Leading Indian streamer Disney Plus Hotstar has added a further six titles, featuring some of the biggest Bollywood stars, that will bypass cinemas and release directly on the service. Sushant Singh Rajput-starring “Dil Bechara” was announced last week.
Moves to release feature films on streaming platforms, and bypass theaters, have raised the ire of exhibitors. But cinemas across India have been shuttered since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Titles bowing on Disney Plus Hotstar include: horror comedy “Laxmmi Bomb,” starring Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani; war drama “Bhuj: The Pride of India,” starring Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt and Sonakshi Sinha; “Sadak 2,” a sequel to 1991 romantic thriller “Sadak,” starring Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur and Sanjay Dutt; financial crime drama “The Big Bull,” starring Abhishek Bachchan and Ileana D’Cruz; comedy “Lootcase,” featuring Kunal Kemmu and Rasika Duggal; and action romance “Khuda Haafiz,” starring Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi. The films will roll out on the Disney Plus Hotstar’s newly launched ‘Multiplex’ strand from July through October.
The titles were announced at a virtual press conference on Monday by Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and chairman, Star & Disney India, alongside Kumar, Devgn, Bachchan and Bhatt.
“We thought why not use the opportunity of the pandemic to create a big, alternative world of exhibition, and create a network of virtual theatres – private theatres in everybody’s homes, and that is what we are doing today,” said Shankar. “We’ve got all these illustrious actors, the flag bearers of our industry, A-class creative people who have come here with their films. People can do exactly what they’ve been doing, watch movies first day, first show, at home.”
“We should not see this as a short term tactical compromise. We should see this as a very big leap for the industry,” Shankar said.
Devgn said: “We can make more films, we can make different kind of films. We can release some in theatres, some on the platform. I think it is a fabulous thing. We are just growing.” Devgn starred in “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior,” Bollywood’s biggest 2020 hit with $49 million box office.
Amazon Prime Video began the trend of big-ticket Indian films going directly to streamers, with titles like “Gulabo Sitabo,” starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, and “Ponmagal Vandhal,” starring Jyotika.
India has recorded 550,000 coronavirus cases with 16,500 deaths, according to official figures. Maharashtra, the state in which the Bollywood and Marathi-language film industries are based, extended lockdown on Monday through July 31.