As lockdown eases in b-Town, producers, actors and audiences are looking at their options like never before, says our correspondent on the ground…
By Rodrigues C
My dear fellow cineastes, what’s happening?
Let’s get straight to business… director Kabir Khan’s cricketing World Cup winning nostalgia fest ‘83’ is off – it was scheduled to open in theatres for Christmas.
Now, it is on hold.
Attention here has moved to Hollywood blockbuster, ‘Tenet’. Already released in the UK and some countries in the West, it has a major Bollywood interest in 1980s star Dimple Kapadia.
She spoke to www.asianculturevulture.com shortly after the UK release, where it did okay as theatres opened up following the first lockdown which ended in the summer over your way.
‘Tenet’ is set to open this Friday (December 4) in Mumbai theatres. It’s worth seeing in the cinema and a decent watch, provided you don’t try to work out the science too precisely – see here.
The opening up of theatres here isn’t as smooth or as popular as one might have expected – screenings have had only about seven or eight per cent occupancy and smaller cinemas – those with only a single screen or independents (as opposed to the multiplex chains) have had to be creative without the usual churn of releases.
Some have signed a deal with Zee Studios and recently released Ishan Khattar and Ananya Pandey’s ‘Khaali Peeli’ – originally released in October on Zee Plex, a pay per view platform.
Both stars received rave reviews as childhood sweethearts who are lost until they find each other.
This screening decision directly contradicted with the stand taken by the Multiplex Association of India not to run OTT (internet content) releases in cinemas.
To make matters worse, these smaller theatre owners have opened new negotiations with more OTT platforms to buy movies that have already been screened.
Reportedly, some theatres are playing a pirated version of Akshay Kumar’s ‘Laxmii’ – though it has hardly registered much buzz. Word is that it isn’t vintage Akki.
December looks a bit bleak for those of us who need our big screen fix here – only Kiara Advani’s ‘Indoo Ki Jawani’ is on the slate with a December 25 release date. It’s about the misadventures of a woman looking for love online.
There is speculation that more Hollywood and regional films may come to Mumbai screens and there is some speculation that ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’ will make it through to theatres for the festive season. The original 2005 film, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukerji, turned out to be one of the unexpected hits of that year and has cult status now. The stars played two young hopeless dreamers who get kicked out of their parental homes for not settling down and then meet and together turn their lives around as petty criminals. They finally get unstuck when Amitabh Bachchan, as a police officer on their trail, catches up with them. This sequel stars Saif Ali Khan and Mukerji again and Sharvari Wagh (‘The Forgotten Army’) a decade on. Mukerji said Bachchan couldn’t commit to the dates.
On the streaming/OTT side, there are two definite releases this month.
‘Coolie No1’, starring Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan, will drop on Amazon Prime on Christmas Day. The film is a remake of the 1995 classic of the same name and is also directed by David Dhawan again in what will be his 45th film. It’s a tale about a matchmaker who wants to teach a client a stern lesson by setting up his daughter with a railway porter (coolie) rather than a millionaire.
Sanjay Dutt and Nargis Fakhri join together for ‘Torbaaz’. It’s an action army thriller about child suicide bombers in Afghanistan and was shot in Kyrgyzstan.
What there is more of right now is filming – but this too has proved tougher than it looks because of covid.
The makers of ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’ posted pictures of the film’s set in Lucknow along with John Abraham. It’s about corruption in high places. It’s scheduled for a May 2021 release.
Director Kapil Verma is likely to start the shooting of ‘Om: The Battle Within’ at the Film City Studio in Mumbai once Sanjana Sanghi is back from Delhi. The ‘Dil Bechara’ star is a recent addition to the film which is shooting in three Indian cities and one international location and involves Sanghi playing a very independent woman. The film is likely to be out in the latter half of next year.
Filmmaker Aanand L Rai (‘Zero’) has been shooting for ‘Atrangi Re’ with Dhanush and Sara Ali Khan (SAK) in Delhi and Greater Noida. It’s a love film with SAK at the centre of a triangle with Dhanush and Akki in the mix. It’s expected to be out as early as February next year.
Taapsee Pannu has been shooting scenes for her new film ‘Rashmi Rocket’ in Pune. She stars as a village athlete from Gujarat who goes onto represent India. Reports state it will drop early next year.
At the same time as all this, producers are facing major issues such as not being allowed to get enough people on the sets – which hampers work and increases budgets.
For example, producer Ramesh Taurani hired six people only to sanitise the sets of his movie as well as to check the oxygen levels of the staff of ‘Bhoot Police’ in Himachal Pradesh. It’s a film in which Saif Ali Khan and Ali Fazal play ghost hunters.
Recently, a shoot had to be halted for 14 days when an actor tested positive.
In fact, it is believed that many of the cases of actors contracting the virus are not even being reported; the industry is known for maintaining its secrets well. Taking extra precautions means more funding needs and this has made film investors wary of the money they are putting in films; many of them have asked big stars to cut down on their fees.
Surprisingly, some big stars are demanding a bigger pay cheque as releasing films on OTT saves on the money that is paid to screen movies at cinema halls.
To save costs, some actors are being offered two rates for a movie; one for a theatrical release and another for OTT.
That’s all for now, friends – time only for me to wish you a very happy Christmas and a glorious New Year!
And look out for episode 8 (December) of the ACV Bird Eye Review Show with Natalie Barrass out soon!