Deepavali all about small films

Bollywood biggies have given Deepavali the miss despite cinemas opening in India and elsewhere.

The festival weekend this year (Nov 14 and 15) will be all about small to medium-budget films taking up big-screen space.

Production houses are yet to officially announce their list of films which are ready for release. But there has been a buzz about which ones will hit the screens around Deepavali.

Mr Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at New Delhi's Delite Cinema, shared a list.

"Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, starring Manoj Bajpayee, Fatima Sana Shaikh and Diljit Dosanjh, the Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani and Sanjay Leela Bhansalis production Tuesdays And Fridays, starring Anmol Dhillon, Zoa Morani and Niki Walia, look set to make it to the theatres on Deepavali," he said.

There is also talk that Aditya Chopra might release Bunty Aur Babli 2 in the festival week. "Several regional language films have also been finalised for release in the Deepavali week," said Mr Mehrotra, "but a lot will depend on the footfall."

According to him, "right now we are expecting 20 per cent to 30 per cent occupancy, but it will gradually increase".

Veteran script writer and trade analyst Vinod Mirani said that, though cinemas will reopen in India, they will function only at 50 per cent of their seating capacities.

"To add to the problems of cinema properties, they have to contend with the initial reluctance of the audience to come in," he said. "So, big-budget films are unlikely to be released."

Trade analyst Girish Johar shared the same concerns. He feels that Deepavali 2020 will be all about small films. "We haven't got blanket approval," he said. "We have the central government's approval but cinema is a state subject.

"For example, Maharashtra is number one business wise for Hindi films. But the state has still not given a green signal. The other reason is safety. It will take four to six weeks for normal walk-ins to happen.

"So, while cinemas will be open by Deepavali in mid-November, Christmas I think will have big releases lined up, which should get things rolling again."

Trade analyst Rajesh Thadani too is not expecting any big film in these pandemic times. "They (filmmakers and cinema owners) want to survey how many will come and then take a call. Also, all the states are not opening up at once. All of India has to open up and only then can big films be released," he said.

But it isn't all bad news.

Mr Thadani feels that though people are concerned about safety, they also want to go back to cinemas, which have been shut since March end - even if that means watching a smaller film. "It can be like an outing for them. They are tired of sitting at home. So they can go for these films also, just for the experience," he said.

Mr Johar said: "Medium and small films now have the option to go online. During the lockdown, all the small films went online, so technically there is hardly any film left for release."

At the same time, he feels the first preference for filmmakers will always be a theatrical release because India is still "predominantly a traditional market".

"Everyone wants to watch a film at a cinema. Online is still at an urban and nascent stage. Cinemas do have the upper hand," he said.

Indo-Asian News Service


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