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Telugu production entities like Mythri Movie Makers, Niranjan Reddy, Sudhakar Mikkilineni and Vyjayanthi Movies have got on board superstars to make a bunch of tent-pole spectacle films.
Telugu production entities like Mythri Movie Makers, Niranjan Reddy, Sudhakar Mikkilineni and Vyjayanthi Movies have got on board superstars to make a bunch of tent-pole spectacle films.

Regional producers keep their slate ready for staggered re-opening of theatres

  • Smaller producers are looking at niche, concept-driven films in less massy languages like Bengali and Marathi. Yoodlee Films, the boutique studio owned by Saregama India Ltd, has three regional films in the making

NEW DELHI: Capitalising on the pan-India audience they had begun to reach out to in the past couple of years, non-Hindi local language cinema is looking at speedy recovery post the covid-19 shutdown. Producers across languages are prepping a combination of big-budget and small-scale films.

Telugu production entities like Mythri Movie Makers, Niranjan Reddy, Sudhakar Mikkilineni and Vyjayanthi Movies have got on board superstars like Chiranjeevi, Allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu and Prabhas to make a bunch of tent-pole spectacle films, many yet untitled, that will either be shot or dubbed in multiple languages like Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam besides Telugu.

Meanwhile, smaller producers are looking at niche, concept-driven films in less massy languages like Bengali and Marathi. Yoodlee Films, the boutique studio owned by Saregama India Ltd has three regional films in the making, namely Habbadi andZombivali in Marathi and Super Senior Heroes in Tamil. Acclaimed Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi just released the trailer of his film Laabam that he has also co-produced.

Aiding the cause of regional cinema is the fact that many of these, especially the smaller-budget films do not need pan-India release, at least not at the same time.

“More films will have staggered releases post the reopening of theatres, given that some specific cities may continue to be in red zones," Kamal Gianchandani, director at the Multiplex Association of India had said in an interview to Mint.

A Bengali or Malayalam film does not need to hold back if all states haven’t reopened cinemas, as long as West Bengal and Kerala have, for instance. Gianchandani also foresees the possibility of more regional films being dubbed in Hindi and releasing across states as they ease restrictions. This would help especially the content-starved Hindi speaking market where most Bollywood films ready for release have already been acquired by video streaming platforms.

That non-Hindi local language films have come of age in India over the past few years is well known. At 121 crore and 70 crore, Telugu war epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Rajinikanth’s science fiction flick 2.0 are the two highest opening day earners of all time in the country. In 2017, Baahubali 2 made 510.99 crore across India from its Hindi version alone. The biggest Bollywood hit, Aamir Khan’s Dangal earned 387.38 crore. According to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report 2020, regional language filmsgenerated 50.4 billion in domestic theatricals vis-à-vis 47.9 billion in 2018, contributing 44% of India’s gross box office.

“Regional cinema might have stories rooted in a particular milieu but they are powerful narratives which cut across language divide," Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and events at Saregama India Ltd said. “Plus, there is a sense of innate pride in putting forth a project of one’s language and culture in the mainstream. Viewers are no longer seen through a sieve of language anymore. All they want is a unique story – one which works at a human level and that they can relate to."

Like is the case with Bollywood, several regional producers have been hit hard by the pandemic. While many names, especially down south, can still afford to invest big sums and attract top stars, languages like Marathi and Bengali are more niche spaces. Marathi producer Akshay Bardapurkar has approached Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and the minister for medical education, and culture, Amit Deshmukh, to support Marathi filmmakers by allowing them to avail government subsidies for direct-to-digital releases only afforded to theatrical releases as of now.

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