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Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘Michael’ debuts on Netflix five years after finding no takers

MUMBAI: Five years after it failed to find a theatrical or a satellite window, Naseeruddin Shah-starrer psychological thriller ‘Michael’ has been resuscitated by global over-the-top (OTT) giant Netflix, which has acquired the rights to the long-forgotten film.

Directed by Ribhu Dasgupta and produced by Anurag Kashyap, the film was released in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, the film, which has six stars on online film database IMDb, didn’t find any takers.

Ribhu confirmed the development to Mid-Day. “‘Michael’ was my directorial debut, so it’s special. Despite doing the festival rounds and receiving rave reviews, it did not get a theatrical release. I am glad that the production studio (Viacom) has put it out on Netflix. Finally, people can see it,” he has been quoted as saying.

Set in Kolkata, ‘Michael’ is a character-driven psychological drama in which Michael (Naseeruddin Shah), a loyal, hardworking police officer is ordered by his superiors to open fire on a peaceful crowd of protesters.

He shoots away from the crowd, but a bullet accidentally ricochets and kills a 12-year-old boy. Michael’s career and whole life start to fall apart especially when he is fired from the force, and he begins to receive threatening phone calls suggesting retribution on his own young son.

As he struggles to care for his son, his eyesight starts to fail. Taking on odd jobs to survive, he works in a local cinema and starts making extra money by pirating movies. The story of a good man falling off the path and his struggle to hold his life and family together.

Apart from TIFF, the film was also screened at Shanghai Film Festival, and even received accolades from Venice Film Festival director Marco Mueller.

Besides Shah, the film’s star cast also includes Mahi Gill, Purav Bhandare and Sabyasachi Chakraborty.

Netflix has been slowly and steadily beefing up its local library mainly through acquisitions. Last year, it had inked a movie licensing deal with Shah Rukh Khan-promoted Red Chillies Entertainment (RCE). As part of the deal, new films starring Khan will be exclusively available to Netflix members globally.

Netflix has time and again said that it will follow localisation route in India. The streaming service has acquired a series of Indian documentaries and films before as well as after its launch in India.

Its first major move towards localisation was its partnership with Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films to produce an original series in Hinglish based on the critically-acclaimed best-selling novel ‘Sacred Games’ by Indian author Vikram Chandra.

It had also added Hindi comedy-drama film ‘Umrika’, which has been written and directed by Prashant Nair, and produced by Swati Shetty and Manish Mundra. Shetty, who is an independent film-maker, had recently joined the content team of Netflix in the US.

Earlier, Netflix had acquired an Indian film ‘Brahman Naman’, which premiered globally in June. ‘Brahman Naman’ is a 2016 Indian comedy film directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee.

Netflix had picked up its first documentary film from India titled ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’.

Prior to its India launch, the streaming service had bought a package of 20 films that included Bollywood hits like ‘Piku’ and ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ from digital rights aggregator Film Karavan. In fact, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ was offered as an eight-part series to Netflix’s customers worldwide.

It has also stepped up its Asia presence by hiring Gaurav Pradhan and Swati Shetty, who will be responsible for business development and original content production and acquisition respectively.

Netflix has a three-tier pricing in India which includes Rs 500 for SD viewing, Rs 650 for HD viewing on two screens and Rs 800 for 4K access. The charges are on a monthly basis.