Netflix is reportedly in final talks with T-Series over a multi-film deal that would bring the latter’s upcoming movies — stuck in limbo with theatres shut due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — to the former. Films in discussion include Anurag Basu’s anthology dark comedy Ludo, originally slated for April 24 release in cinemas, with an ensemble cast made up of Abhishek Bachchan, Rajkummar Rao, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanya Malhotra, and Pankaj Tripathi; the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer sports biopic Jhund from Sairat director Nagraj Manjule, slotted for May 8 in theatres; and the Kiara Advani-starrer coming-of-age comedy Indoo Ki Jawani, with a June 8 release date.
“[T-Series] has eight to 10 films that are close to the finish line,” a person familiar with the matter told the daily Mid-Day. “While the head honchos were in talks with Netflix, Amazon Prime [Video], and other [streaming] platforms for a direct-to-web release, their conversation with Netflix has advanced considerably. [Jhund and Ludo] are among the movies in discussion.” T-Series is reportedly mulling over which movies “have a better prospect digitally”, though the three aforementioned movies are T-Series’ next three releases, for what it’s worth.
Mid-Day adds that the deal between Netflix and T-Series to take films straight-to-streaming is seemingly waiting on the consent of other producers. T-Series is nearly always a co-producer on movies. (Its last solo production was the 2016 romantic crime drama Wajah Tum Ho.) Ludo is a production of T-Series and Anurag Basu Productions; Jhund is a production of T-Series, Raj Hiremath & Savita Raj Hiremath’s Tandav Films, and Sairat producer Aatpaat Films; and Indoo Ki Jawani is a production of T-Series, Nikkhil Advani’s Emmay Entertainment, and Niranjan Iyengar & Ryan Stephen’s Electric Apples.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard of Indian films skipping theatres amid the pandemic. Last week, the makers of the Jyothika-starrer Tamil-language courtroom drama Ponmagal Vandhal confirmed that the film was headed to streaming, with Amazon Prime Video the reported platform in question. Meanwhile, Disney-owned Fox Star Studios is reportedly considering taking Akshay Kumar’s Hindi-language horror comedy Laxmmi Bomb to Disney+ Hotstar.
There’s already been backlash to this move, with the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association threatening to blacklist producers — in Ponmagal Vandhal’s case, Suriya — who choose to skip theatres. Things have gone a step further in the US, where one of the leading cinema chains in AMC Theatres said it’s banning the studio Universal Pictures, which was the first to take a big release — the DreamWorks Animation title Trolls World Tour — direct to video-on-demand. (Trolls World Tour is not available in India.)
It will be interesting to see how their Indian theatrical counterparts react to these discussions.
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