How south Indian cinema is boosting theatrical business post COVID-19 with pan-Indian projects
'The collections of South films are closely being tracked in the corridors of leading Bollywood production houses now. The success of Vijay's Master was an eye-opening moment.'
The way south Indian cinema, especially Tollywood, has steered the revival of the Indian movie-making industry post-pandemic with rigorous measures and business operations has left all the stakeholders from other regions to sit up and take notice. There has been a regular stream of releases in theatres with quite a few box office successes.
Leading trade analyst Taran Adarsh pointed out the same in his recent tweet complimenting the Telugu and Kannada industries for their ambitious release plans for the coming year.
2021 is a landmark year for film industry in #Hyderabad and #Bengaluru... It’s clearly dominating the market, with *PAN-#India films* arriving in quick succession...
⭐️ #Major: 2 July
⭐️ #KGF2: 16 July
⭐️ #RadheShyam: 30 July
⭐️ #Pushpa: 13 Aug
⭐️ #Liger: 9 Sept
⭐️ #RRR: 13 Oct
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) February 14, 2021
Firstpost got in touch with prominent personalities like (the lead hero and writer of upcoming Telugu-Hindi bilingual Major), Karthik Gowda (Creative Executive Producer, Hombale Films, the makers of KGF) from the south Indian film industry and trade analyst Taran Adarsh to talk about the recent trend of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada movies aiming for pan-Indian releases and why 2021 is going to be an exciting year for the south Indian cinema fraternity.
"It would be a major disservice to martyr Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan if his story isn't seen by the Indian film audience at large. He was a handsome young man who fought for the country like a true hero. The film's story and his character are the major driving factors behind the large scale of the film," Adivi Sesh said about Major.
Karthik Gowda, who bankrolls KGF, said, "When we decide to go for pan-Indian releases, first and foremost, the subject has to be really fresh. The other-language audiences won't accept a pan-Indian film that has a storyline and treatment which they've already experienced before. We've had quite a few examples in the recent past that a pan-Indian release doesn't always guarantee a wide reach and success. The audience is used to large scale films and grand productions in every language. The magic with KGF was the totally new world that we presented to the audience in the second half; that's why everyone loved the film."
Taran Adarsh confidently says that the south is far ahead of Bollywood now. "We love watching South films here. They've shown courage post-Covid with all their exciting pan-Indian announcements and have set the ball rolling. Salman Khan was among the early birds in Bollywood to announce Radhe's theatrical release, then YRF followed and now there is a spree of announcements from other big Hindi films. The collections of South films are closely being tracked in the corridors of leading Bollywood production houses now. The success of Vijay's Master was an eye-opening moment here, and of course, it all started with the Baahubali phenomenon. Though the Hindi version of Master didn't do well, a lot of North people saw the Tamil version and the film's success gave an impetus to the entire Indian film industry post-Covid."
Adivi Sesh said his team has authentically shot Major in Telugu as well as Hindi. "It's not just a Hindi dubbed film. Hyderabad, Kozhikode and Mumbai are equally important to the film's storyline. Actors from all over the country have contributed to the film. Major Sandeep's spirit is all about national unity and patriotism. I'm naturally influenced by his aura and don't want to differentiate between North and South. I see Major as a truly Indian film."
Sesh further added: "And, it's always a kick for any artist for his or her work to be seen by a larger audience. And it's maybe in the way I think, and due to my exposure to various geographies and cultures during my upbringing days (in Chennai, Vizag & also overseas in the USA and Africa), my stories and writing also tend to have a pretty universal sensibility. They are not rooted and specific to just one culture. So pan-Indian plans will definitely be a part of my future creative ventures too."
"When you go for such wide pan-Indian releases, the scope for other-language remakes will eventually reduce; that market will take a hit," said Karthik Gowda. "Even in the case of a universal OTT release like the recent Drishyam 2, the film is so well-received now and a lot of non-Malayali audiences have already seen the film. The other language remakes have to be completed and released in a very quick span so that the subject still remains fresh. That's why the Telugu remake is being commenced on 1 March itself," he added.
Sesh also commented on the way the Telugu industry has flourished after the resumption of releases post the pandemic, and how a non-star film like Uppena is setting the cash registers ringing at the box-office.
"There is a reason why the largest number of cinema halls are in the Telugu states. The revenue is reported in terms of share in Telugu, whereas other Indian film industries resort to reporting gross or nett. The spectacular numbers of Uppena which bagged a share of Rs 50 crore, the successful Sankranti releases (including Master) show that the Telugu audience is as loyal and fervent to their cinema-going habit, as they've always been. I would pick RRR as the pan-Indian South film which I'm really kicked about.”
Taran suggests that increasing marketing and promotion measures will enable more penetration for south films in the core Hindi belts of the nation.
“In future, I would suggest that South stars and producers market and promote their films more extensively in the Hindi belts at least a few weeks ahead of their pan-Indian release so that the masses are more aware of their films. Even if big stars can't travel around in these tough post-Covid times, they can resort to online interactions and push their films aggressively if they have enough confidence in their content.”
Taran also picked Rajamouli's most-anticipated RRR as his go-to film this year. "I'm really excited particularly for RRR. After Baahubali's massive success, I rate SS Rajamouli as the biggest superstar in Indian Cinema, with due respect to all other icons. Even if RRR is pitted against a big star-driven Hindi film, it'll still rule the roost at the box-office."
He further added: "The phenomenal success of Uppena has also caused a flutter in Bollywood. After I tweeted about the film's humongous numbers, quite a few Hindi producers contacted me about it and expressed their interest to watch the film. The availability of English subtitles really helps to see such fresh films from other languages. Recently, I could enjoy Drishyam 2 instantly due to the availability of subtitles."
After the release of KGF 2, Kannada industry pundits believe that Yash will plan his future films also as pan-Indian releases due to the sheer impact of brand KGF. There is also a good positive vibe around Kichha Sudeep's next film Vikrant Rona which is a pan-Indian superhero flick. The recent launch of the film's first look and motion poster at the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai has created a big impact. It could be the next big thing from Kannada cinema after KGF.
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