When the virus dashes film industry hopes, yet again

Film industry hopes hit the wall as Omicron pulls down theatre shutters

The pandemic era has been particularly tough on theatre releases of films made during the period and ahead of it. We heard of a slew of films – big and small – resorting to stay unreleased as there were no theatres during the Covid-19 era. Though some of them had finally given in to the streaming lure and some big money, the theatre experience is what went missing. This had hurt many producers and filmmakers.

The situation suddenly saw some relief when the pandemic situation tapered. There was a rush of films across India lining up to hit the screens and it was seen as a major win for the film industry.

Film makers who had been fast readying their flicks for release in cinemas expected the pandemic situation to wane, and thus open up more avenues for public exhibition and applause. That, however, is not to be!

Film industry hit by virus blow

Films that had all the last round of work completed and yearning to hit the theatre screens have been dealt with a bolt from the blue all of a sudden. The unprecedented Omicron surge has brought into play melancholy, with a handful of big budget movies being forced to postpone releases.

Among them is the much-anticipated, much-spoken about Telugu pan-India flick titled RRR. Helmed by SS Rajamouli, the expectations on the film have been riding the humongous Bahubali wave. RRR comes from the Bahubali director, and is supposed to be even bigger in terms of money spent, and the stars.

RRR has south’s super stars NTR Junior, Ram Charan, Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt and many more of the top stars. The director is himself a superstar, as are the crew members. A fictional take on two Indian revolutionaries, Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem, who fought against the British Raj and Nizam of Hyderabad respectively, the film had sent out feelers of an epic. But now the release has been put off, much to the disappointment of the fans.

Film industry in crisis
Stills from Prithviraj, RRR and Radheshyam

It isn’t just RRR that has postponed its release due to the Omicron spread. Another flick that has been evoking great interest is Radhe Shyam, starring the famed Bahubali actor Prabhas. The hype around Radhe Shyam has been huge that cinegoers had been expecting a release soon. And yes, the makers even lined a release schedule too.

However, the rise in Covid-19 cases has called for new restrictions and this has affected Radhe Shyam’s release too. The film’s pair – Prabhas and Pooja Hegde – had been exhibiting excellent on-screen chemistry in the trailers, but we will have to wait to see more of it till the Omicron threat wanes. The makers have been busy sending out teasers and songs to generate added interest, and it looks like all these have gone waste.

Release dreams go for a toss

Prominent among the Bollywood biggies who have been affected are Shahid Kapoor’s ‘Jersey’ and Akshay Kumar’s Prithviraj. December 31 was the scheduled date for the release of Jersey. But the sports drama starring Shahid Kapoor and Mrunal Thakur had to remain in the can as the makers decided to wait till the Covid conditions taper off. The ‘Jersey’ producers also sent out a note saying that they have decided to postpone the theatrical release Jersey is directed by Gowtham Tinnanuri.

Meanwhile, the Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar starrer ‘Prithviraj’ has taken a big hit. The film was supposed to bring back a huge number of viewers to theatres. But the Omicron spread just threw all hopes away, and Prithviraj has been relegated to stay put. The film’s makers YRF, and director Chandraprakash Dwivedi had been a very hopeful lot, give the premise of the flick. A much-spoken about historical drama, Prithviraj was a good bet for the industry to make a comeback after the virus had dashed hopes over the past two years. However, all hopes are out.

The film industry will now need to wait impatiently to see the theatres shutters going up after the virus spread subsides. Restrictions on exhibiting films in theatres will take a long time to go, as had been seen last year. Till then, the industry will have to keep its fingers crossed.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]
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