KOCHI: When demonetisation was announced, Malayalam cinema was riding on a high. Mollywood had just made its debut in the 100-crore club with the roaring success of Mohanlal-starrer 'Pulimurugan' which was released on October 7, almost exactly a month before the announcement. This vantage position perhaps gives the industry added clout to determine whether demonetisation was a hit or miss.
Production controllers remember the daily routine in shooting sets being badly affected in the initial days of demonetisation.
“The bills of canteen and unit production boys, drivers, costume assistants and diesel charges were earlier settled in cash,” said a senior production controller. "A sudden switch to cheque, bank transfers and digital money was not easy. Now things have changed and most payments above Rs 5,000 are made in cheques."
Industry insiders said new producers are hesitant to invest in cinema post-demonetisation. “That was not the situation before,” said a veteran producer. "We had seen the entry of some new producers, especially from the West Asia who were ready to pump in liquid money. These producers are also the reason for many popular stars and directors opening accounts in banks in the Gulf."
He said not everyone sticks to the script; there was a practice in Malayalam cinema where some actors and technicians make a deal with producers. “Out of the total remuneration, they will ask for a certain per cent to be handed over in 'black'. The rest of the amount will be shown in the agreement for which the producer will pay the TDS,” he alleged.
Another producer said some producers overpay leading directors, actors and technicians for securing their commitments for a project. “They will get the dates of the actors by paying hefty advance amounts. Money, both black and white, is still being pumped into the business. The reason preventing the entry of a new producer is that we have only a handful of lead stars who still control the industry. The producer does not have much importance here,” he added.
According to the industry experts, even the collection figures nowadays are exaggerated for publicity.
“However, producers who know the ground reality are not investing in films now,” said an expert. "Experienced producers are playing safe. They come up with ventures that work on a limited budget."
Soon after the actor abduction case which resulted in the arrest of a prominent actor, there was a dip in theatre collections. “But as of now, we do not think that there is a considerable impact on the industry just because of the demonetisation drive. Things are more or less the same,” he said.
But more than demonetisation, it is the decision by television channels not to give huge amounts as satellite rights which has resulted in the production crunch. “We have seen some big announcements in 2017, including projects at a budget of Rs 1,000 crore. We are waiting for the scene to unfold,” said the trade expert.
Industry insiders said new producers are hesitant to invest in cinema, post-demonetisation
According to the industry experts, even the collection figures nowadays are exaggerated for publicity. “However, producers who know the ground reality are not investing in films now,” said an expert. "Experienced producers are playing safe. They come up with ventures that work on a limited budget."