Kangana Ranaut’s recent complaint about the ongoing tussle between multiplexes and theatre owners did not come out of the blue. The war has been on for a while — it’s just that her film Thalaivii has ended up as collateral damage. No theatres were available in Maharashtra and three major multiplexes in the Hindi belt — PVR, Inox and Cinepolis — refused to screen the film with only a two-week window before its OTT release.
“Multiplex owners often bully producers. We only want the public and the media to support us,” said Kangana at a recent press conference. Kangana raised a another point too. She said, “We need to discourage American and English movies as they are taking over our screens. We need to behave like one nation. We need to stop dividing ourselves like North India or South India. We need to enjoy our own films first, be it Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu or Punjabi. We don’t appreciate each other, and rather see the dubbed versions of Lion King or Jungle Book. But we will not give a dubbed version of a Malayalam film a chance. This will not work in our favour. We must keep our people and our industry our priority. This is the way to make an Atmanirbhar Bharat.”
Kangana may be one of the top actresses and Thalaivii producer Vishnu Vardhan Induri may hold the aces, with his film ’83 also coming up for release in the near future — yet, Vishnu says there were major issues he faced with Thalaivi’s release.
Film industry veteran Rajesh Vasani, director, movie marketing firm Paras Publicity Services, says Kangana’s contention is not wrong. “I have said for many years that the multiplexes have not been very kind to the producers, trying to call the shots at all times,” he points out.
Producers took issue with the fact that multiplexes were earning from the food and parking facilities on offer, while they did not do so. In addition, payments to the producers are also delayed, they complain. “Plexes also make the producers pay for standees and trailers and buy certain fixed shows. Plexes make money and don’t take care of the producers,” says Atul Mohan.
Producer and film business expert Girish Johar, who has been part of 150 films, however doesn’t agree. He claims that the multiplexes have actually been lenient. “They have changed the window between the theatrical release and the OTT release to four weeks. They have been fair to the industry most times. To ask them to further reduce it is not fair,” he feels.
‘No male domination’
Rajesh Vasani does not agree with Kangana’s contention that heroine-oriented films are given a raw deal. “If the film is good, they will give the screens and the shows. It is not about the hero or heroine. Having said that, the multiplexes want to show their power,” he says. Stars from Ajay Devgn to Salman and even Shah Rukh and Hrithik Roshan have been victims of this battle too.
Curbs on Hollywood!
When Kangana mentioned on social media that Hollywood films were killing the Indian market, Vasani agrees. “It is important that our film industry and the government should get together and restrict Hollywood films. I am not saying that one should stop the screening of the films. But most Hollywood films release in English in 2D and 3D and also release in regional languages. This strongly affects Hindi as well as regional cinema as it depletes the funds of the viewer. Like in China, foreign films should be restricted in India. They should be limited to their original language and shown on limited screens, else the film industry, which is already getting nowhere, may make films exclusively for OTT platforms,” he warns. Johar however feels, “You cannot stop Hollywood films from being released in India. People are seeing great content today.”
Meanwhile, film business veterans feel the deals between multiplexes and producers may change further. “It is going to be a challenge for producers to fix the gap between big screen release and digital release. Every project will have its own criteria vis-à-vis revenue potential. Cinema owners may also come out with new formulae for revenue sharing for theatrical release, which may be film-specific, content supplier-specific, or relate to demand and supply of content in any particular week,” says Sanjay Bhandari, Film Finance Consultant, SB Consulting.