2022 was a year of revelation in more ways than one for the over-the-top (OTT) platforms of Bangladesh, a rising medium in the country following the footsteps of global ones such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, and Disney Hotstar.
When it comes to the potential audience base in Bangladesh, OTT platforms are just getting started here. But with rising demand, driven by local content and live sports, the future looks promising.
The pandemic was not over this year. But carrying the success of the pandemic-induced 2020-2021 forward, the local OTT platforms – namely Chorki, HoiChoi, Bioscope, and Binge – brought several contents to enthral the audience.
On December 18, a record 15.5 million unique viewers watched the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final between Argentina and France on Toffee, the only digital entertainment app which livestreamed the sports event in Bangladesh, said Banglalink which operates the platform.
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Also, Toffee hit a new milestone garnering around 1 billion views of "the greatest show on earth," it added.
Football fans across the country turned to Toffee to enjoy every World Cup match, starting from November 18 to December 18.
For the first time in Bangladesh, millions of viewers opted for a digital platform to watch the tournament, which was previously only broadcast on TV.
Also, over the last two years, the rise of OTT platforms not only offered a breath of fresh air to audiences but also helped many popular actors and creators to rediscover and redefine their acting skills and explore the magic of creative independence.
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Seasoned and popular actors, including Intekhab Dinar, Afran Nisho, Chanchal Chowdhury, Mosharraf Karim, Apurba, Siam Ahmed, Ziaul Haque Polash, Pritom Ahmed, Mehazabien Chowdhury, Nazifa Tushi, Tasnia Farin and others were seen in different dramas and web series, and they received profound success and critical acclaim for their performances.
Content makers and directors such as Nuhash Humayun, Shihab Shaheen, Tanim Nur, Syed Ahmed Shawki, Ashfaq Nipun, Raihan Rafi, Vicky Zahed, Amitabh Reza and others mesmerised the audiences throughout the year with content such as "Kaiser," "Pet Kata Shaw," "Karagar," "Syndicate," "Bodh," "Sabrina," "Punorjonmo" and others.
"Shaaticup" from Chorki was a breakout content of the year, directed by Mohammad Touqir Islam which narrated a crime thriller featuring Rajshahi's local dialect and a cast of 137 actors for its eight episodes.
Young filmmaker Nuhash Humayun, however, was the standout filmmaker on the web this year for glamorising the horror genre. His web series "Pett Kata Shaw" by Chorki starring Shohel Mondol, Shirin Akter Shila, Afzal Hossain, Chanchal Chowdhury, Pritom Hasan, Masuda Khan, Novera Rahman and more garnered massive appraisal from audiences and critics for being the modern revival of the mysterious and lurid plots of traditional Bengali folk tales, earning him an official selection for the upcoming 52nd edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
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Nuhash's other major project of 2022 representing the same genre, "Moshari," earned him two awards at two "Oscar-qualifying" film festivals (HollyShorts Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival).
Earlier this year, he got signed with the Hollywood agencies Anonymous Content and Creative Artists Agency, and later he made the Halloween special dark-comedy "Foreigners Only" from the global OTT platform Hulu as its first Bangladeshi content maker.
Also, the year 2022 has, perhaps, been the most eventful one for the big screen compared to recent years.
In January, the seventeenth biennale edition of the Bangladesh Film Artistes' Association (BFAA) election was held, resulting in veteran silver screen actor Ilias Kanchan getting elected as the new president for 2022-2024.
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The talk of the town, however, was the post of the general secretary (GS) – for which, actor Zayed Khan was declared the winner over actress Nipun Akter in a close contest.
But Nipun refused the result and filed an appeal to the Election Appeal Board of the BFAA. After that, the board declared Nipun as the GS.
Then Zayed filed a writ petition against the decision to the High Court of the Supreme Court. In March, the court cleared the way for Zayed to serve as the GS of the BFFA after striking down the decision of the Election Appeal Board of the association.
Next Nipun filed a petition against the decision to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
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In November, after months of back-and-forth between Nipun and Zayed, the Appellate Division finally cleared the way for Nipun to serve as the GS.
Of all the films released this year, two Dhallywood films – "Hawa" and "Poran" – were the most notable and successful ones, breaking records everywhere.
Raihan Rafi directed Poran starring Sariful Razz, Bidya Sinha Mim and Yash Rohan and inspired by the Rifat murder case in Barishal, competed against another much-talked-about film, Ananta Jalil starrer and produced "Din – The Day" on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha this year.
Poran was acclaimed by both the audiences and the multiplex and single-screen owners while Ananta and director – Iranian filmmaker Morteza Atashzamzam threatened legal actions against each other following several suave exchanges of verbal blows between them surrounding the real budget and release of the movie.
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However, the biggest blockbuster over recent years was Mejbaur Rahman Sumon directed film "Hawa."
The Chanchal Chowdhury-Nazifa Tushi-Shariful Razz starrer film garnered a massive audience response across the country and broke revenue records both at home and beyond while creating a great buzz on mainstream and social media with its catchy songs like "Shada Shada Kala Kala" and "Aat Ta Baje Deri Korish Na."
The cinema industry also observed other major releases this year, including Siam Ahmed starrer "Shaan" and "Operation Sundarbans," Shakib Khan's "Golui" and "Bidrohi," Sariful Razz-Bidya Sinha Mim and Siam starrer "Damal," and Jaya Ahsan's "Beauty Circus."
Mim, Nazifa Tushi and Puja Cherry were the breakout actresses in the industry this year. Shabnam Bubly, Apu Biswas, Pori Moni and Barsha remained embroiled in controversy for their comments and fights throughout 2022.
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However, the entire film fraternity was seen unified in support of acclaimed filmmaker Mostafa Sarwar Farooki, and his battle against the Censor Board for the release of his much-anticipated film "Shonibar Bikel" (Saturday Afternoon).