How smart planning made 'Rathnan Prapancha' an OTT hit

How smart planning made 'Rathnan Prapancha' an OTT hit

Co-producer Karthik Gowda says his experience in film distribution informed his decision to skip a theatre release

Dhananjaya and Umashree in ‘Rathnan Prapancha’.

The golden run of 'Rathnan Prapancha' in the OTT space can bring about a paradigm shift in the Kannada film industry. The tremendous response to Rohit Padaki's family drama may make way for more direct-to-OTT Kannada releases.

When the online revolution kicked in last year, Kannada cinema was well behind the race, both in quantity and quality. 'French Biriyani', and to some extent, 'Bheemasena Nalamaharaja', were accepted by the audience, while 'Law' and 'Mane Number 13' perished without a trace.

The hilarious lockdown drama 'Ikkat' brought a much-needed respite to the audience earlier this year. 'Rathnan Prapancha' released a week after two big screen releases ('Salaga' and 'Kotigobba 3') but it still managed to transcend boundaries and receive a response similar to theatrical blockbusters. It is learnt that the film is among the top three most-watched Kannada films on Amazon Prime Video.

It is evident from the ensemble cast and a reasonably rich production scale that the film was made for the big screen experience. So what convinced the makers to opt for a direct-to-OTT release?

KRG Studios' Karthik Gowda, who bankrolled the film along with Yogi G Raj, speaks to Metrolife on how smart planning and research helped them hit the bullseye with their maiden production.

Excerpts:

What was your understanding of Kannada cinema's presence in the OTT space before you decided to put out 'Rathnan Prapancha'? 

I feel when the OTT era began to flourish, our producers had a wrong understanding about its business. It's not like the streaming platforms have never approached Kannada filmmakers. Whenever they did, the producers should have had better understanding of our market and known how much to quote. A fair expectation of returns could have helped them make the most of the OTT opportunities.

What convinced you to release 'Rathnan Prapancha' on OTT, skipping theatres?

I had shown the film to Prime Video four months before its release and they had loved it. Certainly the movie was made for theatres. But we weren't sure when movie halls would open with full occupancy. I was clear about one thing: the film has to enjoy a wide reach. We realised that people were comfortable watching films at home. If a small yet content-oriented film doesn't get a good run in theatres, it will never be discussed by people. 'Salaga' and 'Kotigobba 3' were big films with established stars. So the competition was stiff. Given my years of experience in distribution, I realised that even if 'Rathnan Prapancha' got a decent share of theatres, by the time it would get attention, it would be removed to accommodate big releases. 

What message has the film's success sent to the industry, which is in a nascent stage on OTT platforms?

I hope it opens a new market for Kannada films. With an OTT hit, the customer base of a platform sees a rise. It convinces the platform to make another original. It looks like 'Rathnan Prapancha' has exceeded the platform's expectations. It helped that we had Dhananjaya as the lead. He is a new-age star and people hadn't seen him in this role. Whereas, the other direct-to-OTT Kannada releases had unheralded names in main roles.   

This is your maiden production. How did you prepare for it?

For the portions in Kashmir, we worked with a Kashmiri Pandit who knew Kannada to help the actors get the lingo right. We worked hard for the right representation of north Karnataka. Pramod and supporting actors were given 15-20 days of training, to master the accent and style of speaking. For years, the north Karnataka dialect has been used for humour but not in the right way.

Exhibitors aren't happy that producers are showing interest in OTT. Your comments. 

How long could have I held on to the film? How many times have you heard about content-oriented films not getting good runs in theatres? I didn't want that to happen to 'Rathnan Prapancha'. Theatres would have removed my film for a big film. I don't say it's wrong because in any industry, the big fish eats the small fish. It's about the survival of the fittest and the OTT platforms are there to help a particular kind of movies. Both, theatres and OTT, will co-exist.