KOCHI: The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the Malayalam film industry into a major crisis and it is now staring at a bleak future. Three weeks have passed since the state government ordered the shutdown of cinema halls, which will not open in time for the attractive Vishu season. And even if the lockdown ends on April 14, producers, distributors and exhibitors will have a Herculean task in rescheduling the release dates of the new movies.
Production controllers too have a tough task on hand in terms of rescheduling artists' dates and getting the locations ready.
“When the lockdown was announced, nearly 30 Malayalam films were at various stages of production. They included some big-budget movies, those helmed by woman directors and the ones produced by the Kerala State Film Development Corporation. Artists' dates and availability of locations are the major worries. We need time to plan and finalise everything,” said senior production controller Aroma Mohan.
For instance, Mammootty does not need much time to complete The Priest, but his dates have to be reworked for Amal Neerad's Bilal (sequel to BigB), the fifth project in the CBI Diary sequel, and the films helmed by Sathyan Anthikkad, Vysakh and Joshiy.
The release of Mohanlal's big-budget movie Marakkar Arabikkadalinte Simham will be put off to May or August, in time for Onam. The actor will have to first complete Jeethu Joseph's Ram while he also has his directorial debut to deal with.
Producers are expecting the support of the state government and film bodies to overcome the crisis.
“Most producers have borrowed huge amounts from private financiers in Chennai for their projects. They're paying a monthly interest of Rs 3 lakh for every Rs 1 crore,” said a producer.
Kerala Film Producers Association (KFPA) office-bearers said they are waiting for the lockdown period to end to assess the situation.
“Only a collective effort can save the Malayalam film industry from the present crisis. But right now, the priority is to support the government to contain the virus,” said KFPA president Rejaputhra Renjith.