Experiencing Cinema in the times of Pestilence

2020. A year that started out with much hope and excitement took an unexpected deviation that we apparently were not prepared for. Our plans went wrong, vacations got cancelled and we were forced to confine ourselves in four walls of our house. Though the year turned out quite depressing to all, if you actually look back, maybe it wasn’t that bad. We got to spend some family time (a common rarity in this century), got to brush up our old skills (which once we were a master of!) and we even reconnected with some old friends.

However, for someone who is a movie buff (such as myself), the news of the nationwide lockdown was a bit hard to swallow. Theatres were shut down indefinitely and films lined up for release were shelved. It was indeed a hard year but like I said, maybe not that bad at all. Yes, the satisfaction of living the movie was temporarily on hold but thanks to OTT, the entertainment game was always up. Here’s a brief insight on how the films and film fanatics made it through the pestilence.

Pre-Lockdown times!

Rewind 10 months back. With some amazing films in Jan and Feb, the theatres were immensely successful in setting the cash registers. But with the shutting down of theatre, the film fraternity was plunged into a huge dilemma. With several releases already planned and post-production work still on the floor, the industry incurred a huge loss due to the pandemic.

The Rise of OTT

But as they say, the show must go on. OTT platforms came as a rescue for the hungry audience, like rainfall on a barren island. The growth of all the OTT platforms in the last 10 months is extremely huge.

The size of screens reducing to the size of our phones did have an impact on our movie viewing experience. Alas, nothing can replace the feeling of watching and immersing yourself in the big screen of a theatre. But we were left with not many options.

Diverse content

It wasn’t just filmed that were served to us by the OTT platforms, but also all kinds of content that kept us engaged and entertained throughout the pandemic. May it be standup specials, documentaries, shows, and web-series, there wasn’t any content crisis despite the restrictions imposed.

It is interesting to notice how several filmmakers took the lockdown and the pandemic as an inspiration to create something refreshing and exciting. The Tamil anthology film Puthum Puthu Kaalai, Malayalam movie C U Soon, Bollywood film Unpaused (all streaming on Amazon Prime) are a few to mention. Putham Puthu Kaalai and Unpaused were more centered around how the nationwide lockdown affected different sections of the country. However, C U Soon was a full-length thriller movie shot brilliantly in spite of the restrictions prevailing for film shoots.

A Still from Unpaused streaming on Amazon Prime

Some much anticipated films like Minnal Murali and Arabikadalinde Simham refrained from seeking refuge in OTTs. The makers argued that the films were made on a huge budget and OTT release will give them a run for their money.

What’s ahead…

With vaccine distributions in effect, the government has decided to relax the restrictions on theatres. But apprehensions regarding individual safety is still a huge matter of concern and is inviting arguments from all parts of the country. On the other side, film organizations in Kerala are not ready to open cinema halls with just relaxed laws. They requested the government to lift all the restrictions but a final call is yet to be made on the matter.

After all this gets settled, do you think watching cinema would still be the same? Will the normalized dependency on OTT affect our cinema viewing experience in the coming times? Only time can tell…

So what are your thoughts on the same? Tell me in the comments.

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