Coronavirus pandemic: South Indian film industry comes to a standstill with shoots stalled, films postponed

Raja Sekar

Mar 18, 2020 12:32:21 IST

Film industries in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana have to come to a standstill due to the coronavirus outbreak in various parts of the country. Kerala was the first state to shut down theaters in the south followed by Karnataka, Telangana, and now, Tamil Nadu also joined hands to fight against the novel virus.

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Earlier, Tamil Nadu Government only closed shopping malls and theaters in the sixteen border districts of the state. But on Monday evening, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy announced that all the movie halls in Tamil Nadu will be closed from today. Film shoots of several biggies including Vikram’s Cobra, Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2 were called off even before Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) passed a resolution to cancel all the film shoots in Tamil Nadu from March 19.

 Coronavirus pandemic: South Indian film industry comes to a standstill with shoots stalled, films postponed

First look of Vikram-starrer Cobra

In his official statement, RK Selvamani, President of FEFSI said: “We have decided to not take part in the film and TV serial shoots from March 19. Our members will not participate in any form of shoots until the country gets back to normalcy. Yes, this is a tough time and the revenue loss is going to be very huge for producers and daily wagers in the film industry but considering the life-threatening situation and keeping the safety of our workers in mind, we have taken this decision”.

Ajay Gnanamuthu, director of Vikram’s Cobra says that the team just landed in Russia to shoot a crucial schedule but returned back halfway due to the virus threat. The film’s producer has to bear the travel and pre-production expenditure now but the schedule wasn't completed.

Film bodies in Kerala, Karnataka, and Telangana have canceled the film shoots in their respective states. As theaters are closed in these four states, Mohanlal’s multilingual film MarakkarArabikadalinte Simham, Rana Daggubati’s Haathi Mere Saathi/Kaadan/Aranya also stand postponed.

In an official statement, EROS International said: “EROS International has always kept our audience's interest at the forefront as a core value. Healthy and happy audiences have always kept us motivated to produce and distribute unique stories that have never been told before. In light of recent developments of COVID19 Coronavirus, our recent announcement regarding the scheduled release of Haathi Mere Saathi, Aranya &  Kaadan stands changed. In solidarity with our partners, exhibitors, distributors and audiences, we pray for health and happiness of all and as we are monitoring the situation, we do hope that we come back with a new release date soon”.

A source from the Tamil film industry on the condition of anonymity says “At least, the yet-to-be-released biggies should only change the release dates but the last week releases have no other option but to face a huge loss. Films like Dharala Prabhu (Vicky Donor remake) starring Harish Kalyan and Sibiraj’s Walter will not be played anywhere in Tamil Nadu from today. All the promotional money, print cost, and the entire investment keeping in mind of theatrical revenue gone kaput. The producers of these films are devastated”.

Producers of March 13 releases in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam will face 70 to 80% loss due to the sudden closure of theaters. Together, the producers of these films will face 70 to 80 crores loss.

Vijay Arumugam, distribution manager of Viacom18 Studios in South says that they have just released the last paper advertisement of their recent hit Kannum Kannum Kollyadithaal starring Dulquer Salmaan. The film still got the potential to run big but sudden closure of theaters in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana abruptly ended the dream run.

Actor Vijay’s audio launches are known for grandiose celebrations but the music launch of his upcoming film Master only saw the presence of the cast and crew. At the launch event, Vijay said: “Due to the ongoing health issue in the state, we couldn’t accommodate most of my fans. I half-heartedly agreed to this event”. Team Master didn’t invite members of the press as mass gatherings will only make the virus outbreak worse.

We also hear that the makers of the film will postpone the release date if theaters remain closed until the first week of April. Master is scheduled to release on April 9 but our sources say that the film is likely to be pushed. The change in release dates of biggies will affect small and medium budget films.

Vijay in a poster of Master

Vijay in a poster of Master

For example, distributors and exhibitors will only prefer Mohanlal’s Marakkar and Vijay’s Master over any other small and medium budget films so all March 20 and 27 releases will not be able to find apt release dates as only biggies will take over all the main screens.

PG Muthaiah, producer of a Tamil film titled Cocktail has sent a letter to Tamil Film Producers Council to give preference to March 20 and March 27 releases once the state gets back to normal. “We are facing a huge loss but the council should help us once they reopen the theaters. If they give first preference to big films, we will not be able to get back our investment”, said Muthaiah.

Dhananjayan, a popular film producer and National award-winning film historian says “All the March 20 and March 27 releases will have no other option but to postpone their films to June or July because many biggies including Vijay’s Master, Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru, Ravi’s Bhoomi, and Dhanush’s Jagame Thanthiram are scheduled to release in May. Similarly, many Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada biggies are slated to release in April and May so the producers of March 20 and 27 releases will have to pay interest to their financiers/banks for three months although they are ready for release. The only remedy for this problem is film bodies across the five south states should come together and give preference to the films which are scheduled to release on March 20 and 27. Big star films will always get good opening so release date doesn’t matter to them, the trade should be fair for all players. The film bodies should discuss and schedule all the releases once the situation becomes normal. We should release films based on when the respective teams have completed the censor process”.

Dhananjayan says that the two-week shutdown will create a choc-a-block kind of situation in the country so prioritizing the film releases will be the biggest challenge for film bodies in India.

All images from Twitter.

(Also read: Vijay's Master unlikely to release on 9 April due to coronavirus outbreak; no word from producers about postponement)

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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2020 12:40:13 IST