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New Delhi: Along with Bollywood, the first batch of small-budget films in regional languages such as Marathi and Punjabi have started making their way back to theatres. Marathi films Bali, Zollywood and Aathva Rang Premacha and Punjabi movies Puaada and Paani Ch Madhaani have scheduled releases over the next few weeks. However, while both the states have allowed only 50% occupancy in theatres, rising covid cases and sporadic lockdowns may affect prospects of these new releases.

“It is good news for theatres, especially multiplexes that have so many screens but have been starved of content for long. However, Maharashtra alone remains the biggest contributor to rising infections and that could be a cause of concern," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said referring to the release of regional language offerings. At the forefront of India’s battle with a second wave of covid, Maharashtra has already locked certain districts in Thane, Nagpur and so on with Mumbai also under close watch. Close to 50% of the Hindi film business in India comes from Delhi and Mumbai.

Also Read | Vaccine utilization rates lower in states witnessing second wave

Meanwhile, Punjab has imposed night curfew from 9pm to 5am in the districts of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Ropar.

To be sure, the latest batch of films of regional language films will vie for theatrical showcasing alongside Bollywood that has an exhaustive slate ready for cinemas. Aiming for pan-India reception after several months of holding projects back, producers have slated multiple offerings for nearly every weekend going forward with the 100% capacity rule coming into place in certain states earlier in February. While crime drama Mumbai Saga and Yash Raj Films’ Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar hit screens this Friday, the coming week will see sports drama Saina and Rana Daggubati-starrer Haathi Mere Saathi clash with Hollywood offering Godzilla Vs Kong. Yash Raj Films will bring the sequel to its popular comedy Bunty Aur Babli, this time featuring Rani Mukerji, Saif Ali Khan, Siddhant Chaturvedi and debutant Sharvari on 23 April, a week after which Akshay Kumar’s action thriller Sooryavanshi shall arrive on the 30 April.

Some inspiration for the Marathi and Punjabi films has come from the southern market, which has consistently seen a combination of big and small-budget films setting the cash registers ringing. While Tamil film Master made over 200 crore when released for Pongal in January, smaller Telugu films such as Jathi Ratnalu, Uppena and A1 Express have also managed massive returns. Despite operating theatres at 50% capacity and seeing spike in infections, theatres in Kerala saw great reception for Mammootty-starrer The Priest that released in the state last week and made about 8 crore within four days. Like Malayalam cinema, Punjabi and Marathi films are smaller in size and scale as compared to big-budget Hindi, Tamil and Telugu movies and cater to niche audiences in their native states.

“The covid situation in Maharashtra continues to be a near-term risk for exhibitors," Karan Taurani, research analyst at Elara Capital Ltd said adding that if the situation were to worsen, even Sooryavanshi could shift its April date.

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