Has our movie watching experience changed our taste for movies?

Like many of you, I remained sane for the past 2 years, thanks to my long-time companion- books, and my Covid-companion, my fresh, hot OTT platform. Just like I read books of different genre, discovered new authors, re-read some favorites, tried some never ending Pulitzer prize winners, dived into NF books…I treated OTT platform equally well. That is to say, I not only tried and enjoyed different movies in different genres and languages, I also had all kinds of movie streaming accounts. A-Z, you name it, I had it, Each one had one movie that I badly wanted to watch, so yes, that’s how my days breezed by.

And if you were anything like me, you would also be a person to quietly figure out the plot to of a movie the minute a trailer is released. Not only that, you would also find out the flaws and positives in the movie, point by point. Our OTT platform had trained us for that. There were thousands of movies waiting in line for us to pick and affect our brain for good. So bear with me while I try to understand what made us like RRR, KGF-2 and Vikram to such a puzzling level. (Note-I said ‘us’ because sadly I have been affected as well)

Earlier, in the NO-OTT times, all of us ooh’d and aah’d realistic movies. The closer to reality, the more appreciation it received. Pariyerum Perumal gained its stardom because it reflected a section of life which people were not aware of, real and raw, simple and with life. Same goes with Asuran. But movies like Super Deluxe, Kaithi etc also did wonderfully well, because of the interesting and different storylines, where the story was new and the approach to the movie was amazing as well.

But as Covid struck and we were all glued to the OTT platform, we have had our very own talent show, executed well by intelligent movie makers like Vetrimaran, Sudha and so on. My favorites were the anthologies by some wonderful directors which had style and substance. ‘Paava Kathaigal’ was one such release. The acting and the stories were so powerful and were delivered well. ‘Malayalam’s gem, Aanum-pennum’ blew my mind. ‘Modern Love’ breathed fresh life into my soul. All of them were radiant masterpieces of their own. We welcomed them with big open minds. We allowed us to be entertained for hours together with good stuff.

But like all good things, this too came to an end. It then became a fashion to release anthologies in all languages in OTT, and there were some soul-crushing-mind-numbing ones, which had me call it quits to shorties for a while. Maybe you did too? And then came movies with BIG stars getting released directly to OTT platform. “Inthiya tholaikaatchiyil muthal muraiyaaga..”, like that voice bellows. While some those movies had solid screenplay and performance, others fizzed off. I mean who in their right minds would release badly taken, depressing thrillers in a depressing time?

Well anyway, even amongst the bad messes, there were some good ones which we welcomed on OTT. Sudha’s Soorarai potru was one such movie. The storyline was good, Aparna’s acting wonderful, screenplay, enjoyable and Surya – yet another hero character, done well. “Jai Bhim”, written and directed by T. J. Gnanavel is another movie where Surya shone, along with the talented Manikandan, who btw dazzled equally well in ‘Sillu Karupetti’. (Although….you know, a little part of me wishes that Jai Bhim was released in theaters. It deserved the so-called pan-India status, or at least the popularity that Article-15 received) There were many such amazing movies which were released directly to OTT and all of us home-audience were mighty grateful for those. We enjoyed and clapped with glee.

The thing was, all of us had so many choices of good films, anthologies from different languages and countries, interesting web series and we could pick any thing at any point of time in a day…watch it for some time, and be entertained. Our goal was to be entertained, and if we picked something we didn’t like, we immediately stopped it and picked another one. If not Indian, we had a choice to go International, get thrilled by Nolan’s movie once again. The thing was – there were so many choices of good movies and we entertained ourselves by watching mainly good movies with interesting storylines and lovely acting. 

So to those of us who have enjoyed the OTT platform for the past 2 years, were excited to explore what theater movies had to offer this year. Thus began the birth of Pan-India movies. RRR – became a blockbuster hit. KGF-2 became a bigger than blockbuster-hit. Vikram – close to a KGF-hit. Many people continue to shake their head with contempt, not being able to fathom how these movies became a hit, let alone a Pan-India movie. These movies don’t even have a strong story. Well, reality is that, our OTT platform had changed how we appreciate movies now.

