FEFKA general secretary and noted film maker B Unnikrishnan revealed that the Malayalam cinema has already suffered a whopping loss of more than Rs 600 crore as the theaters remain closed due to the lockdown. He said that the movies are usually financed by borrowing huge amounts of money from private financial firms and individuals as well. The film maker added that many producers are paying huge amounts of money as interest alone during this time for the amount that they had borrowed to make the movies.
“We are currently facing a crisis that weren’t foreseen even in our dreams. The movie industry all around the globe has been on a halt with the release of many movies postponed indefinitely. Despite being a small industry, the Malayalam cinema has more than ten thousand technicians and around six hundred artists, producers, distributors and theaters as well. The people depending on them are actually facing a major crisis. There are around five thousand daily wages workers who depend on this industry. They are the ones who suffer the most. We are currently in a situation where we do not know how to solve this grave issue,” says the director.
Future of the movies
Even when the lockdown is lifted, the movie theaters are not likely to be opened soon. Moreover, the people wouldn’t come to the theaters until they are sure that these spaces are completely safe. Unnikrishnan notes that the movie industry can function only by adjusting to these facts.
In case the theaters open after the lockdown, they would be allowed to operate only by following strict guidelines. He says the multiplex theater organizations have already prepared guidelines to operate the theaters. As per it, only 40% of the seating capacity would be filled for a show. Besides, the tickets would only be sold through online booking sites and not through counters in the theaters. The theater would be sanitized after every show; and masks would be made compulsory.
However, Unnikrishnan says such guidelines wouldn’t be practical in Kerala as there are more traditional theaters than multiplexes in the state. He adds that the producers could earn profits only if the big budget movies are released when the theaters function regularly like before.
Unnikrishnan confesses he has no knowledge of any discussion regarding the digital release of Malayalam cinema. “There are a few factors that we need to consider when it comes to digital release. Ours is a very small market; I don’t know the feasibility of a Malayalam cinema that is released on OTT platform, making profits. There are discussions about it in the Bollywood. Those movies have global reach and it is happening even in Hollywood,” says Unnikrishnan.
“Filming of new movies is in none of our minds. Even people like me who write scripts sitting at home have no idea when we would be able to shoot it. There are a handful of movies ready to be released. Some movies require just two more days of filming to complete. Major discussions and arrangements are required to release these movies in the theaters,” notes the film maker.
Unnikrishnan observes that the months of June and July are pretty difficult for Kerala. He hopes things to get better at least by September when the state celebrates the Onam festival. He says, “It is a known fact that no public sector undertaking or the banking sector is ready to support the film industry. All the money that is invested in the movies is borrowed or taken as loans. Just think about the amount of money producers like Anto Joseph and Antony Perumbavur have been paying as interest alone. Anto Joseph has spent around Rs 22 crore for his film and Antony Perumbavur’s movie was made on a budget of Rs 100 crore. The interest alone for these amounts is exorbitant. Malayalam cinema has already suffered a loss of Rs 600 crore. Our industry doesn’t have the strength or size to bear the losses if this situation escalates with each passing day. Surely the government has to help. This industry cannot survive without the collective efforts and support. ”
The veteran film maker says it must be the first time in the 40 year long careers of screen icons Mammootty and Mohanlal that they may be sitting at home without having to shoot for a movie for such a long duration. However, he is of the opinion that many could spend quality time with their families as well.
“It is only during this lockdown that Mohanlal has watched some of his popular movies for the first time. He had recently watched the super hit movie Thazhvaram that was released in 1990. I am constantly in contact with Blessy and Prithviraj. They are trying to complete filming the portions there as much as possible,” concludes Unnikrishnan.