OTT – An Option of Assamese Cinema

Saturday, 16 January 2021


OTT – An Option of Assamese Cinema

Swapnil Bharali | November 01, 2020 18:42 hrs

The cinematic flavour over the past two weeks and one which continues to hold strong has been a short sweet tri-lingual movie (in the sense that the dialogues were in Assamese, Hindi and English with appropriate subtitles) called “Arranged” currently streaming on YouTube.  

With a duration of just 22 minutes and starring two of Assam’s finest actors, Ranjeev Lal Barua and Lima Das, along with promising newcomer, Harsh Siddhant, the movie, directed by ace director Samujjal Kashyap and scripted by Siddhant, has created quite a buzz logging over 1 lakh views within the fortnight. 

The movie tells a sweet tale of an introvert 45-year-old, Jayanta, who happened to be one of those school students who basically just “existed” among the sporting champs, musically-talented students and brilliant toppers that comprise every batch in a school. He had had his share of ordinariness in school and the same manifested itself in his introvert nature that he carried through his school and beyond. Despite this and his resolute silence in this regard, he did not fail to fancy the company and affections of the prima donna of his batch, Jurima. 

However, his nature disallowed him from getting into a normal wedlock until, at 45 years of age, he managed to marry a widowed Jurima through an arranged marriage. The ice-breaking between the shy Jayanta and the vivacious Jurima goaded by the young smart alec of a paying guest, Chowdhry, is the essence of this wonderful short tale which came in for rave reviews and a viewership (that is still counting) that few Assamese feature films would ever match. 

Having said this, it is quite clear that the way forward for Assamese productions is the Over-The-Top (or OTT) platform. An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the internet (as defined by the internet). A bit of smart inexpensive marketing over the internet again through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and one can create big enough a buzz to ensure that the viewership catches on in no time provided one has a product as classily produced as “Arranged.” For the record and from what I was given to understand, despite its impressive production values in terms of acting, cinematography, music, editing etc, the budget of the movie was quite clearly modest with the producers creating the film mainly for their passion of producing films rather than with any eye of a possible return on investment from it.

And so, after having met its success with viewership, the movie has witnessed rave reviews not only by individuals commenting on social media but also over the regular television medium with the cast and crew being invited for discussions and felicitations. But, if the OTT is the way forward given the current state of affairs – pandemic and its related uncertainty and all – monetizing such productions comes across as the greatest challenge. From the looks of it, such a film might require an investment of around Rs. 2.5 lakhs to Rs 3 lakhs. For the sake of passion, such an expense may be possible to be borne as a one-time instance. Regularly or repeated ventures? I have my doubts.

Now, having seen the success of “Arranged,” it begs the question as to how such YouTube productions can be monetized enough so that more such films are produced. I am presently stumped with this question. I have seen advertisements popping up during the course of YouTube films or just before the film commences. Often, there is the “Skip Ad” option allowing the viewer an almost uninterrupted viewing of the movie. These advertisements, to my knowledge, are inserted by Google or YouTube based on the viewership numbers. But is the money accruing from these advertisements enough? 

I am scheduled to discuss this issue with the producers of “Arranged” shortly and perhaps there can ways and means thought out. In fact, I am fervently hoping there would be as currently, with all feature film productions halted and movie halls closed, the OTT is the only way out and Assamese productions need to jump on this bandwagon should the same be somehow financially feasible.

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