On 6 June, Odia film Khyanikaa - The Lost Idea, saw a worldwide release on Amazon Prime Video, only to be removed from India on 8 June without any notice. The director of Khyanikaa, Amartya Bhattacharya, and the producers told The Quint they had reached out to Amazon Prime India via email and finally after 8-9 days they received a reply saying that Amazon Prime India currently supports 9 Indian languages, of which Odia is not one of them, and the film will only be only considered when they launch an Odia section.
The Quint approached Amazon Prime India asking about the criteria of choosing these 9 languages and the reason why Odia failed to make it to the list. This is what the spokesperson has to say. “The Odia film Khyanikaa: The Lost Idea was inadvertently made available by the distributors of the film, through the self-publishing program Prime Video Direct. We regret this error. When Prime Video launched in India over 3 years ago, we were offering content across 5 Indian languages namely Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Marathi. Since then, we have carefully and consistently curated our local library, which currently features content in 9 Indian languages including Hindi, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam. We continue to work hard to expand our library and the languages we offer content in.
The move by this OTT platform had left the viewers, makers and even the distributors shocked. The film was screened at IFFI 2017 (Indian Panorama) and has represented India at around 30 festivals across 14 countries. It is also a State Award winner and it's certified U/A by CBFC.
Amartya Bhattacharya had alleged that the reasons given by Amazon Prime and Amazon customer care are baseless.
Meanwhile, Odia film enthusiasts had started calling Amazon Prime customer care to enquire about why the film has been pulled down.
The filmmaker went on to reveal how Amazon customer care has been giving misleading information. “They are sometimes telling our viewers that either the license has expired and sometimes they are saying that the producer has pulled down the film and that Amazon doesn't have the permission to stream this film”. The makers have also claimed that the customer care had apparently told some viewers that the film only saw a US release and not an India one.
The Quint also called up the customer care, and the initial response was that the film didn’t see an India release. When pointed out that it did release on the sixth of June and a number of people have watched Khyanikaa, the customer care said there is an error and it will take around 72 hours to fix the problem.
To this Amartya added, “Some of our viewers enquired with Amazon Prime customer care about the 9-language policy and they said there's no such restriction and that they are open to all languages.”
Amartya also said it is not only a slap on his face as a filmmaker but also a blow to Odisha cinema at large.
“When Khyanikaa released, it was the only Odia film on Amazon Prime India. So, of course, this was a big moment of celebration and a ray of hope. This arbitrary decision has not just let us down, it has shattered many hopes. I am also very upset that some of the cast and crew members had to take down the announcement of the release after viewers started asking them why the film was not available. It has been extremely humiliating for all of us.”
“Odisha is one of the six classical languages of India. I am not an Odia by birth, I am Odia by choice. I am proud that beyond making films in my mother tongue, I have made films in Odia. I will continue making Odia films till the mainstream platforms get tired of pulling them down”, he added.
Amartya Bhattacharya is an independent filmmaker and writer who was awarded the Silver Lotus for the Best Cinematography in non-feature film at the 63rd National Film Awards by the president of India for his fantasy documentary Benaras-the Unexplored Attachments.
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