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Kollywood’s last-minute hiccup

Examining the reasons behind cancellation of shows on the day of a film’s release, a phenomenon that happens only in Tamil cinema

Everybody knows that Tamil cinema is the most prolific in terms of production in India, with over 200 films a year. But an unknown fact is that it has also the maximum number of films that have delayed and truncated releases on the announced date of a film hitting screens. It is commonplace in Kollywood that a film, which has announced a particular day of release, with advance bookings in full swing, doesn’t hit screens at the appointed hour.

Recently, Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam 2 had a truncated release with the film not hitting screens in Madurai and South Arcot. In the last year, 23 Tamil films had a ‘delayed release’ on the day it was supposed to hit screens. This is a phenomenon seen only in Tamil Nadu and stems from the fact that the financial condition of the industry is shaky. Such delayed releases result in poor opening and raise doubts in the mind of viewers who are unsure of the film’s release.

Finance issues

So why does this last-minute chaos happen? In other industries, any other film industry to be on the safe side, your borrowings should be ideally one third of the total cost or maximum 40-45% of your budget. But Kollywood has skewered logic; the borrowings on most films are in the 60-75% range of the total budget, with multiple financiers backing a project. This leads to financial chaos at the time of release as many financiers have to be settled.

KS Prasad, who has made two films in Tamil, says, “For the last one year, I’m trying to release my third film which has got bogged down in financial problems. Unless I release my film, I cannot settle my dues.” However, the financiers want him to settle before release, as they know that once a film hits screens, their chances of recovery are almost nil. Today, the traditional distributor, who used to fund films from advance they received from theatres, has completely disappeared. In modern times, the producer himself releases his film through a syndicate of theatre owners who back up as distributors on a commission basis.

What’s a ‘panchayat’?

In Tamil cinema parlance, every film has a “panchayat” at the time of its release, meaning that those associated with the film (producer, distributor, exhibitor, financier and middle men) will sit across a table to sort out financial issues.

 

Sometimes these panchayats go on for days before a settlement is arrived and by that time, the film misses out on opening day morning and noon shows. A smart producer will come out of it smiling by getting an assurance from his current hero that he will get one more date from him provided the pending film releases, while financiers will agree to waive a part of the interest which will be settled in the next film! This vicious never-ending cycle goes on.

A spokesperson of a leading Digital Service Provider (DSP), the last mile connect between producer and theatre, says, “If there is a stay on a film by any court, unless it is settled or withdrawn, we cannot allow KDM’s (Key Delivery Messahe) to be despatched. The basic issue Tamil cinema is facing is that financial issues are addressed by the stake holders only a few hours before a film is released. The only way out to rectify this is by Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) coming out with a rule that a Friday releases financial issues should be sorted out by Tuesday evening. If that doesn’t happen, the film needs to get pushed. This will also help theatres to chart out their programming for the weekend and open advance booking on time.”

National multiplex players operating in Tamil Nadu open advance booking for Tamil films only after getting an assurance from DSPs that KDMs will be delivered on time. Though the TFPC has tried to sort out the issue, it is proving to be a tough nut to crack, probably because it is small-time producers that make the major vote bank of the Council. Unless Tamil film producers become more professional in their approach, the last-minute film release hiccups will continue to plague the industry.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 5:40:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/kollywoods-last-minute-hiccup/article24751440.ece

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