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D Suresh Babu on 'Narappa', OTTs, future of theatres & more

Monday, July 19, 2021 • Telugu Comments

D Suresh Babu on Narappa, OTTs, future of theatres & more

'Narappa', starring Venkatesh in the lead, is going to stream on Amazon Prime Video from July 20. Producer D Suresh Babu has interacted with the media ahead of the film.

In this interview, he also talks about why OTTs are relevant, the future of theatres, and more.

Excerpts:

'Narappa' is a commercial film that has been shot very realistically. No writer would have written a poor man's role for Venkatesh. That's why we got attracted to 'Asuran'. Kollywood writer Vetri Maaran thinks out of the box. He wrote and directed the Tamil original. 'Narappa' is also a performance-driven family drama. There is a strong social commentary without making it in your face.

Venkatesh has done 75 movies, but he has never played a poor man facing existential issues before. He is a sincere actor and was thoroughly involved in the film.

Director Sreekanth Addala himself wanted to direct the movie. It was his proposal. He understands subtle emotions and has done a fine job.

D Suresh Babu on Narappa, OTTs, future of theatres & more

In order to bring nativity, we wanted to bring a dry look. Therefore, we have chosen Rayalaseema as the backdrop. We were shooting in Tamil Nadu in 2020 when we came to know that two people in the neighbouring village. We shelved the shoot. The subsequent schedules were canned amid an atmosphere of fear. I ensured that tests were conducted on a crazy scale. We implemented covid discipline diligently. Four people who worked on 'Narappa' died during the pandemic (not during but when the shoot was in the suspension mode).

The film is releasing on OTT for multiple reasons. I have produced it with Kalaipulli S Thanu of Kollywood. He lost out on revenue with 'Karnan' (Tamil) because of the second wave in April. He developed a fear that 'Narappa' too might run into losses if the epidemic curve goes up. So, he decided to sell the movie to Amazon Prime.

When producers are not ready to send their families to cinemas, why invite the audience to see your movies only in theatres? Then there is the fear of whether the audience will be willing to watch a movie in theatres during the pandemic. Considering all these factors, we are releasing 'Narappa' on OTT.

D Suresh Babu on Narappa, OTTs, future of theatres & more

For Venkatesh, 'Narappa' is a mass outing. But the OTT release couldn't be avoided. We have to be practical in life. This decision has not been taken only by me. I am working with partners on some movies. I can't prevent them from benefitting financially. I am a distributor and have stakes in the exhibition sector. I can't put my partners, who have no theatres, at a disadvantage by refusing to sell to OTT. I can't be selfish.

I married off my son Rana last year. There were only 32 guests when I could have celebrated the occasion a grand way. We asked servers to be out of sight after having them put food on the table. We are living in tough times.

Suresh Productions is going to bring out OTT content. SP Digital is predominantly for YouTube content.

We should not try to fight the OTT. Suresh Productions was into making only movies initially. We have since diversified into several mediums. As a producer, I am satisfied when my movie gets appreciated and I also make profits.

OTT can't be wished away. Had it not been for the pandemic, OTT would have had to wait for its fame. Thanks to OTT, there are web series and a lot of the industry is getting work. An ecosystem is developing aside from the film industry. All OTTs are making content, providing work for artists, technicians and workers. Even the producers will benefit, but the distributors will be affected negatively. Therefore, the governments have to help out the exhibition sector by waiving minimum electricity charges, property tax for a period of time. The government is yet to raise the ticket prices (in Andhra Pradesh).

D Suresh Babu on Narappa, OTTs, future of theatres & more

A lot of theatres are in prime areas. Despite the pandemic, they are still running theatres. In 2000, we had 3,000 screens in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. We now have only 1750 screens and less than 1200 properties. Hundreds have been shut down because of TV, piracy, and several other factors. In the long run, both high-quality theatres and OTT will survive.

Disney is the biggest studio in the world. They recently released 'Black Widow' in theatres after months of wait. Even they released it on OTT simultaneously. Why did they do it? Because they know the audiences' preferences are changing. The OTT cost per ticket is thirty dollars, which is three times more than the theatre ticket price.

From now on, the width of the theatrical release and OTT release window will shrink. A movie will stream on OTT within a couple of weeks of its release in cinemas in a lot of cases. Salman Khan is a superstar and he released 'Radhe' on OTT. Why did he do that? Because the stakes are very, very huge. We have no other choice. Producers have to pay back to financiers. I have learned to be realistic. We can't keep waiting for theatres.

There will be super screens in the coming years, especially in cities. Three to four years from now, we will have 50-seater theatres in building complexes, which will be linked to some chain. They will have two or three shows per day. A McKinzie report says that even banks are going to have screens. Why? Because the customers are able to transact everything online and there is no incentive for them to visit a bank. In order to attract customers, whose physical presence is needed to advertise a lot of products/services, the banks will offer entertainment. In 10 years, we will see massive changes.

We have floated SP Music with 'Narappa'. As a company, we have given break to a lot of talents. SP Music will provide a platform for talents. We will be setting up recording studios in several towns in the Telugu States.

The Telugu remake of 'Drushyam 2' has a lot of changes compared to the original. We have removed some boring scenes from the original and added 4-5 new ones.

D Suresh Babu on Narappa, OTTs, future of theatres & more

Amazon Prime or any other OTT will buy our movies in the future only if films like 'Narappa' does well. Prime is very confident that 'Narappa' will be watched even in the interiors.

The ticket prices in theatres in AP are unsustainable. They won't survive unless they do some fraud. The rates have to be revised by the government at the earliest.

Ramanaidu Studios in Vizag is my personal property. Its land was bought from the government at a higher price than the prevalent price at that time. The cost was Rs 3 lakh per acre at that time. I bought it at Rs 5.5 lakh per acre. I can convert the land and build even a hotel. Of course, the government can take any land for public purposes. But it can do so only after paying me compensation.

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