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Richa Chadha in Madam Chief Minister
Richa Chadha in Madam Chief Minister

Small titles take advantage of absence of big Bollywood offerings

  • Trade experts say these films made on shoe-string budgets featuring less popular faces would’ve never gotten such theatrical showcasing under ordinary circumstances, in prominent shows or time slots.

NEW DELHI : Several small-budget Hindi language films are quietly releasing in theatres taking advantage of the absence of big Bollywood offerings. While Richa Chadha-starrer Shakeela had managed to squeeze into the Christmas weekend along with Wonder Woman 1984, the New Year week saw ensemble drama Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. Two other films— Madam Chief Minister and Mere Desh Ki Dharti are scheduled for 22 January as is a drama called Aadhaar for 5 February. Trade experts say these films made on shoe-string budgets featuring less popular faces would’ve never gotten such theatrical showcasing under ordinary circumstances, in prominent shows or time slots.

“It’s definitely going to be a good time going forward for all small and medium-budget films that most cinemas didn’t nurture earlier though they make up showcasing for nearly 30-35 weeks a year," film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. It would have been easy for these films to directly to OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms, Johar said, but it is up to multiplexes to ensure they feel confident enough to come to theatres now, especially in the absence of big-budget titles.

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At least some of these films are giving returns in these tough times. Zee Studios’ comedy drama Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, released on Diwali, made close to 4 crore in domestic box office collections while Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani managed over a crore. Shakeela and Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi notched up 33 lakh and 27 lakh respectively.

“There is no better time than now, to understand and emphasize on the importance of new content for the recovery of the industry. Moreover, we know for sure that even small movies with great content and concepts can do wonders at the box office," Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure Ltd said. On the part of theatres, it is not just about assigning more screens to the movies, he added, but also offering flexible options to movie lovers who have been waiting for new content, in terms of shows and timings.

Kunal Sawhney, senior vice-president at Carnival Cinemas said small films often have their own fan following, some people come for the critically acclaimed faces featuring in them, some to check out technical aspects like camerawork or sound.

“These films will definitely get at least 60-70% more screens because of the absence of other films," Sawhney said. On a big release date like Christmas 2020 that would have ideally seen the release of Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, all screens would have been divided between it and Wonder Woman, leaving no space for a film like Shakeela, Sawhney added.

Earlier during the pandemic, a couple of video streaming platforms had turned to small-budget old, unreleased films that had either not found buyers and distributors or had remained restricted to acclaim at film festivals, to ramp up their content libraries as production of web originals remained halted. While SonyLIV acquired Manoj Bajpayee’s Bhonsle and Rajat Kapoor’s dark comedy Kadakh, ZEE5 got Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Ghoomketu and Prakash Jha’s Pareeksha-The Final Test.

India’s limited screen count is primarily responsible for several films not finding releases in theatres. The Hindi film industry makes around 2,000 films a year, but there’s space for only 200-300 to release in the 9,527 theatres in the country. Around 30-40% of the films made in the past five years have not been released.

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