An independent Odia movie — Khyanikaa: The Lost Idea — was removed by Amazon Prime Video within two days after it was released on June 6 on their platform in India. The streaming service reasoned that they offer Indian movies under only nine language categories — Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam and Gujarati. While the makers of Khyanikaa have been demanding that the movie should steam on the platform again, Amazon India has said that it was “inadvertently made available by the distributors of the film” and have regretted the “error”.
This independent film is directed by Amartya Bhattacharyya and produced by Swastik Choudhury. “When my producer got in touch with the distributor, we agreed on a non-exclusive distribution for three years. They are an Amazon-approved distributor, who have rights to publish a film on Amazon. However, it takes a few days for the film to go live after certain checks and reviews at Amazon’s end. I am told by the distributor that Khyanikaa meets all publishing guidelines and therefore it got released on June 6. He said that neither were any language restrictions conveyed to them by Amazon, nor was there any language check on Amazon’s portal. Otherwise, the film could not have been released in the first place,” says Bhattacharyya. The movie was part of Indian Panorama at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa, in 2017. The experimental movie is about two men — a poet and painter — claiming ownership of a particular idea.
As per the understanding between the film’s makers and the distributor, it was to be released in all English-speaking countries, since its English subtitling was done. “The film was released in all English-speaking territories, including the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and India. The film is still streaming in all other territories barring India, as the film was pulled down on June 8,” says Bhattacharyya.
Responding to our query about why the movie was removed from the platform, Amazon India spokesperson said: “The Odia film, Khyanikaa: The Lost Idea, was inadvertently made available by the distributors of the film, through the self-publishing programme Prime Video Direct. We regret this error. When Prime Video launched in India over three years ago, we were offering content across five 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 nine 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 step comes at a time when several Indian language movies are being made and celebrated worldover. Even though putting movies under nine categories makes the search easier, it would restrict other language movies from featuring on Prime Video and finding a larger audience. Two of the most talked about movies in recent years are Rima Das-directed Village Rockstars (2017) and Bulbul Can Sing (2018) in Assamese, which are currently available on Netflix. Bhaskar Hazarika has made critically-acclaimed Kothanodi (2015) and Aamis (2019) in Assamese too. In addition, Nepalese movies Ralang Road (2017) and Pahuna (2018) are currently being streamed on the Dharamshala International Film Festival website and Netflix respectively. Achal Mishra’s Gamak Ghar in Maithali was shown on Mubi India recently.
The Khyanikaa team wants Amazon Prime Video to resume streaming the film in India. “The pulling down of the film based on linguistic restriction is not right,” says the director. The team also alleges that Amazon customer care has been giving misleading information. “They have been saying different things such as ‘the producer has pulled down the film’ or ‘the licence has expired’ or ‘the film was never released in India’,” Bhattacharyya says.
Apart from the Bhubaneswar-based screen actor Anu Choudhury in a cameo, the cast of Khyanikaa features National Award-winning director Susant Misra and veteran theatre actor Choudhury Bikash Das. “I had the script and the actors ready. We would just travel and choose a location and shoot then and there. I didn’t follow a planned approach because I believe in instinctive drives and magical moments,” says Bhattacharyya. He adds, “Khyanikaa has represented Odisha and India in several international platforms.”