With the shadow of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic lengthening, the Indian film fraternity is taking measured steps to deal with the looming threat of disruption of business.
Production houses have already started pushing back the releases of upcoming films.
The first to feel the heat was the Shahid Kapoor-led cricket drama ‘Jersey’. It was followed by the postponement of the period epic, S S Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’, and then came the news on Tuesday that the Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Prithviraj’, which stoked a political controversy even before its release, has also been put on the backburner.
In a conversation, trade analyst Karan Taurani of Elara Capital said: “Producers of big-budget films will be averse to taking risks in the present situation.”
With Delhi shutting down cinema theatres and multiplexes, Haryana following suit in five districts up till January 12, and Tamil Nadu and West Bengal imposing a 50 per cent occupancy limit (like Maharashtra before them), the box-office, which was in a state of euphoria after the successes of ‘Pushpa: The Rise’, ‘Sooryavanshi’ and ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, has slipped back into a state of semi-paralysis.
Taurani says he doesn’t see a major film release happening anytime soon. “They are all postponing,” he said. “For the next three months, I see no releases being announced. I believe normality will return only after April.”
The postponement of films will have a domino effect on the theatrical calendar of 2022, independent film trade analyst Sumit Kadel said. “For instance, the postponement of ‘Prithviraj’ will impact other releases of Yash Raj Films, such as ‘Shamshera’ and ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’.”
The third wave, according to Kadel, will last till February-March, which in turn will result in the postponement of more films. “The entire calendar will have to be reshuffled for sure,” Kadel added.
Taurani expects the big-budget films to suffer because their interest cost goes up with each delayed release. “They might have to come again to the exhibitors to ask for a higher distributor’s share or make some other arrangements,” Taurani pointed out.
But he ended on a note of hope. “It won’t be as bad as it was during the second wave,” he said. It’s a hope that is being nurtured by everyone associated with the cinema business across the country.
–By Durga Chakravarty