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Regional films aid recovery for cinemas


NEW DELHI: Smaller regional film industries such as Marathi, Punjabi and Gujarati are showing signs of recovery post-covid with small-budget movies Daagdi Chawl 2 (Marathi), Fakt Mahilao Mate (Gujarati) and Saukan Saukne (Punjabi) hitting it off with the audiences . Film industry analysts said Hindi cinema is the only one lagging behind now as both southern language film and Hollywood titles drawing viewers.

Daagdi Chawl 2 that released last month made 2.05 crore over its opening weekend, better than the collections of several Hindi language films over the same period, such as sports drama Shabaash Mithu (Rs. 1.65 crore), Nikamma (Rs. 1.39 crore) and Kangana Ranaut-starrer Dhaakad (Rs. 1.96 crore). Saukan Saukne, that had released around the same time as hit horror comedy Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, made nearly Rs. 22 crore in two weeks, competing with all-time highest Punjabi grossers such as Carry On Jatta 2 and Shadaa, both of which had released before the pandemic.

“The sentiment in smaller regional language industries such as Marathi, Punjabi and Gujarati is definitely positive. Though film releases haven’t resumed the way they have in Hindi and the south, which are churning out more films consistently, the contrast is quite evident when business in Bollywood is considered,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said.

Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, said these smaller regional industries are banking on good stories. Besides, though their box office performance has never been driven by star power, their popular actors act an incentive for loyal fans. “They look at family entertainers which, in the past few years, has not been a focus for Hindi cinema at all. Also, it’s important to note that like Hindi, all these regional language films were also planned and greenlit before the pandemic but they’re still finding appeal,” Mohan said.

Marathi, Bengali and Punjabi films do not boast of large budgets of Hindi, Tamil and Telugu cinema, and were devastated by the two years of the pandemic having accrued losses of nearly Rs. 600 crore, industry analysts said. Not only were multiple projects stuck with interest costs mounting for producers, films in these languages were not picked up in a big way by large video streaming platforms which wanted to focus on languages with a bigger draw.

Dinesh Gupta, owner of Dimple Cinema in Karnal, Haryana, however, admitted, regional language audiences in small towns too have discovered content across OTT platforms during the pandemic and while positive word-of-mouth around individual films usually helps bring some loyal viewers to cinemas, no one really knows if things will ever go back to being the way they were for theatre owners. “Families usually say they will catch the film within a few weeks at home so the upper end of the audience is not really coming back at the moment,” Gupta said.

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