2020 may have brought the world to an unprecedented halt due to the coronavirus pandemic but it resulted in a great surge in demand for content on the OTT platforms as TV shows had to stop shoot and films were not being released in theatres. The streaming giants like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, ALTBalaji, SonyLIV, MXPlayer and others rose to the occasion to fulfill the home-bound audience with their daily dose of entertainment.
Several films released on digital medium as theatres were shut and web shows and original films saw a boost during the year. Along with the good news came the controversies that plagued the digital medium. Here’s all that made headlines in OTT in the year 2020.
Sadak 2 debacle and poster controversy
Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Kapur and Pooja Bhatt starrer Sadak 2 was one of the most anticipated films of the year as it brought back Mahesh Bhatt back to the director’s chair. However, the film courted controversy right from its poster release. Its poster showcased an image of Kailash Mansarovar. A complaint was filed against it for allegedly ‘hurting religious sentiments of Hindus’. Sadak 2 also bore the brunt of the audience’s boycott as its trailer became the most disliked trailer on YouTube and the film received an extremely low rating on IMDb.
Paatal Lok Controversies
Anushka Sharma produced web series starring Jaideep Ahlawat in the lead emerged as the most loved and critically acclaimed show of the year. However, it courted several controversies for its violence, community depiction and hurting religious sentiments. MLA Nandkishor Gurjar filed a complaint against the makers for using his photograph in the series without his permission. Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjinder Singh Sirsa shared his concern about the depiction of Sikh characters in Paatal Lok and had demanded a ban on the series. The Gorkha community was also upset for the usage of a sexist and racist slur in the series depicting the community.
Prakash Jha’s ‘Aashram’ embroiled in legal tussle for hurting religious sentiments
Prakash Jha’s web series Aashram was slammed by several people for allegedly showing a Hindu saint as a rapist, corrupt and a drug dealer. Bobby Deol plays the role of the saint in the series. A petition was filed in Jodhpur court against Jha and Deol for the controversial portrayal of Hindu saints in their series. Jodhpur District and Session Judge Ravindra Joshi has listed the matter for hearing on January 11, 2021.
The content on digital platforms did not have a censor board in place unlike films and television. However, after growing concerns and complaints from people, the government asked the entertainment industry to self-regulate their programs on OTT platforms, claiming that many of them portray India and Indian society poorly. A gazette notification brought all streaming platforms under the ambit of the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B), sparking fears of a new censorship regime. Many have questioned the government’s stand while several have actually welcomed some kind of censorship on the web platforms.
Theatre and OTT tussle over revenue sharing
Multiplex Association of India announced that it will not screen a film in theatres which has already been released online. The bone of contention is the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) and revenue sharing due to which the multiplex owners and the service providers are unable to come to an amicable agreement.
Mira Nair’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ courts controversy for its kiss scene inside a temple
Mira Nair’s directorial A Suitable Boy courted controversy for a kiss scene filmed inside a temple. Leaders of a political party alleged that it hurts religious sentiments. The kissing scene was between a Hindu girl named Lata (Tanya Maniktala) and her Muslim suitor Kabir Durrani (Danesh Rizvi), the political leaders and netizens alleged that it promotes ‘love jihad’ and called for a boycott of the series.
Disney snub to ‘Khuda Haafiz’ and ‘Lootcase’
Disney+Hotstar made everyone sit up when it announced that it would be releasing 9 films on its streaming platform. However, in a launch event that was hosted by Varun Dhawan the digital platform failed to promote Vidyut Jammwal’s Khuda Haafiz and Kunal Kemmu’s Lootcase. The two leading actors took offence at the snub and tweeted about the unfair treatment. This was at a time when Bollywood was being targeted for nepotism, groupism and cliques, so the snub to Khuda Haafiz and Lootcase made a lot of noise.
Akshay Kumar’s ‘Sooryavanshi’ and Ranveer Singh’s ’83 not heading the OTT way
There were a lot of speculations and rumours going around that Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi and Ranveer Singh’s ’83 will also go the OTT way and release on digital platforms. However, both the makers i.e Kabir Khan and Rohit Shetty laid all speculations to rest by stating that the films will wait for the theatres to open and will be released in 2021 after everything goes back to normal.
Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives – gossip and controversy
Netflix brought another show Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives that depicted the lives of some of our actors’ better halves. Starring Neelam Kothari Soni, Seema Khan, Maheep Kapoor and Bhavana Panday the series received a mixed reaction with some hailing it while others calling it out for its superficiality. However, the series proved to be a winner and got the netizens talking. On the other hand, Madhur Bhandarkar alleged that producer Karan Johar had hijacked and ‘blatantly tweaked and misused’ the title of his project Bollywood Wives. However, after KJo tendered an apology to the award-winning filmmaker, Madhur called truce and let the matter die. The show also gave rise to speculations such as how Seema and Sohail Khan don’t stay together and the fact that Janhvi Kapoor wants to stay single for at least two years and that Shah Rukh Khan used to babysit Suhana Khan, Ananya Panday and Shanaya Kapoor when Gauri Khan used to party with Bhavana and Maheep.
Abhishek Bachchan’s OTT debut in ‘Breathe: Into the Shadows’
Abhishek Bachchan made his thrilling debut in web series Breathe: Into the Shadows. Playing the role of psychologist he earned accolades for his performance. Pitted against Amit Sadh and starring alongside Nithya Menen, Abhishek managed to give an impeccable performance in the crime-thriller.
Amit Sadh – poster boy of web
Amit Sadh erupted on the digital medium with a bang. With not one but three back-to-back releases this year he called the shots on the digital platform. He reprised his role of Inspector Kabir Sawant in Breathe:Into The Shadows and proved an impressive match to Abhishek Bachchan who made his OTT debut in the series on Amazon Prime Video. He followed the success with Avrodh: The Siege Within on SonyLIV and then had his film release in the form of Yaara on Zee5.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s ‘Dil Bechara’ break all records on OTT
Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely and tragic demise left his fans in utter shock. The promising actor let a deep void in the hearts of his fans that could not come to terms with his death. His last starring film Dil Bechara was released on Disney+Hotstar, as a tribute the streaming giant left the film open for all and that resulted in an overwhelmingly tremendous response with the film breaking several records. The film broke the viewership numbers by garnering the biggest opening ever. Its trailer became the most liked trailer on YouTube within 24 hours of release by amassing close to 70 million views. The film also received an IMDb rating of 10 within around 40 minutes of the film’s release, which is a huge achievement for any film. The film later settled at an IMDb rating of 9.8 out of 10 with close to 21 thousand votes from viewers. The film went on to secure the highest grade on ‘Top Rated Indian Movies’ list.
Delhi Crime wins India’s first International Emmy for Best Drama Series
Director Richie Mehta’s web series Delhi Crime won the International Emmy 2020 for Best Drama Series. The web series stars Shefali Shah, Denzel Smith, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain, Rajesh Tailang, Avijit Dutt, Gopal Dutt, Jaya Bhattacharya and Yashaswini Dayama. The series was released on Netflix and is set in the aftermath of the 2012 Delhi gang rape.
Anushka Sharma rules the roost with her production ventures ‘Paatal Lok’ and ‘Bulbbul’
Anushka Sharma did not have any release in 2020 but she still managed to have the last laugh as her production ventures Paatal Lok and Bulbbul were not only critically acclaimed but became highly successful. Web series Paatal Lok starring Jaideep Ahlawat in the lead turned out to be one of the best series of the year. The crime-thriller kept its audiences hooked with its gripping storyline, thrilling performances and taut and crisp direction and editing. Jaideep even lapped up the Best Actor Award at the first Filmfare OTT Awards.
On the other hand, Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam, Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Rahul Bose starrer Bulbbul became another hit from Anushka’s production house. Written and directed by Anvita Dutt, the film is set in the 1880’s Bengal presidency and revolves around a child-bride and her journey from innocence to strength. Tripti bagged the Best Actor Award for a Web Original Film at the recently concluded Filmfare OTT Awards 2020 for Bulbbul.
Pratik Gandhi’s and Hansal Mehta’s ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’
Hansal Mehta brought to life the notorious and infamous story of stockbroker and financial fraudster Harshad Mehta in the series Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story starring Pratik Gandhi in the titular role. The series earned applause for its depiction, direction, script and acting. Pratik became a household name after the show and Hansal found a mainstream popularity that was evading him for quite some time. Not to forget the music, the official theme of the web series by Achint made its way to caller tunes and what one will envision when he or she accomplishes something spectacular or particularly badass. The power-packed dialogues from writer Karan Vyas was another ace in the web series. The dialogues matched the natural style and swagger of Harshad and that made the series such a superb watch.
Sima Taparia on Indian Matchmaking
Netflix series Indian Matchmaking became the talk-of-the-town as it made the world aware how Indian arranged marriages take place. Sima Taparia aka Sima Aunty, the matchmaker became a household name and although the show also received brickbats for being regressive it became a big hit, s much so, many started calling her for finding their prospective marriage alliances.