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Will DocuBay's entry give more recognition to documentaries in India?

While some say that in India, there is no culture of documentaries, others believe that non-fictional films have a thriving market in the country.

April 22, 2019 / 09:28 PM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

Recently, in an interview actor Pankaj Tripathi had said that while science makes life easier, it is art that makes it worth living. It looks like online video platforms are doing just that – offering something new every day and coming up with novel ideas to bring top-notch content to viewers. This time, it is a segment which has been long ignored by a significant section of the society – documentaries.

A video-on-demand service called DocuBay, which will feature a global catalogue of documentaries for Indian audiences, will soon come to India.

The global premiere of the platform is scheduled this summer, including India in its first phase.

Talking to Moneycontrol, Akul Tripathi, COO, DocuBay, said “ Every other platform carries documentaries, but nobody carries only documentaries. The segment has not been given that space and recognition, which perhaps it deserves. Like in the entertainment industry, you have series and feature films. In the factual entertainment industry, you have docu-series and documentaries which are the feature films of the factual entertainment world. And, they are just a neglected child.”

Seeing this as an untapped opportunity, DocuBay claims to be a place where they are “trying to get people who like documentaries to come together as a tribe – to watch them, to make them, and to give a platform to those who want to showcase their work to the world,” he added.

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Whether there is an appetite for documentaries or not, Tripathi says that “documentaries are quite a phenomenon world over. They are popular and they are a staple diet of people’s viewing habits.”

While some say that in India, there is no culture of documentaries, others believe that non-fictional films have a thriving market in the country.

In fact, in 2014, as many as three documentaries had released in theatres and had found decent traction at the box office. Katiyabaaz, made at a budget of Rs 1.25 crore did a business of Rs 14.75 crore. However, the other two films released that year – Nishtha Jain's Gulabi Gang and Nisha Pahuja's The World Before Her failed at the box office with Rs 2.50 lakh and Rs 10 lakh, respectively.

Success at the box office depends a lot on marketing and creating a buzz around the film, which too is seeing a change in the documentary segment.

The good news is that the demand for good content, including documentaries, is rising steadily, penetrating through Tier I and Tier II cities. The proof of this is when around 600 people came to watch Katiyabaaz in Patna and 1,200 in Allahabad.

That is why even distributors are getting comfortable with releasing documentaries.

Adding to this space soon will be DocuBay, that will focus on two aspects – discovery, and curation.

“As a documentary-only app, we will have a less clutter of titles. Curation is going to be relevant and unique,” said Tripathi.

While it will be a paid app, subscription plans and other details will be revealed at the time of the launch.

On whether there is apprehension of the OTT space getting crowded, Tripathi said, “I agree the horizontal space is crowded, but DocuBay is a segmented, vertical, genre-specific offering, and while the average horizontal RPU (revenue per user) is falling across the spectrum, we are confident that the vertical will see an increase because it will have loyal audiences.”

On whether DocuBay will bring any change to the documentary or independent filmmaking space in India, Tripathi said, “It is a far cry to say that DocuBay will revolutionise this space. We will take definitive steps in putting documentaries on it. India definitely needs a platform that showcases documentaries.”

Giving no exact details Tripathi also added that DocuBay will be adding one documentary every day on its platform and that their investments will be around content. “We are buying documentaries. There are other on-ground activities like film festivals,” added Tripathi.

Some of the documentaries that will feature on DocuBay include Gangway to a future, Eagles of the Forest, Where to Miss, and  Sealers, among others. These documentaries come from across the globe including Brazil, Delhi, Netherlands.

Even DocuBay is betting big on India. “India has a great repository of talent. It is one of the largest audience bases in the world. There are viewers and there is among the strongest and cheapest internet network in the world available over here,” said Tripathi.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Apr 22, 2019 09:28 pm

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