The actor-director has postponed the release of his latest film, ‘Vishwaroopam’

The novel idea of actor-director Kamal Haasan to release his latest film, “Vishwaroopam”, through the direct-to-home (DTH) platform has created anxiety among film distributors and exhibitors in the State, which has a significant presence of Tamil film-goers.

Earlier, Kamal Haasan, in Chennai, announced that he was considering the advice of film industry representatives to release the film through DTH the same day as its theatre release. He had said that he had not dropped the idea of releasing the tri-lingual film through the DTH platform. And, he had postponed the film’s release.

The film industry here is anxious because, according to Kannada Film Producers’ Association president K.V. Chandrashekar, there will a paradigm shift in the film-watching culture and in the process, the distribution and exhibition sector will become “irrelevant”.

In the same breath the representatives of film industry conceded the fact that over the years the entertainment industry had witnessed swift changes and DTH is another phase. “As theatre suffered with the advent of cinema, as cinema halls faced problems with the emergence of the small screen (TV), as the single screen lost its relevance with the launch of multiplexes, the film exhibition sector is bound to suffer with the advent of DTH,” according to “Mars” Suresh, a distributor.

Meanwhile, cine-goers are happy with Kamal Haasan’s experiment with his mega movie. Though watching a film in a multiplex is a different experience altogether, cine-goers might opt for the DTH experience, as they are frustrated with the high admission rate and “hidden charges” (meaning exorbitant price for eatables and drinking water inside the multiplexes).

“Recently, I spent Rs. 1,500 to watch ‘Drama’ at a multiplex. My entire family can watch ‘Vishwaroopam’ by paying mere Rs. 1,000 for a particular premiere,” said Ammi Nalloor, a web editor.

According to him, the quality of film will not suffer, as DTH offers high quality digital print and even audio effects could be enhanced depending on the facilities available with a viewer.

The proponents of releasing a film through the DTH format assert that the issue of piracy won’t affect “Vishwaroopam” as the DTH providers are said to have agreed to not allow video-recording of the film by subscribers during telecast. “This is the perfect solution to fighting piracy,” says Mr. Suresh.

Welcoming Kamal Haasan’s move, producer Rockline Venkatesh says that it is better to throw open the market to new technology.

“However, the result should be positive and remunerative for the film industry; a producer should be able to recover his investment,” he says.

Mr. Venkatesh also pointed out the risks involved saying the “success of a film released through DTH depends on word-of-mouth publicity. Releasing a film through DTH is a double-edged sword. The opinion formed following the premiere of a film can mar or enhance its business.”

It seems that it is the exhibitors who are worried about taking the DTH route. “Over 15 lakh people in Bangalore have DTH connections. If they prefer to watch ‘Vishwaroopam’ on their TV sets, who will come to the cinemas to watch films?” asks Chandrashekar, who owns Veeresh cinema. “Leave alone single screens, it is the multiplexes which will suffer because of this,” he adds.