2020 Rewind : An Unusual Year For Tollywood As It Adopts OTT Releases

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2020 began as any other normal year, as people all over the world welcomed a new year by celebrating with friends and family, either by going out and enjoying some fireworks or staying in the cozy comfort of their homes in the winter.  As is the case with any new year, people looked forward to a fresh start with hopes and things were going fine for a couple of months until it was eventually cut short.  

When news about a new strain of highly contagious virus which broke out in the Wuhan province of China came out, the rest of the world watched with bated breath as to how the drama was unfolding.  Come the month of March, dreams turned into a nightmare as the virus soon spread all across the world and eventually India.  As countries tried to cope with an overburdened medical infrastructure and fatigued doctors who worked relentlessly to save lives, an even worse scenario was unfolding.  Many governments declared nationwide lockdowns in order to check the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which meant businesses had to close down shutters.  Several industries were badly hit by this decision and one of them is the movie making business in India.  

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As is the case with every Sankranti, Tollywood unveiled two big movies Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo and Sarileru Neekevvaru.  These two biggies were released in theaters and went on to shatter multiple box office records.  By the time February was coming to a close, theaters were asked to shut down as a precautionary measure before a lockdown was eventually declared.  The lockdown, which was intended for a month, eventually stretched on to six months.

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If there were no theaters to release movies, how did the movie industry cope with the scenario? Stories need to be told and stories always find a way to be told.  Humans are resilient creatures who find opportunities in adversity.  The Over The Top (OTT) medium came as a blessing in disguise.  Platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Aha and Zee5 suddenly became hot cakes.  Directors and producers realised they could reach a wider audience by releasing movies via the OTT medium.  The lockdown will go down in history as a period which saw a golden era of Tollywood.  Young directors like Ravikanth Perepu (Krishna And His Leela), Sandeep Raj (Colour Photo) and Aditya Mandala (Maa Vintha Gaadha Vinuma)  released their movies alongside biggies like Hemanth Madhukar (Nishabdham,) Eashwar Karthic (Penguin) and Sudha Kongara (Aakasam Nee Haddura.)    

As 2020 is almost about to end, movie theaters were finally allowed to open and resume screenings.  Sai Dharam Tej’s Solo Brathuke So Better, was the first movie to release in theaters upon their reopening.  Many producers watched its progress with bated breath but the Telugu people who love their theatrical experiences welcomed the movie with much needed cheer.  As our patience wears thin and fatigue slowly creeps in, Tollywood and its directors, actors and actresses, producers, musicians and artists are doing all they can to make a bleak year a passable experience.

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