If you think closely, none of these movies had any role for women to play. Bahubali had strong women characters, mixed with a good screenplay, visually stunning scenes, and performance to match. These 3 movies – nope. (Don’t bring Tina into picture here. A movie has to have 2 women characters talking to each other, using their names, about something in their life, which none of them have). All of these films had many flaws, which people didn’t care to talk about. We devoured them, and were going for seconds.

See, I for one, can understand why these films gained their fandom forgetting their flaws. Not for the storyline (I mean let’s be practical, none of the above had a story which was complicated, or never-heard before), but for the visually glorious way it treated the same old storyline we have all heard before.

Each one competed with the next in being a film that pulled audience to theaters. We OTT audience have seen wonderful stories in OTT, so when we watch a movie in the theater, we want be mesmerized as well. We want to be dragged all in, our ears booming with the sound track of a movie, with our mouth open gaping at the crazy angles in a scene, our eyes taking in the entire background scene, together with the hero’s eyes. Along with a solid story, of course. All of which was not possible while viewing movies in OTT. 

It was not an easy attempt, this one. Pulling audience to the theater. Not when we have gotten used to watching fresh, different movies, or old cult re-runs in the comfort of our home, on a mattress in all kinds of different laying down postures we are physically capable of, being able to grab a snack whenever we want to and moving on to the next one when we like it. 

That’s where RRR, KGF-2 and Vikram won. Let’s tear through these movies. RRR was a Ramayana kind story. Right from the broken pendant worn by 2 people, snakes coming out of nowhere to bite a person just to move the story along, to Sita longingly waiting for Ram, this was a bromance story taken out of the 80s-coupled with drama. But the brilliance of the forests, the fire and water scenes, the introductory scenes of the 2 heroes, the animal chase, and fight sequences, to name a few, was visually extraordinary to see on a big screen. 

Honestly, I wonder if this movie would have done so well if it was released straight to OTT.  If it was, we would have just focused on the story, nothing else. Now, with the theaters, the “visual experience” comes into picture and it succeeded there. We ignored the flaws. There were many.

Similarly for KGF- the breathtaking shots of gold mines and the ways the fights were picturized pulled us to the edge of the seat in theaters. The story of the mother-son promise and his raise to hero from the underdog, is nothing new to Indian cinema. But again the “bramaandam” as people say was something we all had starved for, since Covid-OTT times. And that was satisfied with KGF-2. If it was released straight to OTT- would it have gained the Pan-India status? I am not really sure, the “thanthaane thaana”, would have irritated a lot more home-audience honestly. I would have thrown a pillow at the mother for sure.

As for Vikram, this gained it’s stardom mainly for the hype the trailer brought on. We expected a Virumandi level movie, but we were still happy to see KH on screen, playing a guest role in Lokesh’s film. The story and screenplay – can it be compared to Aaranya Kandam’s level? Not really. But the experience. Every time Anirood played his main track, we were dragged in to the film. Faahad’s eyes and performance did the rest of the magic. It was hyped up as the first movie to be just an action film and nothing else, which unfortunately it wasn’t so. It should have been hyped up as Faahad and KH starring in LCU. But it impressed most of the public. Mainly because of the entire experience. The twists in the screenplay was a wonder, but it became too good to be true, when the BGM blasted off every now and then, making it a thorough movie experience. The story wasn’t thrilling, because really, we know KH wouldn’t die in the first scene and is going to come back. The last few scenes of the artillery firing on the big screen, the music, Faahad’s performance all was something people flocked to the theaters. 

I think all of these movies if they were released straight to OTT, might have gone reasonably well, but wouldn’t have gained the Pan-India status. Because then, we would only have focused on how solid and interesting the story is and how realistic the performance of the actors are.  But in addition to a good storyline, all of these movies sprinkled a lot of wow factor to give an experience to people who were so used to seeing movies in OTT platforms. To those struck by watching Jai Bhim’s story, or aahed by Anbe Sivam for the 10th time in OTT, expected something more. Innum mela, I guess. Less realistic and more larger than life.  All these 3 movies delivered that. They were all old masala in a new decorated huge, beautiful box. OTT made us like bramaandam. Strange but true.


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padhs2k Written by:

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