockdown, all of us should meet, discuss and arrive at a feasible solution for all the issues before us, including direct OTT release of new films, for the benefit and welfare of the Tamil film industry."

Indo-Asian News Service

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