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Bollywood Talk – Movie season to begin with a bang from next week

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The cinemas have been allowed to resume from mid-October in most parts of India and in the crucial market of Mumbai from November 5. Yet, we hardly have had a handful of Hindi films that have been released in cinemas. And the collections have been poor for all films. ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ (2020) is the biggest grosser post lockdown but even that, it managed to collect mere Rs. 4.06 crore. Meanwhile, the collections down South have been great as some big films got released there and even emerged as a success. It gave a clear indication that if big and mid-sized films release in theatres, then the viewers are bound to turn up. However, filmmakers here didn’t believe so. They felt that there’s still fear of the coronavirus among viewers. Also, the government had allowed only 50% occupancy in cinemas. The ones with the big films in their kitty believed that this restriction will prevent them from collecting enough. The trade countered that even ‘Master’ (2021) earned more than Rs. 100 crore with these restrictions.

However, on January 30, the union government allowed 100% occupancy in theatres. This was done after the coronavirus cases began to fall gradually. This led to a wave of cheer in the industry and trade. And in the next 3 weeks, the filmmakers took the risk and announced the release dates of their films. What’s heartening is that unlike the October-January period, where one small film would release every 2 or 3 or even 4 weeks, this time, a line-up was announced. As per the schedule, there’s an interesting film releasing now almost every week.

The first film that’ll make it to cinemas is ‘Roohi’. It belongs to the same universe as ‘Stree’ (2018) and stars Rajkummar Rao, Janhvi Kapoor and Varun Sharma. It releases on Thursday, March 11, to take advantage of the Mahashivratri holiday. March 19 will see the release of John Abraham-Emraan Hashmi starrer, ‘Mumbai Saga’. This massy fare is directed by Sanjay Gupta. The same day, ‘Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar’, starring Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, will also arrive in cinemas.

April 2 will see the release of the much awaited film ‘Sooryavanshi’, starring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif. Directed by Rohit Shetty, the official announcement is yet to be made, however. Then there’ll be a clash on April 23 between ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, starring Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh and Kangana Ranaut-starrer ‘Thalaivi’. Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi’s ‘Chehre’ will make it to cinemas on April 30.

Eid 2021 falls on May 12 or 13 and this time there’ll be a clash, between Salman Khan’s ‘Radhe’ and John Abraham’s ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’. 2 weeks later, Akshay Kumar will present his action thriller, ‘Bellbottom’, on May 28. A week later, June 4, will see the release of the highly awaited sports biopic, ’83’, starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. While June 18 will see the release of Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Jhund’, June 25 will see ‘Shamshera’, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, arriving in cinemas. Similarly, the release schedule for the rest of the months of 2021 is also more or less finalized.

However, there’s a small catch. Since mid-February, the cases of coronavirus in the country have started rising. This is mainly happening in the state of Maharashtra, where the crucial markets of Mumbai and Pune, are located. This state along with Uttar Pradesh (barring Lucknow and Noida), Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha and Kerala haven’t allowed 100% occupancy yet. Punjab had allowed but went back to 50% after cases there spiked. Industry insiders feel that the important centres like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata etc should allow full occupancy and only then, it’ll make sense to release big films. When the central government had allowed 100% occupancy on January 31, the belief was that all states would follow suit by March-end. This would pave the way for ‘Sooryavanshi’ to release with full occupancy on April 2. But now with the cases rising, it’s difficult to say if the 50% rule would go away or will it be retained for a few more months. This is one of the biggest reasons that ‘Sooryavanshi’s release date isn’t announced.

As per the trade, the makers of ‘Sooryavanshi’ will have to take a call by March 9 or 10 at the maximum. This will give the film a 3-week window for promotion which is bare minimum. Murmurs have already begun that the film might be postponed. But the makers can only delay its release by a week, on April 9. It can’t be pushed further as the holy month of Ramzan will begin somewhere from April 12. A chunk of audiences would then stay away from cinemas for a month. And there’s no way that ‘Sooryavanshi’ can further postpone and come only after Eid. It’ll disrupt the whole schedule of the year.

Hence, it remains to be seen what happens next. But thankfully, the increase in cases isn’t alarming. The death rate is quite down and even hospital occupancy isn’t too much. Here’s hoping the situation improves in the next fortnight so that these exciting films can release as per schedule!

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