BANGALORE: Despite a 125-day theatre run, Ugramm, starring Sri Murali, has lost about `20 crore to piracy, according to its producers.
Fans of the film's lead actor compiled the statistics and passed them on to an employee of production house Inkfinite Pictures, which then submitted a report to the police.
How they arrived at the information is interesting. Once a pirate was caught, Sri Murali's fans persuaded him to reveal details of where Ugramm was pirated, and in what formats (see box). Using his indide knowledge, they arrived at a loss figure.
Film piracy has been giving nightmares to filmmakers the world over with millions of dollars lost to illegal DVDs and free download sites. The Kannada film industry also suffers huge losses because of piracy.
In Ugramm's case, the loss has been greater as cable networks aired it even before its television rights were sold, says debutant director Prashanth Neel, whose Inkfinite Pictures has produced the film.
Prashanth says the extent of piracy, and not the free distribution online, shocked him. "Recently, when I was on the sets of a film in Mysore, I realised almost everybody had Ugramm on their mobile phones," he says.
The team has registered complaints in eight or nine police stations.
Even though the movie had a slow opening because Sri Murali had delivered some flops, it picked up later, thanks to word of mouth, and continued to run for 125 days at the cinemas.
But piracy kicked in around the 100th day, says Prashanth. “If it hadn't, it would probably have run much longer,” he adds.
He says that those within the industry have been very supportive his work, right from the time the trailer was released.
The director tells us that he thinks that Ugramm has been targetted by pirates more than any other Kannada film because it attempted a blend of 'good' and 'commercial' cinema.
"And to my understanding, I partly succeeded at it. The movie picked up late, hence a lot of people began streaming into theatres after a few weeks. And pirated copies were the only source when the demand was at its highest," he said.
There is no technology to effectively block piracy, the director admits. "Piracy happens in Hollywood and Bollywood too. We are a small industry and absolutely helpless. We have filed a complaint with the cyber police but we have accepted that the scale is too vast for anybody to control," says Prashanth.
However, rather than taking this hard, Prashanth believes that he should learn from his mistakes and be less trusting in the future. His experience has helped some producers he knows protect their films from piracy.
"I have complained to the cable networks too and even approached the court, but to no effect. I am an ambitious producer who is here to stay and I will, too," he says.
Prashanth's next project will be with Puneeth Rajkumar and goes on the floors in 2015.