New Delhi: Bollywood plans its comeback once cinemas re-open by announcing a bunch of big projects to the tune of ₹300 crore starring saleable names that are likely to woo audiences back to cinemas.
Deepika Padukone will feature alongside Baahubali star Prabhas in an untitled film to be made in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, while Ayushmann Khurrana will play a cross functional athlete in a love story to be directed by Abhishek Kapoor. Ajay Devgn has announced a film on the Galwan Valley clash and Akshay Kumar reportedly has projects with Ekta Kapoor and director Maneesh Sharma lined up besides big-ticket films like Prithviraj and Bachchan Pandey announced before the pandemic. Katrina Kaif, Ishaan Khatter and Siddhant Chaturvedi team up for a horror comedy called Phone Bhoot while Rajkummar Rao has committed to the Hindi remake of Telugu film Hit.
Not just Hindi, stars across languages are gearing up to bring the theatrical experience back. Telugu superstar Allu Arjun announced a new film with director Siva Koratala this week while Dulquer Salmaan will star in a love story set in 1964 to be made in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. Top stars like Mahesh Babu and Mohanlal too have formalised projects.
These are brave steps for the film industry that has been dealing with dwindling revenues and losses on a daily basis for the past four-and-a-half months. Several projects are stuck in various stages of pre and post production, expensive sets have been taken down with studio rentals and cancellation charges being borne by producers without any support from insurers. Interest costs are mounting on amounts raised to fund films and reopening of cinemas is likely to be staggered with each state taking its own decision for the roadmap.
“Consumption patterns of audiences are going through a massive churn but there is a clear intention to come back to cinemas," said a senior executive at a leading studio who did not wish to be named. The person was referring to the easy convenience of watching a host of fresh content available at home on video streaming platforms.
“The big festival releases will always be meant for the theatre and there will always be eagerness on part of audiences to consume them because that is the relationship they share with the theatrical experience," the person added.
In statements issued for the announcement of their new film, both lead actor Khurrana and director Kapoor said their film will play a part in bringing audiences back to theatres, whenever it hits screens.
“We want audiences to come back to the theatres and watch movies as a community and for that we will spare no effort," Kapoor said with Khurrana adding that “the film has all the trappings to take audiences through a ride of emotions and it is a total family entertainer."
On their part, despite a no-go from the government until now and researches that show people will be fearful of sitting in closed auditoriums with strangers, theatre owners are hopeful of audiences eventually flocking back to cinemas.
“I see no reason that they won’t," said Gautam Dutta, chief executive officer at PVR Cinemas adding that there are too many boxes to be checked to watch stuff at home, you need a big screen, good Wi-Fi, an OTT subscription, no disturbance from kids and so on.
“The need is to step out because we’re not hardwired to sit at home," he said.