Pandemic calls a cut on Malayalam film industry; theatre reopening could help it roll again
There have been reports of suicides from the Malayalam film industry over the past one year. Lives were lost owing to the loss of livelihood options.
Restrictions brought about by the spread of the coronavirus has hurt the film industry to hitherto unheard-of levels. With cinema houses remaining shut for months together, the release of new movies has been put on the backburner.
Though many of the producers decided to grab whatever returns were made available by selling their products to OTT platforms, many films made on huge budgets continue to stay in the boxes hoping for good times to return.
The film industry in Kerala has had a mixed year, with the Covid-19 pandemic playing in gay abandon. While many films saw the light of the day through OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zee 5, Disney+Hotstar, SonyLiv and the like, there are others who decided to stay put expecting the times to change.
The opening of theatres is what they all look forward to. The reasons are many. While a handful of them have been made on humongous budgets, others have the visual element as their selling point. The OTT money may not be enough for the big-budget films to ensure return on investment, while for the films that boast the visual extravaganza, the small screen rendering would only take away the charm.
The only option for these films is to just wait for the administration to throw open the cinema halls so that the audience would get to watch them.
Playing in front of audiences seated in a big hall is an experience that goes beyond description. The films playing on a big screen means joy to many. And they include not just the actors, producer and director. From the camera operator to the light boy who worked to earn his livelihood on location, many lives are dependent on a film’s success.
Livelihoods lost, lives lost too
There have been reports of suicides, not one but many, from the Malayalam film industry over the past year. Lives were lost owing to the loss of livelihood options. The camera crane operator, the makeup artist, the light boy, the clap boy, the drivers, the caterers, and many such people who had earned their daily bread by working on film locations and allied fields have been deprived of any savings or small change to carry on with their lives.
For the audience, OTT has brought about a mega avenue of wholesome entertainment. But for these hapless workers, it’s help out there. The producers who have spent lakhs and crores in making the films are also in a soup, not able to find takers. The theatres are their only resort.
The Kerala government is said to be weighing options on whether to open theatres or not. The Covid-19 numbers are still a deterrent. But then, lives need to be saved. Livelihoods need to be protected. Opening cinemas in adherence to Covid-19 norms would be the answer at the moment. But then, the common man also needs to adhere to these rules on their own. Only then can an administration go ahead doing its job.
Big flicks stay in queue
Once the theatres open, and if they do, Malayalam cinema will see some of the biggest ventures ever made for the screen. Among them will be the Mohanlal starrer Marakkar — Arabikkadalinte Simham, Mammootty-starrer Bheesmaparvam, Dulquer Salman-starrer Kurup, and others. The effort, time and money spent on these movies would be justified only when they arrive in theatres. Minnal Murali, the first-ever superhero film in Malayalam, starring Tovino Thomas, had waited this long to be released in theatres. But as time rolled on, the producer had no other way than to sell it to Netflix for a pan Indian release. There could be others too waiting in the wings. But seriously, I wouldn’t want to watch Marrakkar on a television or mobile phone screen.
Neighbouring Tamil Nadu has thrown open the cinema halls already. Kerala’s pandemic woes still continue, and so the government would wait and watch. But then, a restricted opening would do a world of good to many sole breadwinners who had been working in the Malayalam film industry for long. The Malayalam film enthusiasts are waiting to queue up before cinema halls to watch. The film industry too is waiting to see the audience to be ushered into cinema halls, yet again.