Kannada shows unwanted on OTT? 'Ekam' producers to come up with own platform after series fails to find distributor

Ekam, being produced by Journeyman Films, is also supported by Rakshit Shetty’s production house Paramvah.
Last Updated : 26 June 2024, 08:19 IST

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Bengaluru: Whether the Kannada film industry will see a revolution when it comes to distribution will be known next month. Fed up with rejections from various OTT platforms for more than two years now – just because the content is in Kannada – season one of the web series, Ekam, is going to be released on a dedicated platform on July 13.

The success of Ekam, which will take the anthology format, showcasing different directors, will redefine the way content with an extremely niche audience can be distributed, said Sumanth Bhat, one of the showrunners of the project, to PTI.

“The response to our teasers has been mind blowing – both from the audience as well as the industry. But we must wait and see whether that will translate into business on July 13. We do see trailers and songs getting one million views and yet people do not necessarily turn up to watch in theatres,” said Bhat.

Ekam, being produced by Journeyman Films, is also supported by Rakshit Shetty’s production house Paramvah.

When the project was unveiled on June 17, Shetty posted a note on X.

He said when the project took shape, in early 2020, he felt the time was just right for a “web series in Kannada”.

“Cut to October 2021, I saw the final cut of Ekam. I was thrilled to see it come alive . Thrilled to see the team push the boundaries. And I was thrilled to show it to the world. I couldn’t wait. But boy, it’s been one hell of a wait. There is not a single avenue we’ve not explored for ‘Ekam’ in these last couple of years. But we hit familiar roadblocks every time. However, I think the audience deserves a chance, and the right, to decide the worth of any content,” Shetty’s note read.

Bhat agrees that Kannada ranks the lowest in the pecking order when it comes to buying content for OTT platforms.

“I do understand their logic, Kannada does not have the same numbers as, say, Tamil or Telugu industries. But barring Malayalam industry – which enjoys nationwide recognition – I would say all of us are struggling, because the OTT platforms have changed their strategy post Covid and are going after big ticket films,” said Bhat, whose debut feature film, Mithya, a poignant tale of an orphaned boy and a festival favourite that has won many awards and recognitions, including at 15th Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) 2024, is yet to see a theatrical or OTT release.

Bhat said the struggle is real for people like him, who make niche content.

“In the last couple of years, I have been to many festivals and interacted with directors from all other south Indian states. Yes, Kerala government – and to a larger extent Tamil Nadu as well – has created an ecosystem that is conducive to habitual movie goers by capping the ticket price, etc. It has given enough reasons for people to come and watch films. But even there, gems like ‘Thadavu’ are yet to find OTT platforms. So, it is not a problem unique to Kannada content, but it is felt more by us,” said Bhat.

Given that, an independent platform could be a gamechanger, said Sandeep P S, founder of Journeyman Films.

“My biggest problem is that sometimes good content is unable to find its way to the audience. We soon realised this is a problem we had to solve if we did not want Ekam to join that queue. So, for the last seven to eight months, we have been exploring this option,” said Sandeep to PTI.

Although Sandeep is reluctant to share the exact number of people who have signed up for Ekam so far – the website allows people to register in advance – he said even if 1 per cent to 2 per cent of those interested convert into actual subscribers, this will be a huge win for the team.

Sandeep also admits that building a platform from scratch with limited team and resources has been a challenge.

His production house, he said, has been making short films on brands for almost nine years and has gotten into fiction about five years ago.

“I am aware that there could be any number of technical difficulties. Websites can always crash. But these can be overcome,” said Sandeep.

Ekam is much more than just a web series, pointed out Bhat.

“I think we have priced the one-time subscription fairly at Rs 149. We are trying to engage the audience by letting them interact with the makers of the episode, as well as with content like Children of Cinema, a documentary on how the concept of Ekam evolved. We are also trying to connect with future filmmakers by giving them access to scripts. If the series do well, many more seasons are possible and these young filmmakers could find their platform here,” said Bhat.

The biggest achievement Ekam will bring about if it becomes a success is that OTT platforms can be eased out of their ‘gatekeepers’ role, added both Bhat and Sandeep.

“Perhaps, that is why the industry is also excited. We have people like Anurag Kashyap acknowledging our initiative. Hopefully, Ekam will set the ball rolling for the larger good of the film industry,” said Bhat.

Published 26 June 2024, 08:19 IST

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