Ever since the Covid 19 pandemic hit the country, the Indian film industry has struggled to get back on its feet, living as much as the three pandemic waves allowed. With strict protocols to keep the safety of everyone in mind, the theatres have been shut or open at only 50 percent capacity. While many films in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada chose to release their film on OTT platforms, a few others kept delaying, hoping for better times to prevail. Now, after multiple delays, many big budget films like Suriya's 'Ethakkum Thunnindhavan', Prabhas's 'Radhe Shyam', Jr NTR and Ram Charan's 'RRR', waited for the right opportunity to release the film in theatres and are finally releasing.
Allu Arjun's Pan India film 'Pushpa: The Rise', which released in December 2021, became a blockbuster across India, bringing a sigh of relief to the trade by crossing Rs 300 crore mark with Pan India collections.
February too, had Pawan Kalyan's 'Bheemla Nayak' and Ajith's 'Valimai' come to the rescue of the box office after a not-so-great profitable January. However, it is for the first time after the pandemic, that big budget films will be releasing back to back within three months, bringing joy to not just the movie buffs but also the business of cinema.
While the month of March started with Dulquer Salmaan, Aditi Rao Hydari and Kajal Aggarwal's Tamil film 'Hey Sinamika' release on March 3, Suriya's action drama 'Ethakkum Thunnindhavan' which is made with approximate budget of around Rs 75 crore, will hit theatres on March 10. Both the films have strong cast and potential to attract footfalls.
Besides this, the Telugu film market will be abuzz with back to back big budget releases. Prabhas's period drama 'Radhe Shyam' which has an approximate budget of Rs 300 crore and filmmaker SS Rajamouli's Pan Indian magnum opus 'RRR', which is said to have a lavish budget of around Rs 350 crore will release in March this year. March will also see regionally stronger films such as Ravi Teja's 'Ramarao On Duty' hit the theatres. For the Kannada film industry as well, the month is crucial, with the release of 'James', which will have late superstar Puneeth Rajkumar's posthumous appearance.
Trade analyst Atul Mohan drops an approximate figure as he tells us, "If you calculate a ball point figure, then around Rs 1,100 crores are riding on the South film industry in the coming three months. The budgets of 'Radhe Shyam', 'KGF 2', 'RRR' and all other films are in crores."
He is hopeful that the business of cinema will pick up with so many big films coming up.
"See, once the restrictions were lifted, all tourist spots were jam packed and reverse tourism started. The same can happen with movies as well but at the end it depends on if people are getting value for money or not. They will read reviews and observe word of mouth and then decide. Otherwise for the money they pay for one ticket, they can have an entire annual subscription of any OTT channel. So, the content of every film needs to be good."
With the arrival of April, fans will see megastar Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan's 'Acharya' hit the theatres. The film was earlier to release in January but got postponed to March only to get delayed to April. But for fans of the mega family, the double treat will arrive in theatres on April 29. Pawan Kalyan's 'Hari Hara Veera Mallu', which is said to be made around the budget of Rs 200 crore is also expected to release on the same date, but lack of promotional buzz is leaving the fans in a state of confusion as of now.
Film critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh calls the coming months a 'litmus test' for the south film industry.
"It's a litmus test for them. If you look at collections of recent films also, be it Tamil or Telugu they are just phenomenal. Ofcourse I would like to add that it all boils down to content. At the same time, I am very confident that the footfalls will be humongous and it's a very good thing. When you talk of theatres shutting down and then to see housefull boards, it gives confidence to others to go ahead," he says.
HOUSE FULL BOARDS ARE BACK...— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) February 27, 2022
⭐ #GangubaiKathiawadi [#Hindi]
⭐ #Pawankhind [#Marathi]
⭐ #BheemlaNayak [#Telugu]
⭐ #Valimai [#Tamil]
💥 #HouseFull boards are back.
💥 #Cinemas are back.
💥 #Moviegoers are back.
💥 Industry #confidence is back. pic.twitter.com/gV6GTirCEB
Within 15 days of Acharya's release, Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu will hit the screens with his Telugu film 'Sarkarau Vaari Paata'. The film, directed by Parasuram Petla is currently in the last leg of production. The excitement for the movie is all the more high amongst fans since Mahesh Babu will come to the big screen after two years. He was last seen in the 2020 action flick 'Sarileru Neekevvaru'.
The month of May will close with Mahesh Babu's Pan India production 'Major' starring actor Adivi Sesh. The film, which is made with a budget of approximately Rs 100 crore, is a bilingual biographical drama based on the life of 26/11 martyr Sandeep Unnikrishnan. The movie also marks Adivi's debut in Bollywood.
Generally, it is understood that big films do not release around this time of the year owing to IPL matches and annual exams of school children but Adarsh debunks this myth.
"I would disagree with that. The calendars are chock-a-block every year. Last two years we couldn't release because we didn't have a choice but everywhere the calendars were full. Everywhere you go, even in the south, you see a tremendous response because people have been delaying because of covid," he says.
Mohan points out that the Pan-India game is at its strongest right now, with the foundation of it already set years back.
"Now, the exposure for them has increased. After the success story of 'Baahubali', then 'KGF' and now 'Pushpa', what happened is that the market opened. This process actually started 10-15 years back when the south films started getting dubbed and came on satellite channels. Then these films started coming on YouTube channels, where the views are in millions and billions," says Mohan.
As he adds, "The face value of actors increased, especially in UP, Bihar and MP market, so people are quite aware that the same actor's new film is now coming."
It would be interesting to see if the money game bounces back once again in the South film industry or not.