Cinema halls are shut, shooting schedules have come to a standstill, and crores are at high-stakes. Here’s how COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Bollywood.
Celebrities are doing household chores, big-ticket movies have got postponed, cinema halls are shut, shooting schedules have come to a standstill, and crores are at high-stakes. Here’s how COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Bollywood. Hindi film aficionados were eagerly looking forward to 2020. After all, it was supposed to be the year where Bollywood promised a grand turnout at the box-office with massy as well as content-rich films like – Sooryanvanshi, Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, 83, Laxmii Bomb, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Prithviraj, Brahmastra, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Maidaan, and Laal Singh Chaddha among others. But alas, instead of a bouquet of entertainment, 2020 greeted us with the dreaded COVID-19 aka the novel coronavirus and like every other industry across the globe, Bollywood too came to a standstill.
While impending movies got postponed, shootings got halted, and theatres got sealed, our beloved celebrities finally got their much-needed ‘me-time’ and ever since are busy giving us glimpses of their quarantine life through social media feeds. Some like Katrina Kaif, Ritiesh Deshmukh, Malaika Arora, Rajkummar Rao are engaging in household chores and others like Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt are learning new skills. In fact, the Bhaaijan of Bollywood aka Salman Khan, who is quarantined at his farmhouse on the outskirts of Mumbai, even released his own original track called – Tere Bina during this lockdown.
Apart from investing time in all these activities during the quarantine period, many in the film fraternity have also come forward and extended a helping hand to the needy in this crisis. From the likes of Akshay Kumar, Anushka Sharma, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan to Kartik Aaryan, Vicky Kaushal, Nana Patekar, Bhumi Pednekar, and Sonu Sood among several others are doing their bit to help the nation and the underprivileged in these trying times.
Obviously, if one looks through the rose-tinted glasses of celebrities, everything in Tinsel Ville may seem merry even in these COVID-19 times. However, there are obvious lines of worry on the forehead of producers, financers, distributors and theatre owners as this over 180 billion rupees film industry is going through its worst phase ever during the Great Lockdown.
Late Irrfan Khan’s last film Angrezi Medium was the first Bollywood film to bear the brunt of COVID-19’s impact. The film which released on March 13, 2020, had to be pulled out of theatres due to the lockdown demanded by this pandemic. It later was released on an OTT platform but by then the damage was done as the film failed to bring in any great box-office collections.
Next came the news of one of the big releases of 2020 – Sooryanvanshi – getting indefinitely postponed. The Rohit Shetty film featuring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif was poised to release on March 24. In an official statement shared by Akshay, the makers made the announcement — “Sooryavanshi is an experience that we have created for you with over a year of dedication and hard work, and the response we received for its trailer was nothing less than electrifying and made it clear that this film truly belongs to its audience... We have been as excited as you are to present the film to you and your family, but due to the recent outburst of the COVID - 19 (Coronavirus), we, the makers, have decided to postpone the release of your film Sooryavanshi, keeping in mind the health and safety of our beloved audience... And therefore, Sooryavanshi will be back for you just when the time is right... After all, safety comes first... Until then, keep the excitement alive, take good care of yourself and stay strong... We shall pull through this... -Team SOORYAVANSHI.”
Taking Rohit Shetty’s lead, filmmakers of other films like Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Haathi Mere Sathi and 83 also decided to push forward the release dates of their films. Commenting on it, 83 director Kabir Khan wisely said, “We were really itching to show the film to the world. But some things are way bigger than all this. The whole planet today is on standstill so I think watching a film becomes a much lower priority.”
However, it is not just the films’ release that got affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, movie shoots of big-budgeted films like Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, Takht, Brahmastra, Gangubai Kathiawadi among others got cancelled. Karan Johar, whose film Takht was about to go on floors in April in Europe, suffered obvious losses as his team had already started constructing the sets in Europe. However, KJo took it positively. He said, “We had a palace in Florence that we were shooting in and we were shooting in Spain at the Alhambra. We had recced this for two years. It's not one of the major concerns one should have right now. It's what happens.”
Karan is not the only one who has suffered losses. Even Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, starring Alia Bhatt had gone on the floors. A concerned unit member shared, “We had started shooting for the film. The sets were constructed at film city; however, we don’t know what will happen to the sets now. They might even get damaged in rain during June.”
That’s not all, trade experts predict major losses for the film industry not just this year but even in the coming year. According to a Financial Express report, the film industry faced a decline of 29.1 per cent to Rs 1062.4 crore in the first quarter of 2020, which stood at Rs 1499.4 crore for the same period last year.
While Covid-19 has affected the shooting schedules and even the livelihoods of thousands of cine workers, the Bollywood box-office has perhaps taken the biggest blow. Cinema halls across India are shut since March and now with producers considering an online release for their films, the situation has further got aggravated.
Shoojit Sircar's Gulabo Sitabo, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, and Vidya Balan’s Shakuntala Devi are two films that shall be skipping theatres and releasing online. Allegedly, the makers of Laxmmi Bomb, Ludo, Gunjan Saxena and Khaali Peeli are negotiating deals with digital platform giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar + Disney to release their films on OTT.
While cine buffs are obviously excited, exhibitors aren’t sharing the same sentiment. Soon after the announcement about Gulabo Sitabo’s online release was made – INOX, the biggest multiplex chain in India, released a strongly worded statement stating, “Such acts, though isolated, vitiate the atmosphere of mutual partnership and paint these content producers as fair-weather friends rather than all-weather life-long partners.” Also expressing discontent, CEO of PVR pictures – Kamal Gianchandani said in an interview, “We are disappointed with some of our producers deciding to go straight to streaming platforms. We were hoping that the Producers would accede to our request to hold back their film’s release till cinemas reopened.”