Shoojit Sircar on Gulabo Sitabo's digital release: Understood theatre owners' point of view
As Gulabo Sitabo opts for the digital premiere, director Shoojit Sircar on taking the leap of faith despite empathising with exhibitors.
Shoojit Sircar made a brave move when he opted for a digital premiere of his next, Gulabo Sitabo. Expectedly, it invited the wrath of exhibitors and distributors who felt betrayed by the director's decision. As several filmmakers followed in Sircar's steps to seek direct-to-web release for their offerings, leading multiplex chain Inox warned of "retributive measures".
Sitting in his Kolkata home, a week after Cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc in West Bengal, Sircar is poised and pragmatic when asked if he is worried about the consequences. "Once you've made a decision, there can be no scope for fear. It's not about being brave; the situation compelled us to adapt. When I read Inox's [statement], I understood the theatre owners' point of view. If I were in their position, I, too, would have expressed my discomfort. I told them it's not a personal decision. If it weren't for the lockdown, the film would have released in theatres."
Sircar reveals that he considered releasing the Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana starrer on Amazon Prime Video only after the original release date — April 17 — went by, without the promise of a solution in sight. "I work on one film at a time. I finish the film, take care of the finances and move to the next. I have no bank [of movies to fall back on]. Moreover, I have a history of movies not releasing, like Shoebite. Amazon promised that they would [promote] this film like a big cinema release. I have never had my film releasing in 200 countries in multiple languages," he says, adding that a few releases on OTT in the current scenario will not compromise the theatre business. "These platforms co-existed with theatres for the past few years. Binge-watching can't change the experience of going to cinemas."
The quirky comedy is his third directorial venture with Bachchan after the unreleased Shoebite and the much loved Piku (2015). Such is his admiration for the megastar that Sircar couldn't imagine anyone except him in the role of the acid-tongued landlord Mirza. "Even while writing the script, I knew that it'd be Mr Bachchan. As soon as a film is over, he is hangla [greedy] for my next. The idea of Ayushmann playing Banke developed later, after we determined the character's age."
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