When theatres tackle OTT platforms


It is half past eleven in the night. My three-year-old daughter has just fallen asleep, after relentless persuasion and threats. I heave a sigh of relief and slowly snuggle up to my wife, and we… open the Amazon Prime application on the mobile phone.

As the night wears on, we dive straight into the world of cinema: romance, thriller, horror. We finish one half of the film and pick up from where we left the next day. There are no language or genre barriers… all thanks to the wonderful world of OTT.

The biggest draw of these platforms is their accessibility. We can watch them in our bedroom, at parking lots while waiting for a friend or when travelling in a cab. We can re-watch a scene at our own pace, and how many ever times we want to. Heck, we can even watch the first half of a horror film, then the second half of a romance, and wind up feeling refreshed. OTT platforms come with oodles of freedom.

None of the above is possible in a theatre. There, you have to adhere to strict show timings, most of which might not suit your schedule. And, if you are taking along your family for the movies on a weekend, be ready to shell out a bomb… because a movie experience in a mall is never just about the film. It is also about the expensive popcorn and Coke that you just cannot abstain from. And, it is also about the orange lehenga that the spouse wants at Soch at the mall. And the expensive doll that the daughter wants at Hamleys.

Charm can take a walk. Convenience is everything.

Do not disturb Srinivasa Ramanujam when he is looking at his mobile screen. He might be watching a film.

It is an escape into a room where your bodily movements are restrained and your eyes are transfixed on the light coming from a wall. It is pitch dark inside, which, perhaps, could be seen as a mode of confession; a spiritual awakening for those who have gracefully accepted cinema as a religion, or a solitary confinement — depending on the movie that is playing.

A cinema hall is where your personality truly comes alive, without you having to fear how you may be perceived by your accomplice.

When a filmmaker’s vision is aligned with yours, that is when you develop a relationship — akin to that of an umbilical cord — with movies. And when this connection happens organically, in the absence of ‘pause and play’, you begin to have conversations with cinema and each movie speaks differently to you, if only you have the patience to listen. Of course, there is no denial that cinema is gradually but steadily losing its old charm, thanks to the mushrooms that have sprouted in the recent rain (read: OTT platforms).

But that absolute joy of losing/rediscovering oneself in a cinema hall while watching a favourite director’s work unfold; those collective highs and lows, smiles and tears, whistles and hoots… these emotions that you live/relive with a community are sacred.

This rather mystical bond between Cinema Paradiso and an individual is why the experience is mostly therapeutic, and why no Netflix or Amazon Prime Video can ever claim to offer this to its faithful clients.

Srivatsan S cannot have a normal conversation without quoting movie references, much to others’ annoyance.

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