While the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the media and entertainment industry hard, the over-the-top streaming platforms have given a major boost to some independent filmmakers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Among the latest successful projects on OTT platforms from filmmakers of J&K is ‘Lines’ and ‘Lihaaf’. The award-winning films are making their digital debut on Voot Select on July 29.
The 90-minute film 'Lines' has been directed by Kashmir-based filmmaker Hussein Khan. It depicts a story of love, longing and struggle of divided families living across the Line of Control in J&K. The film is a joint venture of the Jammu-based filmmaker Rahat Kazmi and famous Kashmiri television star Hina Khan.
The film was nominated in the best picture category at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) awards. It won Hina the best actress award at the Montgomery International Film Festival in the USA.
Another film ‘Lihaaf’ is also produced by Kazmi along with the Oscar-winning French producer Marc Bachet of ‘No Man’s Land’. The film is based on a short story by a famous Urdu writer and novelist Ismat Chugtai.
‘Lihaaf’s’ first look was launched at the Cannes film festival a few years back. Later it went on to win 11 international awards in different film festivals across the globe.
The filmmakers of J&K were already at a huge disadvantage due to the absence of cinema halls in Kashmir and the suspension of outsourcing of programmes by DD Srinagar and DD Kashir. However, recent back-to-back lockdowns have allowed them to look towards the restricted platforms' options to get their work released.
Rising Kashmir spoke to some of the filmmakers who expressed hope amid the unexpected situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on their work.
“We are lucky that these platforms exist,” said filmmaker Hussein Khan, adding “Otherwise, it would have been difficult for filmmakers like me to survive in unexpected situations of the pandemic.”
Khan, who made his directorial debut with the locally-produced film Kashmir Daily, said the filmmakers can at least recover their money spent on independent films.
“My film already received acclaim internationally but the spike in viewership of OTT is a ray of hope for me to earn money also,” he said.
With every educational institute and some workplaces being closed temporarily, people are looking for ways to keep themselves entertained. The present trend of work from home has forced people to subscribe to OTT apps.
Mir Sarwar, a leading Bollywood actor said people were afraid to venture out so these OTT platforms provide them with a sense of security as they run on phones, TV, and computer to keep viewers engaged and safe at home.
Sarwar has played a lead role in the movie ‘Lihaaf’. He also appeared in big-banner movies being released on the OTT platforms rather than in the theatres.
He thinks gripping films and other formats enable people to sit at home without feeling the need to go outdoors.
“Now, it has become a trend rather than a compulsion to watch films at home because viewers can now choose content across genres depending on one’s mood and preference,” he said.
Sarwar said the OTT platform gives viewers a plethora of content options available.
“That is why artists and other creative professionals from J&K are also now exploring the option for releasing their films directly on OTT platforms,” he said.
The filmmakers and producers from J&K have also realized the gravity of the situation given that this is the second year in a row that filmmakers are waiting for a clear theatrical window.
“We also wanted to take advantage of these platforms till things become normal,” said Ahmer Haider, actor-cum producer.
“I have also worked in many films which are being released on OTT platforms. In fact, several films earned good revenue even as the Covid-19 pandemic raged on,” he said.