A mere 20 days ago, the makers of Udta Punjab found themselves facing a crisis — no, not one pertaining to the film’s certification.
Instead, having engaged in and won an epic battle with the Central Board of Film Certification to release their film under an ‘Adult’ rating with minimal cuts, the team found itself up against a far more nebulous enemy: Piracy.
The entire print of Udta Punjab — bearing the “censor” watermark which meant this was the copy of the film that had been sent to the CBFC for certification — was “leaked” online by parties unknown.
With the film’s theatrical release just two days away, the Udta Punjab team — director Abhishek Choubey, producers Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures — approached the Mumbai Police’s Cyber Crime Cell for help. Several hundred links of the film were taken down from torrent sites, even as the film fraternity united to make fervent pleas to moviegoers to watch Udta Punjab in theatres rather than via these illegal downloads.
But Udta Punjab is not an isolated incident.
On 6 July, Wednesday, news emerged that the complete print — about two hours and 14 minutes in length — of the adult comedy Great Grand Masti, had been leaked online.
Like Udta Punjab, GGM too had a censor print that was leaked.
Unlike Udta Punjab, the GGM leak occurred not days, but weeks, before the film’s planned release.
Trade experts were quick to point out that this is especially bad news for the producers (in this case, Balaji Motion Pictures once again).
Why this is, is not just because revenue will be lost from all those viewers who will favour illegal downloads rather than pay money to watch the film in theatres.
It is especially bad because distributors who have already bought the film can refuse to take delivery if the feedback regarding GGM is unfavourable. This was the viewpoint expressed by trade analyst Amod Mehra to Mumbai Mirror.
“In such cases even the partner producer can refuse to pump more money into print and publicity,” Mehra added.
On certain sites, links offer the option of downloading Great Grand Masti in 690 MB or 350 MB, with comparative screenshots showing the relative quality of each. There are also detailed synopses of the plot.
While filmmakers and those who write about the entertainment industry were quick to censure the leak, this is a problem that seems beyond the fraternity’s abilities to staunch as of now.
Censor copies of films like Sairat, Manjhi: The Mountain Man have previously been leaked online in the same way as Udta Punjab, and now, Great Grand Masti.
The police had previously arrested a Delhi man in connection with leaking Udta Punjab online.
News reports on Wednesday, 6 July, also claimed that the Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma starrer Sultan had been leaked online a day before its planned Eid theatrical release (read the Firstpost report here).
However, producers Yash Raj Films denied the development, while cyber crime experts said it was a morphed trailer and not the entire film that had been leaked. They added that the Sultan video was only available on the dark Web and had not yet made its way to Torrent sites.
According to the latest news, the release of Great Grand Masti has now been brought forward to 15 July. It was previously scheduled for 22 July 2016.
Great Grand Masti stars Vivek Oberoi, Riteish Deshmukh and Aftab Shivdasani, in addition to Urvashi Rautela. It is directed by Indra Kumar.