2021's biggest hit on OTT was Shershaah, the Sidharth Malhotra starrer that worked across all segments of audiences and became one of the most loved films of the last year. Prior to that in 2020 it was Akshay Kumar's Laxmii that scored a huge record, not just with its opening day viewership but also its subsequent run. The common factor between these two films? They were both as commercial as they come, and were made for family viewing with audiences ranging from 6 to 60.
Gehraiyaan, releasing February 11 on Amazon Prime Video, differs from these films in one key respect - it is set to test readiness amongst Indian audiences when it comes to watching mature content on OTT.
Of course, there is an ocean out there when it comes to such content. What makes Gehraiyaan a truly important step for Bollywood as well as its loyal audience, is that this is the first time that a superstar is anchoring a film with such intimate scenes and a major production house backing it.
With Deepika Padukone in the film, there is a definite a familiarity factor amongst audiences across the country. On the other hand, Karan Johar and his Dharma Productions are known for their largely 'universal audience' outing, cases in point being last year's Shershaah and Gunjan Saxena - The Kargil Girl, a year before that. In the case of Gehraiyaan, both the production house and top actress are experimenting. (The film has three production companies associated with it: Dharma Productions, Viacom18 Studios and Jouska Films.)
To be honest to the audience, though, they are making efforts to let them know beforehand what to expect from this film about infidelity, how to be prepared when it comes to the intimacy quotient and why this is not being promoted as a film for one and all. (Those who don't watch it with the kids or parents around, have been forewarned.)
Taking an OTT route instead of conventional theatrical outing could well be the first major step in this direction. After all, the promo of the Shakun Batra (Kapoor & Sons) directed film pretty much screams 'for digital viewing'. With no filtering required, as would have been the case had it opted for a theatrical release, the film appears to be rather honest in its core storytelling, visuals and general feel and ambience.
The messaging so far is clear; Gehraiyaan is a niche outing and hence despite the presence of Deepika Padukone and the subject of infidelity and a love story gone wrong, it isn't a Cocktail type offering. The treatment is realistic and the visuals being the kind that have more of an international flavour than a 'desi' conventional Bollywood look and feel.
That, in a nutshell, could turn out to be a differentiating factor.