In Dialogue With Cinema

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Where The Story Began

My first tryst with cinema at the big screen happened when I watched Mohabbatein. My memories of it are hazy at best but certain vivid fragments remain including the catchy songs and the actors dancing in their shiny lehengas, bedecked with ornate bangles and the glint of silver anklets which 4- year-old me was transfixed by. My parents tell me I wouldn’t stop dancing and singing along to the movie’s songs for weeks after. I would also insist on wearing my own bangles and payals while I did it. Even now when I hear Lata Mangeshkar’s voice singing the soundtrack of the movie, I’m instantly transported to that magical moment of experiencing cinema at the big screen for the very first time.

Cinema often serves as a vessel for special memories associated with it. For my mother it evokes the nostalgia of her carefree summer holidays as a child when she used to go watch movies at the theatre with her cousins. For my grandmother, it conjures the memories of her perched upon the back of my grandfather’s bicycle, en route to the cinema. Watching a movie at the theatre has always been a holistic experience. Who you go with, what you eat during or after the movie, the shared moments of laughter and empathy with an assembly of strangers — each element contributes to the elevation of the cinematic experience.

Distinct Mediums, Diverse Roles

Now that OTT has brought us easy access to movies, has the big screen lost its charm? I don’t think so. Sure, now we can see a movie whenever we want from the comfort of our couch but there are still some movies I reserve to experience at the big screen. I still anticipate certain movies, plan ahead and set aside a day to go watch them in the theatre. In my mind, these are special movies which deserve special treatment. During my years living abroad I would especially go watch Indian releases at the cinema so I could experience it with my community and feel at home. I have friends who will not only watch Shah Rukh Khan’s movies at the theatre but also book first show first day. Certain movies with 3D effects or animations like Avatar: The Way of the Water and the recent Spider Man: Across the Spider Verse are made in way that you can only get the full experience when you watch it in the theatre. Similarly, Barbie and Oppenheimer are not just new releases but a pop cultural phenomenon that has everyone flocking to the theatre to experience it firsthand.

The audience has a different palette when it comes to which films, they would want to watch at the big screen and which they would prefer watching on OTT platforms from the comfort of their own home. For example, I love watching horror films with my friends when we get together at each other’s houses, but I would not like to watch a horror movie at the theatre. Same goes for movies that have a lot of violence or disturbing content. Moreover, as someone who considers herself a cinephile, I like to watch a range of films in foreign languages other than English and popular old movies which are easily available on OTT platforms. Going out to the theatre is reserved for big-budget spectacle films like Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Marvel movies.

Even from the production standpoint, filmmakers sometimes prefer releasing their movies on OTT platforms if they want to bypass the Censor board or if they feel their film would get more attention online than in theatres. These are mostly mid-budget films with serious storylines or movies exploring experimental genres like Qala and Darlings.

The Converging Landscape

As a discerning viewer, instead perceiving the big screen and OTT platforms as antagonistic competitors, I consider them as complimentary mediums that give me more freedom of choice and enrich my entertainment landscape. For me, they constitute two facets of a dynamic coin, each offering distinct advantages that seamlessly dovetail into my lifestyle. The silver screen, with its grandeur and shared communal experience, becomes a canvas for immersive spectacles that take centre stage during cinematic outings. On the other hand, the realm of OTT platforms, with their convenience and personalized accessibility, gives me the option to curate my own cinematic experience. This holistic approach ensures that cinematic magic is never far away, no matter which medium it takes form in.


Standard, Business. “With 994 MN Tickets Sold Last Year, Indian Movie Business Is Perking Up.” Business Standard, 11 June 2023, sold-last-year-indian-movie-business-is-perking-up-123061100655_1.html

Varghese, Mr Sony, and Selvin Chinnaiah. “Is OTT Industry a Disruption to Movie Theatre Industry?” Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 3 Feb. 2021, industry-a-disruption-to-movie-theatre-industry-10061.html