Internet TV service Netflix has been releasing independent Indian films globally since they launched in India last January. Up next is Chauthi Koot and Thithi, being released globally, with subtitles in over 20 languages. Chauthi Koot will be released on February 1st 2016, and the other two films will follow soon after. Chauthi Koot featured in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section in 2015, and won the National Film Award for Best Punjabi Feature. Thithi won several accolades in international film festivals and won the National Film Award for Best Kannada Film in 2015.
Netflix had released films like Umrika and Kothanodi last year immediately after their theatrical run ended, apart from many independent films like The Pink Mirror, Autohead, Radiopetti, and Dhanak. Rajinikanth-starrer Kabali was released by Netflix in South America with Portuguese and Spanish dubbing. They have also licensed some Indian documentaries, like Placebo, In His Shoes, Inshallah Football, and Katiyabaaz.
The company’s catalogue of Indian films mostly comprises independent titles, several of which did not have a theatrical or DVD release. Filmmaker Q’s Gandu, for example, was not released in India because the censor board refused to grant it a certificate. His newest film Brahman Naman was marketed as a Netflix Original globally.
Note that in February, the first two films from Netflix’s deal with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, Happy New Year and Dilwale, will be released.
Streaming players have edge for indie releases
Unlike theatrical release, where geography and mass appeal are essential, online release on services like Netflix lets smaller filmmakers reach audiences globally. Subtitling options also play a huge part in enabling content to be consumed by global audiences.
Data by uNoGS, a global Netflix search engine, shows that most Indian films (except for those available only in the Indian Netflix catalogue) have been released globally with subtitles in several languages, like Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, and more.
Some titles like Udta Punjab and Saheb Bibi Golam also have Bengali, Hindi, and Tamil subtitles, indicating that Netflix is experimenting with localising their catalogue in Asia.
Amazon Prime goes mass
Indian content on Amazon Prime Video’s library overwhelmingly comprises films targeted at wider audiences, like Dharma Productions’ slate of films including Baar Baar Dekho and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. However, they also have some independent critically acclaimed titles like Om-Dar-B-Dar, Qissa, Citylights, and Titli. They have also announced multiple stand-up comedy specials and Indian-produced Amazon Originals, whereas Netflix has only announced one original series from India.