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Amitabh-Ayushmann's Gulabo-Sitabo to premiere on Amazon

By SUBHASH K JHA, JUSTIN RAO, KOMAL PANCHAMATIA
Last updated on: May 14, 2020 22:22 IST
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Shoojit Sircar's film Gulabo-Sitabo, which features Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana as a squabbling landlord and tenant, will release on Amazon Prime Video on June 12.

Amazon Prime has reportedly bought the film's exclusive premiere rights at a whopping Rs 30 crore.

While Sircar is happy to facilitate a quick release of his film, sources close to Bachchan claim that he and Ayushmann are not pleased with the deal that the producers of Gulabo Sitabo have cut with Amazon.

"Both Bachchansaab and Khurrana are keen to wait until the situation normalises. But the producers have gone ahead and closed the deal with Amazon," a source tells Subhash K Jha.

However, a representative of the producers denied on Thursday evening that Bachchan and Khurrana are upset with the decision to release the film on Amazon Prime, pointing to the fact that the actors had themselves posted the announcement on their Instagram feeds.

Meanwhile, multiplex chains are also threatening to take action against producers going on OTT.

"We are formulating our own defence strategy against this short-termed and myopic benefit move by some producers," says a prominent multiplex manager, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"If they can't see they are killing the theatre business by taking the digital route," he addss, "then we will also ensure that the ones taking that route are boycotted from future release outlets in our theatres."

 

Meanwhile, other films like Anu Menon's biopic on math genius Shakuntala Devi, with Vidya Balan in the title role, as well as Chehre, another Amitabh film, are among the films likely to be released on a streaming platform.

"The deal of releasing Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi on Amazon Prime Video has been locked," a source tells PTI.

Chehre Producer Anand Pandit said a digital release was under consideration.

"Given how the lockdown is panning out, a digital release for Chehre is being mulled," Pandit said, adding they would wait till the first week of June to take a final call.

India has been under lockdown since March 25 to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The list of 2020 films which will be released on streaming platforms is long, said insiders.

On top of the list is Laxmmi Bomb, featuring Akshay Kumar and backed by Fox Star Studios. It has reportedly been picked up by Disney+ Hotstar. However, Hotstar representatives maintained a 'no comment' stance as did Producer Tusshar Kapoor.

The movie, directed by Raghava Lawrence, was scheduled to be released on May 22 in theatres. That is unlikely to happen with no signs of cinema theatres opening even if the lockdown ends.

Other 2020 releases -- Jhund with Bachchan and Jahnvi Kapoor's Gunjan Saxena -- may also head to different OTT platforms.

The Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani, co-produced by Nikkhil Advani and Bhushan Kumar, is reportedly looking for a digital release.

However, Advani said the film is currently being edited "despite physical constraints" and the team is optimistic it will be ready "very soon".

"We are exploring all possible avenues. Nothing stands confirmed or committed. As soon as we are clear about the way ahead, we will make a statement," he said.

Bhushan's T-Series has two other films, Ludo and Jhund.

While questions sent to Bhushan Kumar on the slate of his films were left unanswered, a source from the production house confirmed that T-Series is planning to release its films digitally and talks are currently on.

There are also some producers who want to wait it out.

Producer Jackky Bhagnani, who was looking forward to the theatrical release of Coolie No 1 on May 1, said he is not thinking about films right now.

"Let us overcome this crisis and we will announce in happier times," Bhagnani said when asked about whether he was looking at releasing the film digitally.

Reliance Entertainment said it will wait to release two of this year's most awaited films, Sooryavanshi and '83 in theatres.

"We will first complete the film, then we will wait. If six or nine months down the line, the situation becomes worse, we will take a call at that time. There is no hurry. Same is the case with Sooryavanshi and our other films," Reliance Entertainment Group CEO Shibashish Sarkar told PTI last month.

"There is a lot of big money involved. Also, if you release on OTT, you cannot release it in theatres. If you release a film in theatre, it will come on satellite as well as digital later," said trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Last week, the Multiplex Association of India appealed to studio partners, producers, artistes and content creators to support the cinema exhibition sector by holding their films and releasing them in theatres once they reopen.

The statement followed reports that several films were looking at a direct to digital release amid the lockdown.

The combination of 'pent-up demand' and the promise of new movies would boost film business and contribute massively in reviving the industry, the association said.

'The collective, social experience of watching films on the big screen needs to be preserved and it can be done so only with the collective support of all stakeholders,' the statement from the Multiplex Association of India read.

"One can't say the film will lose or gain from a digital release because when you release a good film in theatres, the sky is the limit," Adarsh added

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SUBHASH K JHA, JUSTIN RAO, KOMAL PANCHAMATIA
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