The second wave of Covid has hit Bollywood hard, and an already paralyzed film industry is left looking for solutions of survival that don’t seem to exist at the moment. Over the next three months, Bollywood has around Rs 1,000-1,200 crore riding on films that had been scheduled to release in theatres, rough trade estimates say.
When the lockdown was lifted, many big, medium and small films had grandly announced release dates, from March to the year-end. While the films that saw theatrical openings in the immediate weeks following lockdown — notably, “Mumbai Saga” and “Roohie” — fared below what they might have done in normal times, the ones that were scheduled to release over the next months are burdened with further delay, and the repercussions that come with it.
Among the earliest big films that hit a roadblock are Rohit Shetty’s Akshay Kumar-starrer cop drama “Sooryavanshi” and Rumy Jafry’s Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi starrer thriller “Chehre”. While these films have failed to keep their date with the box office as scheduled over the next few weeks, Salman Khan’s “Radhe”, originally said to be slated for Eid 2020, and then pushed to Eid 2021 (in May), could now move to Eid 2022, state unconfirmed trade reports.
Even as other biggies as Kabir Khan’s cricket drama “83”, starring Ranveer Singh, are pushed again, whispers suggest a few of the biggies could consider going straight to OTT, to thwart further losses owing to delay.
Delaying a release is never a simple issue for the film trade. The financial drain includes interests accrued on investment and the necessity for fresh investment in ‘P and A’ (publicity and advertising, in trade jargon) when the film is finally released. Besides, films have a way of losing curiosity value among the audience if they lie unreleased for a long time, and trends change with every passing week. Also, closure at this point means the exhibition sector doesn’t get the chance any time soon to recuperate from last year’s losses.
However, exhibitors have their own stories to tell. They look at the select films that are doing well, to strike a note of optimism. “We have seen bad days but after November, once cinemas opened, we saw an improvement. The last was ‘Godzilla vs Kong’. Even today all my shows in Hyderabad were housefull.
Even in Delhi, the Pawan Kalyan film (‘Vakeel Saab’) is doing reasonably well. ‘Chehre’, ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, ‘Sooryavanshi’ will eventually be released. There are 30-odd days that have held us back,” says Kunal Sawhney, senior vice president, Carnival Cinemas.