Telugu cinema on the horns of a dilemma
The rising Covid-19 cases and night curfew have left the Telugu filmmakers in a limbo
Telugu cinema, which has been showing signs of recovery from Covid-19 induced lockdown, is facing uncertainty about whether to continue shootings or not. The resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic has been posing a threat for the production teams and the filmmakers are feeling depressed to alter their plans. After spending months waiting for the resumption of film shootings and reopening of theatres and multiplexes, the makers seem to brave the crisis but not until the second wave raged on. At least a dozen films that are in various stages of production, have come to a grinding halt after the pandemic scare grips the city.
Shootings hit a roadblock
The shoot of Venkatesh and Varun Tej-starrer F3 has been suspended after its director Anil Ravipudi tested positive for Covid-19. It has invited a similar reaction from the makers of Chiranjeevi-starrer Acharya after its antagonist, Sonu Sood and two junior artists infected with Covid-19 last week. "The driver of Chiranjeevi's caravan succumbed to Covid-19 a few days ago and this has also forced the makers to call off the ongoing schedule abruptly," says a source adding, "Actor-producer Ram Charan, who is overseeing the medical arrangements of Pawan Kalyan, has decided to halt the proceedings until the situation limps back to normalcy."
The shoot of Hari Hara Veeramallu and PSPK 30 (the Telugu remake of Ayyappanum Koshiyum) has been suspended after Pawan Kalyan tested positive for the coronavirus. On Monday, the team of Prabhas-starrer Radhe Shyam has indefinitely cancelled the shooting after the former's make-up man tested positive for Covid-19. "The team has planned to reshoot a few portions of the film on Prabhas and Pooja Hegde and just a few minutes before the commencement of the shoot, they deferred their plans after Prabhas's personal make-up man contracted Covid-19," reveals a source from the production team.
After multiple delays, the shoot for Rajamouli's RRR got postponed again after its leading lady Alia Bhatt was infected by Covid-19. Even though she tested negative, the starlet has sought some time to join the team.
The makers of Nikhil Siddharth-starrer Karthikeya 2 had planned a schedule in Cambodia, but they deferred the plan due to the second wave. "Several portions of Karthikeya 2 need to be shot in Cambodia, but given the present global crisis due to the pandemic, we have put our plans on hold," says Chandoo Mondeti, the director of the film.
The show must go on
Not all shootings are getting cancelled as some are going ahead with the ongoing schedules by taking necessary precautions. Actor Nani and the team of his upcoming film Shyam Singha Roy have started shooting for the final schedule of the film in a specially erected Kolkata city set in Hyderabad. Nani's other film, Ante Sundaraniki went on floors on Monday and the team is filming crucial scenes on its female lead, Nazriya Nazim Fahadh, in the city. Similarly, the shooting of Drishyam 2 is currently underway in Kerala, while the filming of Maha Samudram is progressing at a brisk pace in Visakhapatnam. "Jagapathi Babu has joined the team on Saturday. He didn't get his make-up man to the sets and doing things on his own," says a source.
Pushpa starring Allu Arjun has resumed its new schedule on Monday by adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOP), with limited crew members. "Two-three members from the direction department were infected by the virus and they were moved to quarantine for treatment and the team is now rolling out alternate-day working system," says a source on condition of anonymity. Nandamuri Balakrishna's new film with Boyapati Srinu has resumed its new schedule ner Vikarabad. "A short schedule is being planned till April 24 with a limited crew," the source adds.
The night curfew effect
As the Telangana government announced night curfew from Wednesday, the makers of Mahesh Babu-starrer Sarkaru Vaari Paata have pushed the new schedule of the film to a later date. "The April 26 schedule had to be shot only during the night in Hyderabad, but with the restricted timings, the team is strategising their plans and decided to call off the upcoming shoot until the month-end," says a source. The makers have also cautioned its members to avoid gatherings on the location. "Five members from the production team tested positive last week. They all have been quarantined and provided medical attention. We have also advised everyone who is over 45 years to get jabbed," the source adds.
The cinema halls and malls have to shut down their operations by 8 pm and distributors in the State think that these curbs would affect their revenues. "The second shows are money-spinners as a majority of the social class would come to theatres for late-night shows. The early closure would impact our business," says a distributor on condition of anonymity. He is also wary of another lockdown. "If the cases continue to rise, we may have to brace up for yet another lockdown," he avers.
New guidelines in place
The Telugu Film Producers Council (TFPC) lays new guidelines for shooting and post-production works amid rising Covid-19 cases. In a statement, the TFPC said, "The Telugu film industry will continue emergency film shootings and post-production works with maximum 50 workers, duly following necessary rules and taking safety measures. We request the industry people to adhere to these stringent norms scrupulously with immediate effect."
Reshuffle in releases
Films like Love Story, Tuck Jagadish, Thalaivi and Virata Parvam have already been postponed. Even Acharya, Narappa, Balakrishna-Boyapati's film and Radhe Shyam among others may reschedule their releases as well. Director Sekhar Kammula says, "Love Story is being made for theatrical viewing. We spoke to our distributors and thought it's better to postpone the release now. We are waiting for the situation to return to normalcy and we will finalise an appropriate date soon. We have a good film in hand and we are not willing to take any chances at the moment."
Need collective action
After putting a cap on ticketing prices, the Andhra Pradesh government, on Monday, has reduced the occupancy in cinemas by 50%. "The Telangana government may follow the suit too," says Jalapathy Gudelli, Tollywood film critic, adding, "The unexpected reshuffling of releases is also making things difficult for the filmmakers across the country. Whether it's Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra or overseas, the business is getting affected badly."
A collective decision-making process by filmmakers across the country is the only way to resolve these issues. "The film industries across the country have to take a decision to slot the releases as the situation is more or less the same everywhere. Be it Radhe Shyam, KGF, RRR, Pushpa, Salman Khan's Radhe, Sooryavanshi, Brahmastra or any other film that gets a nationwide release, the filmmakers have to allocate a window to ensure they don't eat into each other's revenues," signs off Jalapathy.