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Will 2022 also be a washout for the Kannada film industry?

With the rise in Covid cases in the state and subsequent pandemic regulations kicking in, film releases planned for the early part of the year are being pushed ahead.

Will 2022 also be a washout for the Kannada film industry?
Will the pandemic play spoilsport for the release of Kannada films in 2022?
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 12.17 PM, Jan 06, 2022

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The pandemic has been rough on film industries across the world, Sandalwood is no exception. A rough estimate puts the Kannada film releases of 2020 at about 73 and 2021 at 100, including those that chose to have direct-to-OTT outings, which is less than half the number that came to theatres in 2019. This is not to say that films were not being made; they were. In fact, a lot of the films that are ready currently and still awaiting release have been in contention for a movie outing since the end of 2019, with more getting added to this list in 2020 and 2021.

When the pandemic struck and everything shut down, theatres were among the last to be reopened in the unlock phase, with severe restrictions on capacity and number of shows, to accommodate proper sanitisation after each screening. In 2020 and 2021, movie halls were granted permission to operate at full capacity briefly before the pandemic forced the government’s hand again in issuing restrictions. 50% occupancy is not a financially viable option for Kannada filmmakers, whose films are also not high up on the list for direct purchase on major OTT platforms. Their prospects for better digital and satellite rights improves if there is a theatrical release, which is why most Kannada filmmakers have been hankering to get their movies into movie halls, even if they were clashing with several others.

Since October last year, when 100% occupancy was allowed again, things began looking up for the Kannada film industry, with at least 37 films making it to theatres. Filmmakers were hoping to continue with this momentum in the new year, even though no major Kannada releases were slated for the first two weeks of January. Director-actor Prem’s film Ek Love Ya and actor Siddharth Mahesh’s Garuda were planning January 21 releases, both of which have now been postponed indefinitely in light of the Covid situation in the state. February has three confirmed releases, Love Mocktail 2 and Old Monk on the 11thand Vikrant Rona on the 24th. There’s no official word on their postponement, but the buzz is that it will happen, as several big-ticket Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films have already been pushed ahead.

One of the major problems for Kannada films, at least in the larger cities, and maybe border districts too, is that there is a large populace that watches Tamil, Telugu and Hindi content. The most-recent success of the Balaya starrer Akhanda is testimony to that. Apart from competition among themselves, Kannada films also have to vie for halls along with movies in these other languages, often ending up as the losing party in this fight. That, of course, is a subject for another debate. Right now, some of the films that the industry thought would eat into their market, RRR, Radhe Shyam, Valimai, Prithviraj and Jersey, have all been pushed ahead, with no clarity on when they are expected next. The release plans of most major Kannada films will depend largely on the new dates set by these movies.

This week, the buzz in Sandalwood circles has been that the impact of the third wave of the pandemic will even push KGF: Chapter 2 ahead, which, as of now, has been earmarked for April 14. Rakshit Shetty, who was among the first to announce December 31 as the release date for his film 777 Charlie, pushed it ahead for business reasons – the actor-producer is believed to be striking a deal with Boney Kapoor for the distribution of the Hindi version. A new date was not announced and now it’s anyone’s guess when it will hit theatres. Crazy Star Ravichandran was also looking at bringing his next directorial, Ravi Boppanna to theatres in early 2022, but there’s no word on that yet.

In the meantime, there are several films that are in various stages of production and expected to be 2022 releases, like, for instance, Dhananjaya’s biopic on late underworld don MP Jayaraj, Head Bush, R Chandru’s ambitious underworld subject starring Upendra, Kabzaa, Challenging Star Darshan’s next, Kranti, Shivarajkumar’s Bairagee and Vedha, late Puneeth Rajkumar’s James, Dhruva Sarja’s Martin, Ganesh’s Tribble Riding and Gaalipata 2, and so many more. Even Sharan, whose Avatara Purusha Part 1 was pushed ahead from its proposed December 10, 2021 release, will soon have his next production, Guru Shishyaru joining this long list. Of course, there are many more films in the pipeline and if we begin listing them, there will be no end to that. You get the drift, right, there are a lot of films getting ready this year too, while the backlog from 2019 (and even earlier) is yet to be cleared. The question now is, when and how will all these films release. Will they all wait it out till the government thinks it is safe for theatres to reopen at 100% and then flood the market, or will some try their luck with OTT platforms? Let’s wait and watch.

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