It’s raining new releases in the Malayalam film industry, but the fact has brought little cheer to moviegoers or makers.
While 142 films were released in 2012, the number has already touched 76 this year. The number of successful films, however, remains minuscule even as the industry bemoans the significant drop in the audience turnout at theatres. The average movie buff, on the other hand, is finding it difficult to keep track of the number of movies released or to make time to watch them. Logic defying sums for which the satellite rights of the films are being bought has only added to the quality crisis faced by the industry.
Sasi Ayyanchira, president, Kerala State Film Producers’ Association, says, on an average, five to seven films are released every Friday compared to just one or two in the past.
“Audiences are a confused lot as they have to pick the right movie from these releases, as watching films in theatres have become expensive. By the time they choose a film, the theatres may have stopped screening it,” he says.
Mr. Sasi says the number of releases is likely to come down with television channels reportedly deciding not to buy the satellite rights of small films without established cast and crew and unreleased films.
Liberty Basheer, president, Kerala State Film Exhibitors’ Federation, says with so many films being released, theatre owners are forced to change films without giving enough time for the public to form an opinion of a movie. “Audiences have been driven away by the release of many bad films. The decision of channels to go slow on satellite rights will help improve the situation and bring back good films,” he says.
Director B. Unnikrishnan says the digital revolution that has taken the movie industry by storm has proved to be a double-edged sword leading to a drop in the quality of movies being churned out. “Now literally anyone can be a filmmaker. There is no proper monitoring mechanism and some of these projects are dropped midway. Many others that eventually hit the theatres do not survive more than a few shows despite the producers willing to pay the theatre owners to screen them,” he says.
Mr. Unnikrishnan says a committed audience that flocked to theatres with a fanatic passion is missing. “Hence, even the most successful films may not run for 100 days as in the past. Filmmakers will have to think out-of-the-box to find alternative avenues for revenue generation,” he says.
The director says satellite rights are being exploited despite the creative freedom it offered. “Satellite rights had gone on to logic defying heights as in the case of real estate boom. But the decision to buy only the rights of films with established names will lead to a surge in the rights of those films,” he adds.
Sabu Cherian, chairman, Kerala State Film Development Corporation, says the situation will not improve unless the number of releases is brought to around 80 in a year. “Even deserving films are denied their rightful screening days due to the avalanche of releases, a situation for which all stakeholders should share the blame,” he says.
Mr. Cherian says the decision not to buy the rights of small films will shut the door on new artistes and technicians. “I personally feel that producers with a standing in the industry should be treated as a separate category and their films should be treated accordingly. When even overnight stars are dictating terms solely on the strength of their satellite rights, why not give producers with decades of experience in the industry their due? Anyway satellite rights were not helping the producer to qualitatively improve the cinema as it ultimately went to actors and technicians,” he says.
Lijin Jose, a young director, has a different take. “A film should stand on the strength of its virtue rather than some rights. In fact, over dependence on satellite rights has created a lot of projects without any substance. Filmmakers should focus more on the creative side and see satellite rights only as a kind of bonus,” he says.