Gulabo Sitabo Online Release: Is digital release the future of Bollywood?

Gulabo Sitabo Ayushman Khurrana

‘First day, first stream’ is the new ‘first day, first show’. Stuck in lockdown, we’ve waged a war against the deadly coronavirus and have started adapting to this new life. While the world outside is off-limits, technology has been at our disposal, not only to help us on the work front but also to shove away the boredom. Since we can’t cross the boundaries of our houses, why not access the going-out pleasures through our fingertips? Now that the entire globe is sitting on their couches, binge-watching anything and everything the OTT platforms have to offer, Bollywood has made a breakthrough by announcing the release of Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo on Amazon Prime Video. Is digital release the future of cinema? Are we looking at the start of a domino effect that might unveil an array of releases over streaming platforms? Will the film viewing experience, as we know it, change forever?

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The movie stars the two actors who redefined the concept of ‘hero’ for us, that is, Amitabh Bachchan, our very own angry young man and Ayushmann Khurrana, the boy next door who has made a special place in our hearts. Originally set to hit the theatres on 17 April 2020, Gulabo Sitabo is now gearing up for a worldwide online release on 12 June. The announcement was made via tweets by the star cast and took the Twitterati by storm. While Bachchan called this yet another challenge in his 51-year film career, Khurrana, invited the viewers to watch the film in his own way, “aa jana fir, first day, first stream karne”.

The quirky poster with a rather old portrayal of Bachchan has had us all intrigued and the fans can’t wait for the film to drop in. Will the established fandom of the actors make up for what is lost in not releasing the film in the theatres? The movie, written by Juhi Chaturvedi, might break the ice and pave a new way for many others that were scheduled to be released this year. It’s rather interesting to see how a dire situation like the one we are in, brings with itself ideas that were hardly considered earlier.

Movie production and distribution require hefty amounts and the direct online release can certainly have a major impact on the entire industry that employs a large number of people. Will the structural shift in any way compensate for this loss? The entertainment industry is certainly facing these conundrums and many more as the pandemic has rendered the world in a fix. We can’t foresee what the future holds but I’m pretty sure moderations in almost all fronts await us. This bold move might not be the best for the initial beneficiaries, that is, the theatres and distributaries but the earnings from the online release can help the bottom tier people involved in production to navigate through these times.

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Following the lead of Gulabo Sitabo, a few other prospective 2020 releases have also decided on skipping theatrical release. Irrfan Khan starrer Angrezi Medium released on OTT platforms much sooner than usual because lockdown was announced as soon as it hit the theatres. Vidya Balan took to Instagram to announce the release of her long-awaited biopic, Shakuntala Devi, on Amazon. As per reports, other than this, films like Janhvi Kapoor’s Gunjan Saxena, Anurag Basu’s Ludo (Netflix), Akshay Kumar starrer Laxmmi Bomb (Disney+Hotstar) and Khaali Peeli featuring Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday (Netflix) are also considering digital release.

While we are all trying to figure out how things will take shape once the lockdown is over, new and innovative techniques are coming up to help us sail through the coronavirus. But are these to stay even after we walk out of the dark days? Is the virtual release of movies feasible for other big-budget projects too? We’ll have to wait and watch.

Saavriti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.