OTT platform Netflix has been infamous in India for furthering a communist-Islamist agenda for years since its inception and yet it has broken the deal to show the film, Laal Singh Chaddha, with the Bollywood actor and filmmaker who clearly has an Islamist agenda. Clearly, the reason could not have been ideological. It has never been in the entertainment industry.
Sources in the trade say Netflix was upbeat about the film till last week. Laal Singh Chaddha premiered for a special audience comprising film journalists on Thursday, 11 August. Directed by Advait Chandan, the film, which is a rehash of the Tom Hanks starrer Forrest Gump, features Kareena Kapoor Khan too. Besides the promotions, hype, and anticipation surrounding the film, ethically compromised journalists and social media influencers said that Laal Singh Chaddha would open with a bang.
This was supposed to be this year’s biggest money-spinner, said the 'experts', adding that the audience was keenly awaiting the film that would be out for the general public the next day. But Laal Singh Chaddha tanked, drawing in Rs. 11.70 crore on the first day, following a widespread call for boycotting the film to teach the lead actor who had once said his family was feeling unsafe in this country a lesson. With the baggage of having starred in PK, with the audacity of a Tablighi Jamaat affiliate lampooning Hindu gurus, the business of Laal Singh Chaddha failed to gather steam over the weekend ending its first weekend collections with Rs. 37.96 cr.
Meanwhile, Aamir Khan had been in talks with Netflix to sell the digital rights before its OTT release. Talks between the two parties had reached an advanced stage, but the deal ultimately fell through. Sources say the deal between Aamir Khan and Netflix soured as the call for the boycott trended along with some honest reviews by Thursday viewers who said the film had been made so bad that it would have flopped even without anybody calling for a boycott.
Already before last Friday, Netflix was ill at ease with the price Aamir Khan had demanded. "Aamir Khan was very keen on showing Laal Singh Chaddha on Netflix. He wanted the global push that the film would get through the streaming giant which has close to 200 million plus subscribers. Further, the target audience that Netflix was bringing on to the table was in complete sync with what Aamir Khan was looking for which was not possible with either Amazon Prime Video or Disney+ Hotstar given their audience profile," a highly placed trade source said.
Aamir Khan had started negotiations with the demand for a whopping Rs 150 crore, citing his box office history and records of his previous ventures, the source said. The Islamist actor was also confident Laal Singh Chaddha would keep running in theatres for a whole six months until which Netflix should wait, the industry expert said.
"Netflix tried their best to get Aamir Khan to relent and lower the cost and time period between the theatrical and OTT release. They were ready to offer a figure of around Rs 80 crore to Rs 90 crore. But the actor stuck to the price and the timeline since he was also looking to release the film in China. Netflix finally offered a deal at Rs 50 crore."
Aamir Khan continued to pitch the film for Rs 125 crore, an amount that Netflix felt was over the top for the digital rights. Aamir Khan, in fact, bragged that he was underselling his product that deserved Rs 300 crore. The source said Aamir Khan had presumed Laal Singh Chaddha would do so well at the box office that Netflix would come back to the negotiation table post-release even as it was not willing to pay up the sum demanded until last Friday. Netflix dashed his hopes by deciding not to go ahead with the negotiations and backed out.
The disastrous performance of Laal Singh Chaddha has sealed the fate of the Netflix deal. The already loss-making OTT platform would not buy a product that could not sell. Other OTT platforms have shallower pockets; their interest in the film is out of the question.
Last heard, Viacom 18 Studios and Aamir Khan Productions are now left with no choice but to release the movie on Voot as a formality — for a pittance. Voot reportedly has 1 million paid subscribers.