The influx of internet TV and the expansion of indigenous OTT platforms catering to regional cinema content, have propelled a range of generic and creative experimentation in Malayalam cinema. The spike in subscription during the Covid-19 lockdown (up to 55-60 per cent according to the BCG-CII Media and Entertainment Report) reshaped traditional market patterns, making direct-to-streaming release a lucrative choice for producers. The mix of players like SonyLIV, ZEE5, alongside bigger names like Disney+Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, offer a competitive market for purchase as well as new kinds of productions in Indian regional languages, including Malayalam. Even newer streaming platforms such as Prime Reels and Neestream, have also emerged during this period, focusing solely on Malayalam film content.
The move to internet television for releasing films that were on the verge of completion started during the pandemic, with C U Soon (Mahesh Narayanan, 2020), which was publicised as a “computer-screen movie”. The trend continued with films such as Minnal Murali (Basil Joseph, 2021) that saw the provincialisation of the superhero genre through localised idioms. Unlike pre-pandemic theatrical and satellite releases, streaming platforms also allowed such regional content to reach a transnational viewership. Effectively, it bust the myth that regional cinema is limited by language affiliations, an effect perhaps also of the platforms’ algorithm-based AI feed of suggested content. The moot point here is that this provides filmmakers with some latitude in exploring and experimenting with topics that deviate from expectations that have traditionally accompanied theatrical releases.