Bollywood came to a standstill when the industry worked again and made money flourish. It is the bleak picture painted by a cross-section of insiders in the industry struggling with filmmaking, post-production world, TV recordings and theaters closing indefinitely in most states, with India fighting a fierce second wave COVID-19 . infections. “There is no silver lining. We are at a critical stage in which our exhibition sectors like our theaters do not expect any revenue in the coming months. With shootings stopped and theaters being the first to close and [the] last to open [during] this pandemic, our situation does not look optimistic … This is a major setback, “said Nitin Tej Ahuja, CEO, Producers Guild Of India, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.
Big-ticket films are ready for release with formidable stars such as ‘Sooryavanshi’ with Akshay Kumar (intended to release on April 30 according to the latest update), ’83 with Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone (intended to be originally released in April 2020 ) and Mohanlal’s multilingual fighter post ‘Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham’ (intended to release this Eid, but postponed to August) has been delayed several times due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in India. Uncertainty is currently a common sentiment among players in the Bollywood industry. ‘We’re in the proverbial Catch-22 situation. We are in the midst of a deep humanitarian crisis and it will take time to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in. The pandemic is indiscriminate, “said Ahuja. Even the statistics compiled by FICCI Frames are not very encouraging. According to their recent survey, 441 films released in India in 2021 compared to 1,833 releases in 2019. In addition, there was an 80 percent decrease in domestic and international theater revenue in 2020, with broadcasting values falling by 68 percent . ‘These statistics give you an idea of the widespread damage. We need to think of long-term solutions. We have already written to the Maharashtra state government to give permission to allow post-production work such as sound mixing and special effects, where only one or two work together in a studio. We also drove the idea of creating safe bio-bubbles for filming. We have to think of ways to get out of here and survive, ”Ahuja said.
Bio-bubbles for a film shoot would in fact involve limiting production to a limited space, such as a large resort with limited crew. The show has to go on, with security protocols in place is another common sentiment. ‘We are thinking of filming in bio-bubbles where a lot of attention is paid to safety protocols and the sets can be closely monitored. “Everyone in the film industry has been greatly affected,” said Ahuja. While the groundbreaking realities are sobering, Reliance Entertainment – whose production blockbusters such as ‘Sooryavanshi’ and ’83 are being held hostage by the global pandemic – is cautiously optimistic. “There is a lot of unpredictability. We just do not know how long this pandemic will last and when it will leave us, but we are confident that people will return to all theaters as soon as it subsides. Movies like ‘Master’, ‘Godzilla vs. Kong ‘and’ Tenet ‘which were released after the first wave of COVID-19 in India and then eased restrictions, all did business quickly. Indians have traditionally been addicted to watching movies on the big screens. We are therefore optimistic that things will return to normal once the pandemic is under control, “said Dhruv Sinha, head of overseas affairs, in a separate interview with Gulf News. In the second wave of infections, at least 300,000 people tested positive every day in the past week, according to a Reuters report. But the situation was not always so bad. In June 2020, Bollywood slowly began to return to normal, as restrictions in film productions and recordings eased slightly when India had the first wave of COVID-19 under control. Actors including Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn and Aamir Khan were seen scrambling to complete their unfinished projects driven by the pandemic. But their collective optimism did not last long when actors and film crews began contracting COVID-19 after they resumed. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, for example, has the resumption of the recording of the Bhatt stars ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ in September 2020 in Mumbai Film City, but he had to put it back on track after the director himself and Bhatt tested positive for the virus . According to a report in PTI, producer Bhushan Kumar’s ‘I Villain Returns’ was adversely affected because the manufacturers had to replant their shoots in different locations. The film directed by Prabhas, ‘Adipurush’, which was filmed in Mumbai with limited cast and crew, and Kumar’s ambitious film ‘Ram Setu’, was also brought to a standstill after the second wave overran India.