Telugu film industry provides employment to 14,000 people directly and another 25,000 indirectly.
Hyderabad: The Telugu film industry, also called Tollywood, that provides employment to around 14,000 people directly and another 25,000 indirectly, besides entertainment to millions is readying for a gradual reopening from Sunday. To start with, the film industry will resume all stalled post-production works from Sunday which will unlock doors of studios after 63 days, since Janata Curfew on 22 March.
A roadmap for staggered reopening of the film industry has been finalized after a meeting of top heroes, directors and producers with Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) at the latter’s residence-cum-office Pragathi Bhavan in Begumpet in Hyderabad on May 22, Friday. If things go smoothly, cinema theaters will be opened for audience from July 1, sources said.
KCR heard a delegation that comprised Mega Star and former union minister K Chiranjeevi, hero and owner of Annapurna Studio Akkineni Nagarjuna, filmmakers S.S. Rajamouli, Trivikram Srinivas, Koratala Siva, producers Dil Raju, D. Suresh Babu, C. Kalyan among others. Ministers T. Srinivas Yadav (cinematography), S. Niranjan Reddy (agriculture) and Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar were present.
This meeting was preceded by another meeting between the Tollywood bigwigs and Minister Srinivas Yadav on 21 May, Thursday where the issues pertaining to the film industry were brought to the notice of the government. Due to abrupt lockdown, Tollywood was one of the worst hit sectors and close to 50,000 people were left jobless, the captains of the Telugu cinema pointed out.
Tollywood which accounts for around 130 films every year, next only to Bollywood with almost similar numbers, is at crossroads as at least three dozen big budget films were stuck in the Covid-19 triggered lockdown, the representatives of the industry told the minister at the meeting held at the Jubilee Hills residence of Chiranjeevi. Minister Srinivas Yadav followed it up with a meeting with CM KCR.
KCR, too, shared the concerns of the film industry’s top guns but voiced caution over persisting spread of Coronavirus in Hyderabad city limits. “We need to strike a balance between safety of film workers and general public,” the CM is understood to have remarked while acknowledging the importance of Telugu cinema not only to people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, but to entire India.
It was brought to the notice of the CM that films worth around Rs 1,000 crore were stalled at various stages and those which were slotted for summer release were incomplete as their producers are steeped in debt burden. The labs where the films are in post-production work were locked and distributors who hired theaters too are in doldrums, the Tollywood elders told the CM. Tollywood is not region specific now as many films are slated for pan India releases while many Hindi and other southern language movies are to be dubbed into Telugu. Now that many Hollywood films too are dubbed into regional languages and some of the producers who betted on them are losses. There are 3,000 theaters in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
KCR told the film industry representatives to resume post-production works like editing, sound-mixing and dubbing in indoors immediately while scheduling shooting of films from June 1 onwards. The same applies to TV serials and digital platform productions too. He sought the views of Tollywood on further opening up of the industry.
Rajamouli and other directors assured the CM that shootings can be done with lesser number of people on the sets or outdoors, without disturbing government’s social distancing norms. More graphics can be used to make up for presence of large number of artistes at shooting locations. TV serials and web series anyway don’t attract large crowds.
What remained a crucial issue was reopening of cinema theaters. While the industry leaders wanted permission to screenings as early as 15 June, CM KCR is learnt to have advised them to wait till 1 July or so. A decision on this will be taken after a couple of weeks depending on the number of Covid cases in the state.
Though the government is ready to allow theaters in green zones, mostly rural and semi-urban areas, the Tollywood is averse to it as Hyderabad and other major cities are crucial for film releases. Partial releases will be unviable. Otherwise, the movies will end up in huge loses or suffer from piracy. Theatre owners are ready for leaving alternate seats for social distancing norms.