Covid-19 effect: When will Bollywood return to cinemas?

Why is Bollywood holding out longer than Tollywood, Kollywood for movie theatre releases?

Kollywood and Tollywood have regained their mojo with Sankranti releases but there is no clarity on Bollywood releases

Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone in a still from the pan-India movie '83'. Credit: Twitter/RanveerSingh

The Tamil and Telugu film industries are returning to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic with the Pongal/Sankranti releases emerging as hits despite hitting the screens at a time when theatres were operating at 50 per cent capacity. The Malayalam film industry may also return to the ‘good old days’ as ‘Megastar’ Mammootty’s movie The Priest is set to hit the theatres in February.  

The same cannot be said about Bollywood. There is no clarity about new releases such as Sooryavanshi and 83.  Here are three possible reasons why the Hindi industry is not attempting to woo audiences back to the theatres just yet.

Contrasting strategies

The Tamil and Telugu film industries relied on star power to drive audiences back into theatres in the ‘new normal’ with Master and Krack making a spectacular impact at the box office as they featured Vijay and ‘Mass Maharaja’ Ravi Teja in the lead roles, respectively. The positive response to these films encouraged makers of films such as Vakeel Saab and Check to find potential release dates.

Bollywood, on the other hand, depended on relatively smaller films like Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari and Indoo Ki Jawani. Needless to say, the unimpressive results failed to inspire confidence among moviegoers. 

The stakes are higher

While the Sankranti releases had star power, they were not very high-profile affairs. Master, for example, was not as big as Sarkar and Bigil as it was helmed young director Lokesh Kanagaraj as opposed to a ‘star filmmaker’ like AR Murugadoss. Neither was it a conventional ‘Thalapathy’ movie as it featured Vijay Sethupathi in a strong role. Similarly, most fans did not have great expectations from Krack mainly because of Ravi Teja’s lackluster form.

Bollywood, on the other hand, has big-ticket films on hold due to the pandemic. Sooryavanshi brings together Akshay Kumar and ‘hit machine’ Rohit Shetty. Similarly, the biggie 83 has potential to be a blockbuster as it marks Ranveer Singh’s first collaboration with ace filmmaker Kabir Khan, the director of the blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  Bollywood’s decision to play safe makes sense as the stakes are high.

To avoid clashes

Tollywood and Kollywood decided to land in theatres straight after lockdown led to a few indirect clashes at the box office, resulting in the relatively smaller Sankranti movies Red and Alludu Adhurs being overshadowed. The Tamil movie Eeshwaran, starring Simbu, too did not reach its potential.

The general perception is that had Bollywood directors flocked to the theatres immediately after the lockdown was lifted, there would have been clashes at the cinema which the industry is not fond of. This became quite evident when Boney Kapoor expressed displeasure with the makers of the pan-India movie Rise Roar Revolt (RRR) for setting up a potential clash with his movie Maidaan in  October.

The release dates of most big movies are likely to finalised in such a way that they face limited competition during the opening weekend.