It's game on for Malayalam films

New age of cinema

It's game on for Malayalam films

It’s perhaps appropriate that it was the Abrid Shine-directed 1983 that inspired the first cellphone game based on a Malayalam movie.

The film that celebrated cricket as sport, religion and a way of Indian life doubled as a fond rewind for the ’80s children and yet, also connected with a generation bred on the flash of instant cricket. For the developers of “Hitit 1983”, a game for Android platforms based on the movie starring Nivin Pauly, it was about being at the right place at the right time.

The Malayalam film industry is on transit mode, embracing innovation in content and form, even as a defiant Old Guard continues to influence market practices. The idea of developing cellphone games to promote movies is invariably lost on producers, who would rather spend a few lakhs on a big music launch. But there is a new breed of producers who have spotted the potential of online and mobile promotions and are ready to invest in ideas for the future.

Coppra, a company incubated at the Startup Village in Kochi, developed “Hitit 1983” along with another start-up Clipclap with modest resources and an ample supply of ambition. Eight months after its launch, Coppra looks ready for the big league, but ambition doesn’t blind the eight youngsters who are partners in the company; they sense opportunity in a fledgling industry but are also weighed down by financial constraints.

The team of engineers, animators and designers in Coppra had the first taste of success with Angry Indians, a game modelled on political satire. Later, the team was involved in developing a game based on a popular cartoon series, Minnaminni that continues to get about 300 downloads a day. Faheem Moinudheen, CEO of Coppra, says movie-based cellphone games have a largely untapped market in Kerala; the clincher will come in the form of appreciative producers.

“For the average cellphone game developed in India, it takes about a month to clock 10,000 downloads. A movie-based game that comes with the right cast and a dash of hype could get this number in two or three days. There’s immense potential for these games if the film industry extends greater support… beyond the cursory contractual tie-up, the producer should realise the value of these games as a brand extension for his film,” says Moinudheen. Coppra has Aswin K K (COO), Inayat K K, Ajmal Jamal, Kishan Dev, Binshad R, Abhijit and Kapil as its other partners.

“Hitit 1983” has had over 10,000 downloads but Moinudheen says the game had a limited global reach because it was pegged to cricket unlike games that are mounted on action set-pieces inspired by movies. Akhil K Anil, co-founder of Raklin that developed a multi-platform cellphone game inspired by the recent Asif Ali-Sunny Wayne starrer Mosayile Kuthirameenukal, says the company had enquiries from Tamil film producers who were impressed with the team’s work in MKM.

Developers of MKM Game designed it by incorporating the lead actors’ look, the film’s background score and backdrop (the film was set in Lakshadweep). “We developed the game that had a lot of underwater action and approached the film’s producers with proposal for a tie-up.

We didn’t work toward forming a company exclusively working on movie-based cellphone games, but after the start we’ve had, we are looking forward to collaborating with other filmmakers,” says Akhil who along with his college friends Rahul A R and Lino Antony K founded the three-month-old start-up. MKM Game that was launched on Facebook and Google Play has had more than 6,000 downloads.

Sanjay Kumar, chairman of Startup Village, says that Kerala has potential to rank high in smartphone penetration. Developers of movie-based games hope to tap into this market while bracing for competition from world-class cellphone games that are flooding the Indian market.

Eeswar G, who has a wide-ranging collection of mobile games, feels that high-quality design and action scripted with freshness will seal the deal for new players in the industry. “It also depends on the movie the game’s based on. In Malayalam that doesn’t have regular releases of big budget action flicks or period epics like Krrish 3, Dhoom 3 or Kochadaiiyaan, designers will have to come up with innovative ideas to promote these films through games,” he says.

The recipe was just right for Coppra and its partner Mobio when they landed the contract to develop a game based on Aashiq Abu’s hugely hyped Mammootty-starrer Gangster. The film that incorporated dark, comic-book elements to portray its central battle between its hero and the antagonist, however, had a disastrous Box Office run.

 The game — “Gangster Race” — had a big start, clocking more than 15,000 downloads in the first four days. But as bad reviews of the film started to come in, the game’s popularity took a hit.

Moinudheen says shoestring budgets and lack of time to design the games are constraints that game developers face in Kerala. The companies either design the games without remuneration and hold copyrights of the game or develop the games based on a project cost agreed with the producers.

 “It takes a Rs 15-lakh budget and at least four months to develop a decent 3D game here. With the minimal reach that the industry has now, diversification into movie-based games makes business sense,” says Moinudheen. He feels that the start has been made. The cheer is still loading but the Game could well be on.

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