Punjabi cinema has been struggling for a while now. Ever since Covid, recovering money by just a theatrical release hasn’t been the sure-short route for producers in Pollywood. While critics may cite reasons for films not working in theatres, right from repetitive faces to sameness in content, OTT viewership of the same films tell a different story. We ask industry people the reason behind Punjabi films grabbing eyeballs on digital platforms but not in cinema halls.
Punjabi films on OTT
Kali Jotta Chaupal
Aaja Mexico Chaliye Chaupal
Chall Mera Putt Prime Video
Sufna Prime Video
Carry on Jatta MX Player, Airtel Xstream
Jatt and Juliet Hotstar, Airtel Xstream
Just as Punjabi cinema was improving, Covid struck and spoilt it all. However, Punjabi diaspora in the USA, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have made sure Punjabi film on OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and Zee5, score well. Some the popular Punjabi movies currently available on various OTT platforms include Chall Mera Putt, Qismat, Sufna, Manje Bistre, Jatt & Juliet, and Carry on Jatta. Nitin Gupta, chief content officer of OTT channel, Chaupal, shares, “As much as 20-25 per cent audience is from abroad. Among the foreign markets, Canada is the biggest, followed by Australia, America, UK and the middle-east. Punjabi diaspora is hungry for regional content. They want entertainment in their own language. We offer them stories representing their culture in foreign settlements, which keeps them connected to their roots in India.”
Chall Mera Putt franchise director, Janjot Singh, shares, “OTT has helped a great deal in creating a good opening for the film Chall Mera Putt 2 in theatres. Many had watched the first part on Prime Video and so turned up at theatres for the sequel. Thus, Chall Mera Putt 2 collected Rs 1.3 crore on the opening day of its release in theatres. Nowadays, people are happy watching films on their TV screens. Also, the ticket prices and other expenses on snacks etc are the reason why people are avoiding theatres. When they know that in a month or two the film will be available on OTT, people prefer to wait. It’s a huge loss for makers, but for audience OTT is a boon.”
In 2023, Kali Jotta, starring Neeru Bajwa and Satinder Sartaaj for the first time together, did well in theatres but its OTT release on Chaupal also broke viewership records for the platform. Furthermore, in 2022, Ammy Virk-starrer Aaja Mexico Chaliye clocked maximum downloads, among other Punjabi titles.
While in theatres it only recovered its budget, through the OTT platform it managed to reach global audiences and fared well. Ammy shares, “After Covid, audiences have become smarter and would not turn up at theatres, unless the trailer is impressive. Also, many rely on critics and public reviews before they risk money on a new release. That’s where OTT platforms help. Punjabi diaspora across the globe has helped us in selling our content to OTT giants like Netflix and Prime Video. Even pan-Indian audience has been exposed to the content from Punjab via OTT.”
(With inputs by Muskaan)
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