Bollywood’s Diwali all about small films this year

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BY NATALIA NINGTHOUJAM
New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS)
Bollywood biggies have given Diwali the pass-over despite cinemas opening, so the festival weekend will be all about small to medium budget films taking up big screen space.
Production houses are yet to officially announce their list of films ready to release after the Centre’s recent nod to open cinema halls, theatres and multiplexes across India at 50 per cent capacity, but there has been a buzz about the films that can be expected to release around Diwali.
Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at the Capital’s Delite Cinema, shared a list with IANS, of movies that look likely to hit the theatres around Diwali next month.
“‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ starring Manoj Bajpayee, Fatima Sana Shaikh and Diljit Dosanjh, the Kiara Advani-starrer ‘Indoo Ki Jawani’ and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s production ‘Tuesdays And Fridays’, starring Anmol Dhillon, Zoa Morani and Niki Walia, look all set to make it to the theatres on Diwali,” he shared.
There have also been rumors that Aditya Chopra might release “Bunty Aur Babli 2” in the festival week.
As far as Hollywood films go, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” Niki Caro’s “Mulan” are the likely contenders.
“Several regional language films have also been finalised for release in the Diwali week,” informed Mehrotra but a lot depends on the footfall, he added.
“Right now we are expecting 20 to 30 per cent occupancy, but it will gradually increase once patrons start visiting cinema hall,” he added.
According to veteran film writer and trade analyst Vinod Mirani, state governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat have agreed to go ahead with the reopening of cinemas. But conditions under which cinemas are allowed to function effective October 15, 2020, don’t quite make a business promoting model.
He said: “To start with, the cinemas in the containment zones can’t be reopened. Cinemas will function at 50 per cent of their seating capacities. To add to the problems of cinema properties, they have to contend with the initial reluctance of the audience to come in.”
Trade analyst Girish Johar also shared the same concerns. He feels that October and Diwali 2020 will be all about small films.
“We haven’t got blanket approval. We have the central government’s approval but cinemas is a state subject. There are certain states that are yet to give approval. For example, Maharashtra is number one theatrical business wise for the Hindi films. The state has still not given a green signal. The other reason is safety. It will take four to six weeks for normal walk-ins to happen. So, while cinemas will be open by Diwali in mid November, Christmas I think will have a big release lined up, which should get things rolling again,” Johar told IANS.
Trade analyst Rajesh Thadani is not expecting any big film in these times. “They (filmmakers and cinema owners) want to survey how many will come and then take a call. Also, all the states are not opening up at once. All of India has to open up and only then can big films release,” he told IANS.
But it isn’t all bad news. Thadani feels that though people are concerned about safety, they also want to go back to cinemas, which have been shut since March end — even if that means watching a smaller film.
“It can be like an outing for them. They are tired of sitting at home. So they can go for these films also, just for the experience,” he said.
Johar hopes multiplexes now handle medium and small films with more love, care, warmth and nurture them. “Medium and small films now have the option to go to OTT if they feel harassed by multiplexes. They also form 60 per cent backbone for the cinema people. During the lockdown, all the small films went to OTT, so technically there is hardly any film left for release,” he pointed out.
At the same time, he feels the first preference for filmmakers will always be a theatrical release because India is still “predominantly a traditional market”.
“Everyone wants to watch a film at a cinema. OTT is still at an urban and nascent stage. Cinemas do have an upper hand,” Johar concluded.

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