Tamil Nadu

Making movies in a post-pandemic world

Stakeholders worried about interest payment, cut in film productions and lower footfall at cinemas

As the gates of cinemas remain locked and filming has stopped indefinitely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the stakeholders of Kollywood — producers, actors, daily-wage labourers and technicians — are wondering what the future holds for their industry and whether there would be a return to normal in a post-COVID-19 world.

While various stakeholders are hoping for a quick end to the pandemic so that they could get on with the film business, many feel the industry ought to contemplate several issues — waiver of interest on debt, reduction of film stars’ salaries and the number of productions, and hygiene improvement in cinemas.

The producers have appealed to the financiers to waive the interest payable on their loans during the lockdown period.

When asked if a waiver of interest for the months of March and April was possible, Tiruppur Subramaniam, a prominent financier and exhibitor in the State, said a decision would be taken only after the cinemas reopen.

“This is not the time to talk about this. We have to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, and then sit down and talk [about this issue]. Let the cinemas open first,” Mr. Subramaniam said.

Producers say the lack of clarity on interest payments could prove to be a problem once films start hitting the screens by the dozen every weekend. Many say that when normalcy is restored, several films may find themselves stuck in a financial mess.

J. Satish Kumar, who has produced national award-winning films like Thanga Meenkal and Kuttram Kadithal, and is leading a team to contest the Tamil Film Producers’ Council elections, expressed confidence that the financiers would relent and waive the interest on loans taken by the producers.

Pay cut

Mr. Kumar said highly-paid actors, directors and technicians should take a 30% pay cut for the films that are currently stuck in the production stage.

“We also want the government to do away with the local body tax, reduce GST rates and roll back the TDS,” he said, adding that “it will take at least a year” for the film industry to return to business as usual.

“People may not visit the cinemas as they may be scared. They are also getting used to watching new films on Netflix and Amazon Prime [Video]. We will need big movies with big hype to bring them back to the cinemas. We are also going to see a drastic reduction in the number of Tamil film productions,” he said.

Producer G. Dhananjayan felt the number of films produced in Tamil will fall by at least 20%. “The number of films produced in a year will reduce by 20% for sure. People may think that going to the cinema is a risk, notwithstanding any precautionary measures they may take. Cinemas may need to implement very strict safety measures,” said Mr. Dhananjayan, who recently released a video listing the possible steps that cinemas could take, including temperature screening, ensuring social distancing inside the halls and making the wearing of masks mandatory for patrons. He said people will come to cinemas only if they are offered a “theatrical experience”.

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Printable version | Jul 13, 2020 12:13:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/making-movies-in-a-post-pandemic-world/article31325335.ece

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