Kaalakaandi may get a Netflix-only release; why deny this Saif Ali Khan film its box office chances?

Devansh Sharma

Oct,26 2017 08:59 31 IST

It seems like 'Netflix and chill' could be Saif Ali Khan's mantra for the next six months. While he is currently shooting for Netflix India's first original show, Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane's crime drama Sacred Games, his controversial film, Akshat Verma's black comedy Kaalakaandi, could see the light of the day only on the premium streaming site.

Filmfare reports that the co-producers of Kaalakaandi, Ashi Dua and Cinestan Film Company, are in talks with Netflix to release the film online as they are skeptical of the prospects a theatrical release can offer. However, India.com reports that both Saif and Verma are not in favour of a digital release.

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Kaalakaandi

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Kaalakaandi

Flashback to two months ago when the poster of Kaalakaandi declared 8 September as its release date. But the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refused to certify the film unless the makers agreed to incorporate major changes. The Board objected to the liberal use of profane language and said Verma's past film Delhi Belly looks like a 'Disney film' in comparison. Thus, the release date was pushed indefinitely.

Since then, one significant development that has taken place is the release of Saif's much-anticipated film, Raja Krishna Menon's slice-of-life film Chef, which bombed at the box office in spite of getting above average reviews. Chef's fate stripped away some sparkle from Saif's star appeal given the fact that it was his second box office disaster this year after Vishal Bhardwaj's period drama Rangoon.

Since he is going through an endless streak of flops, it is taking a toll on his market value. Thus, the producers of Kaalakaandi might be skeptical to rely on a film that will be sold as a Saif Ali Khan despite the fact that it boasts of an ensemble cast comprising Sobhita Dhulipala, Akshay Oberoi, Vijay Raaz, Deepak Dobriyal, Shehnaz Treasury and Amyra Dastur.

Secondly, the film might never make it to theares if the CBFC does not certify it. Recent examples of Alankrita Shrivastava's Lipstick Under My Burkha and Malayalam film Ka Bodyscapes have gone to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) and come out with flying colours. But probably the producers of Kaalakaandi do not want to go the extra mile to get their film certified for a theatrical release. The niche nature of the film also casts a dark cloud on its box office prospects, as per conventional wisdom.

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Kaalakaandi

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Kaalakaandi

In his defense, Saif may not view the film as one that can be pigeonholed into a certain block. In an exclusive interview to Firstpost, Saif said that the film caters to a wide range of people, cutting across social and economic boundaries, just like the city it is set in.

"Akshat has done a stellar job reflecting the soul of Mumbai. It highlights its underbelly and counterculture so brilliantly, and for that it needs to be celebrated. Who would have Vijay Raaz and me in the same film? One of us would be the item. One of us would be the joke… but Mumbai has us both. So does the film. And us being ourselves," said Saif.

But in the same interview, he goes on to spell out the benefits of a Netflix release. "Sacred Games happened at a time when I wanted to produce something for the web platform. With no censorship and no kind of control, you’re a creative equal on this platform. And that’s what makes it so exciting!"

Then what deters him from releasing Kaalakaandi on Netflix? After all, the digital platform is now expanding its horizon with its first original animation series Mighty Little Bheem, which makes the entire concept of a specific audience for streaming website go for a toss.

The reason could also be a creative and technical one. Since Kaalakaandi was originally perceived as a feature film, it has been written, designed and shot as a big screen experience. The creative and technical juices that Kaalakaandi has developed in are completely different from those required for a Netflix product. Given these concerns, it may not be a good move to release Kaalakaandi on Netflix. If provided the appropriate platform and proper positioning, Kaalakaandi could just be the film that Saif Ali Khan needs to prove his mettle as a box office charmer.