Cinema is the global birth right of every individual: Rizwan Ahamd @ #MIFF Master Class

Covid 19 has accelerated the process of digital transformation in film viewing all around the world. As the pandemic forced people to lock themselves up indoors, there has been an exponential increase in viewership through OTT platforms from home. But in this huge transformation of cinema from movie theatres to OTT, are some geographical areas, people and cultures entirely left out? Is OTT ringing the death bells for traditional cinema theatres? Can OTT and screens co-exist?

These are some of the very pertinent questions discussed and answered in the Master Class held in connection with the 17th edition of Mumbai International Film Festival. Rizwan Ahamd, Director of the Instructional Media Centre, MANUU, Hyderabad lead the Master Class. He is a full-time member of the International Council for Film Television and Audiovisual Communication (ICFT), Paris and the International Documentary Association, Los Angeles.

Rizwan Ahamd said that Cinema is the global birth right of each and every individual in this world. “Many parts of the world don’t have the desired infrastructure to support the extension of cinema to new platforms. The biggest challenge is the uneven distribution of resources. If you consider the situation in India, only 47 % of audience has access to the internet. The rest 53 % of the population has every right to watch the rich content available on OTT”, he added. He suggested that OTT players need to work out a methodology and create separate business model to reach out to the large majority of excluded rural population.

Dispelling fears of OTT platforms taking over traditional cinema halls, Rizwan Ahamd said that OTT can never replicate the film viewing experience and social celebration that cinema theatres offer. “The debate of screen versus OTT is not in the right direction. Technological developments will keep happening and it can’t be stopped.  A balanced approach is what we need here. There has to be a collaborative relationship between screen and OTT platforms. Theatre owners need to find out innovative strategies and approaches for attracting people to theatres, ” he elaborated.

Rizwan Ahamd further added that OTT platforms need to respect cultural identities of the region while producing content. He also underlined that OTT is not the end of digital transformation happening in cinema. “Platforms like free ad-supported streaming TV services (FAST) are becoming popular and this process will continue”, he concluded.