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Bollywood asianculturevulture vibes: covid crisis continues to hit releases and the move to OTT and digital has stalled…

Bollywood asianculturevulture vibes: covid crisis continues to hit releases and the move to OTT and digital has stalled…

As new movie releases lose pace due to the ensuing uncertainty, we give you an inside track on Bollywood’s troubles from our cineaste in the City of dreams looking ahead at June…

By Rodrigues C

RIGHT now in our country, UK is big news, largely because of the spread of the coronavirus variant, which was first detected in India.

As far as we are concerned, we are still struggling with the second wave, though daily new cases have come down drastically.

Salman Khan in ‘Radhe‘ and under fire

In Mumbai, the government has indicated that the restrictions will continue. This means no new movie releases in cinemas. The gloom continues.

Salman Khan’s latest offering ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’, released on May 11 in India, has been the flavour of the month.

Rarely has a Salman Khan film made so much hullabaloo without it even being declared a hit or a flop – which we may never know; it probably is due to the larger than life image of Khan – among his many loyal fans or because most people expected to see the film in theatres, but were given a pay-per-view option, which probably didn’t go down well with everyone.

Radhe’ released in UK cinemas and went on to make a meagre £88,000. So, cinemas have just opened up in England – May 17.

In India, latest figures say that 4.2 million people watched it on OTT., through Zee. Many have panned the movie. Even Khan’s father Salim Khan has said that it’s not a ‘great’ film. A few days back Khan revealed that he was suing actor/Youtube film reviewer Kamaal R Khan, aka KRK, for defamatory comments against him.

Farhan Akhtar in ‘Toofaan

KRK is known for is caustic comments against films and actors, as well as for his no holds barred approach of reviewing films. The war of words between KRK and Khan’s legal teams has reached epic proportions with claims and counter claims making news every day. In his latest update, KRK has uploaded a picture of Khan’s complaint which states that the number one and two reasons for the complaint are his unsavoury review of ‘Radhe’.

As far as cinemas are concerned, there’s not much good news for them in sight; they aren’t expected to open for a while to come. Last year, theatres were shut for six months and thereafter, they were permitted only 50 per cent occupancy in most states.

Also, there is talk of a possible third wave hitting India in September/October.

Target Vidya Balan in ‘Sherni

Another major issue has been the massive shortage of vaccines. Unlike the UK, where a sizeable proportion of the country has been vaccinated (at least once), in India only abut three per cent have been fully vaccinated (some estimate around 11 per cent have received a single dose, which offers some protection).

In fact, in Mumbai vaccinations for the 18-44 age group have been halted due to the shortfall. If Bollywood has to come back to normalcy, it has to start from Mumbai. And, it all boils down to one thing, the speed at which people are vaccinated in this city.

It’s been more than a year (April 17, 2020), since a big Bollywood movie, ‘Gulabo Sitabo’, made it to OTT (streaming/digital platform).

Last year, as many as 20 movies, films such as ‘Laxmii’, ‘Dil Becahara’, ‘Chhalang’, ‘Shakuntala Devi’, ‘Ludo’, ‘Sadak 2’, ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ and ‘Coolie No. 1’ followed.

The way things were going, it looked as if the move from theatres to OTT for Bollywood films could be permanent. But suddenly, things have come to an uncertain halt in 2021. We haven’t seen much from traditional Bollywood on OTT this year except for ‘Radhe’ and ‘Laxmii’, both of which were supposed to release last year and were rescheduled many times, and as happened too with ‘Sardar Ka Grandson’, which eventually dropped on Netflix on May 18.

‘Manoj Bajpayee and John Abraham in ‘Satyameva Jayate

The eagerly anticipated Farhan Akhtar starrer ‘Toofaan’, which was supposed to be released on OTT has been deferred to a later date. Akhtar, one of the industry’s most popular figures, stars as a boxer in this and is paired again with director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and they enjoyed widespread acclaim and success with a biopic of sporting sensation and Indian Olympic runner, Milkha Singh in ‘Bhaag Milkha Baag’ in 2013.

Many other films, such as ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’, ‘Shamshera’, ‘K.G.F – Chapter 2’, ‘Sooryavanshi’, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘Shershaah’, ‘Bunty aur Babli 2’ and ‘’83’ have been completed, but are rather directionless currently with no word as to when they might hit the screen, revert to OTT or like ‘Radhe’ have mixed access.

War film ‘Sheershaah

For the time being, other than ‘Sherni’ (set to release on Amazon Prime on June 2), staring Vidya Balan in the lead role and Amit V Masurkar’s latest film since ‘Newton’, no other big movie is scheduled to release on an OTT platform. Balan stars in this as a forest ranger under all sorts of pressures.

The world as we know is trying to open up, one step at a time, mostly due to vaccination drives.

Unfortunately, India is lagging far behind, still trying to place orders with key vaccine makers worldwide. So, until we fix our vaccine shortage, it looks like Bollywood will have to wait to stand back on its feet.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture