NEW DELHI: The year 2020 saw one of the biggest global shutdown of the entertainment industry. The impact of this worldwide film and TV production shutdown was perhaps felt nowhere more than in India, where the world's most prolific film industry was forced to go on a hiatus.
The Indian entertainment industry churns out more than 2,000 movies per year, dwarfing the number made by Hollywood. In order to facilitate such levels of activity, the production machinery of such a colossal widespread industry has to work each and every day of the week. The COVID-induced lockdown saw all production around the nation go on a hiatus from March 19, 2020, with no clear timeframe for it to resume. Due to this pause on film productions, the audiences had no option but to settle in front of their home screens.
As a consequence of this lockdown revenue from this industry was hit big time. The annual box office earnings of Bollywood stand at a little over Rs 3,000 crore, but in the year 2020, it was around Rs 500-600 crore only.
While there is no exact figure of the revenue that was lost, some estimates say it to be upwards of Rs 1,500 crore with single-screen theatres losing approximately between Rs 25 to Rs 75 lakh a month. These losses go even further into thousands of crores as there are overheads on cinemas, cost of interest on films, holding costs and a lot of other things.
All of this spelled catastrophe for an industry that supports lakhs of people including actors, directors and producers, who are registered with the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE).
The COVID-19 virus did not spare the celebrities, which in turn affected the production and shoots even after the lockdown was lifted. While most of them recovered, we lost some of our favorite personalities to COVID-19. Stars who braved the virus and returned back to production for the audiences were Varun Dhawan, veteran Neetu Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Genelia D'Souza, among several others. Some members of the Bachchan family, which included Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were also tested positive but later recovered.
Due to the lockdown, all the film studios in the country had to delay their scheduled releases as all movie theatres were closed. This included the highly anticipated shared cop universe action film 'Sooryavanshi' and the cricket biopic '83', the latter tells the story of India's 1983 cricket World Cup victory. Both the movies were pushed back for "health and safety" reasons. A lot of the movies, which could not be released on the big screen chose the OTT route in order to slash their losses. Some A-lister actors even embraced roles on these OTT platform Originals.
Known for their subversive and edgy content, these streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and others already had a strong set of young and urban viewers. In June, the first film to release online was 'Gulabo Sitabo', starring Bollywood's biggest star Amitabh Bachchan, followed by Vidya Balan's 'Shakuntala Devi'. Even Bollywood's highest-paid actor, Akshay Kumar, released his horror-comedy 'Laxxmi Bomb' on Disney+ Hotstar.
At a time when Bollywood's favoured destination was out of commission these streaming platforms, helped loosen a rigid divide between cinema and TV. In a true sense, the small screen became a big screen for the box office.
The productions, which were halted have now resumed while adhering to the strict COVID-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of the cast and crew, which includes social distancing, masks, PPE kits, face shields and regular temperature checks.
Though theatres have reopened in most cities around the nation, it is still going to be a slow walk towards normalcy due to the COVID-related restrictions and a lack of theatrical film releases.