What has grabbed attention at this year's Oscar nominations is a bevy of web titles, including Don't Look Up, The Mitchells vs The Machines, Coming To America 2 and Tick, Tick... Boom! (all 2021), that have earned a place alongside theatrical releases.
Web film The Power Of The Dog (2021) received a total of 12 nominations, making it the film with the most nominations at the 2022 Academy Awards. This is the first time that web films have earned a staggering 80 nominations across various categories at the Oscars.
So, what does this trend of web films being considered for prominent film-specific award functions mean for the entertainment business worldwide? "This is a great step forward," says Suparn Verma, writer of the web series The Family Man. He adds, "A film is a film whether you see it on the small or the large screen. It, ultimately, boils down to craft."
Filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar believes that the pandemic has already evened out the difference between both the mediums and that this trend would imply an equal representation of web and theatrical films: "Due to the on-going pandemic, theatres remained closed for a long time. As a result, most of the films released on OTT platforms, and this has bridged the chasm between the two."
Jury member of the 67th National Awards, filmmaker Subhash Ghai, agrees with Zafar and says, "In this changing scenario of virtual reality, we need to accept the change that all audio-visual media will compete together in award shows and film festivals, in India and abroad. After all, competition is about excellence of content and narrative and this shouldn't matter."
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, however, asserts that the award functions for web films and films should be different. He elaborates, "Putting both of them in the same bracket won't do justice to either. In a film award show, web films will ways be seen as a poor cousin and won't get the importance it deserves."
Producer and film business expert Girish Johar points out that OTT films have been considered for film festivals for a while now, the latest instance being the International Film Festival of India, 2021: "It's all about celebrating content. So, why should creators lose out if their films didn't have a theatrical release?" he asks, and adds, "The Oscar and other global entertainment think tanks believe that content creation, as a whole, should be awarded, and inclusivity of content should be lauded."
On a parting note, Verma says, "We've to take a cue from the West. I hope that National Awards follow suit. It's just a matter of time."