Home >Industry >Media >Migrant exodus a double whammy as film business loses workers, audience

The millions of migrant workers who returned to their native places during the lockdown will spell doom for the film business in two ways—with their absence on the sets during film and television production, and as audiences in movie theatres.

As many as 20-25 million migrants have reached their villages via trains, buses and on foot over the past two months, Mint reported. Migrants represented 48% of residents in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru in 2011, according to the national census. Most came from the Hindi-speaking states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.

There has been a huge influx of migrant labour from Tamil Nadu to states such as Maharashtra as household help, cab drivers, and delivery personnel. Tamil films have enjoyed a huge draw in theatres there, with stars such as Rajinikanth bringing in massive opening weekends.

“Parts of Mumbai such as Dharavi housed huge sections of Tamil audiences who may not be there anymore. Similarly, states such as Kerala had a lot of north Indian migrants that would flock the theatres to watch Hindi films," said Mukesh Mehta of Malayalam film production and distribution firm E4 Entertainment.

Rajinikanth’s blockbuster science fiction film 2.0, which was released in 2018, had earned 6.5 crore out of its total 80 crore first day domestic collections in Mumbai alone.

Last Diwali, shows of Vijay’s sports drama Bigil were sold out across Mumbai, helping its final glorious run.

Mumbai is still home to around 70 single-screen theatres, which sells tickets for less than 50, though the numbers are steadily declining.

Further, the city has been the backdrop of several Tamil films over the years, enhancing appeal for the Tamil population.

The same is true for Bollywood, say, in Kerala, which has over 1,000 single-screen cinema halls. In 2016, Aamir Khan’s Dangal became the first Hindi film to cross the 10 crore mark at the Kerala box office, unseating Khan’s PK, which had earned 9.50 crore in 2014.

The absence of migrant labour is also a cause of concern for filmmakers preparing to resume shooting with government guidelines soon.

Workers employed in the art, costume and light departments of sets were the worst hit when India went into lockdown more than two months ago and production of all film, television and web productions stopped.

Late last month, the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association had requested all members to clear the dues of employees, workers and technicians to help them “survive with dignity in these difficult times".

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