Coming soon to your nearest theatres... Maybe?
With Tamil Cinema witnessing a slew of delayed releases in recent times, let's hear from members of the film fraternity about its impact on their respective careers and more
Over the past couple of years, one thing that has been common in Tamil cinema has been the slew of delayed releases finally hitting the theatres. In just the past two months, films like Takkar, Bommai, Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir (YOYK), Raavana Kottam and Kasethaan Kadavulada hit theatres after being in the cans for a long time.
While the pandemic was a major hindering force, it cannot be named as the sole reason for the deferral of these films, which were also stuck due to production issues. However, what is common is the heterogeneous impact that affected the assorted mix of people involved in a project, including the director, producer(s), actors, technical crew, and the like. What goes through their minds and lives when a film is subject to inordinate delays?
“Delays are very common in the industry, and it is definitely not under our control. Taramani was released 3.5 years after we began production. Rocky was delayed due to the pandemic and I was hesitant to do any other film in between because I wanted Rocky to release first,” says actor Vasanth Ravi, who is now grateful for the lineup of films he has coming up, including Jailer. But this level of pragmatism isn't something that is common with all the players in this issue.
The hampering catalysts
The stimulus for deferral in the completion and release of a film is observably different for varied film projects. Pointing out that the pandemic caused the first obstruction, director Venkata Krishna Roganth who made his debut with YOYK explains that the hesitance of the producers to continue backing a delayed project accounts more for the delay. “If everything went well, the film, which began production in 2019, would have been released latest by December 2020. While COVID-19 accounted for 25 per cent of the delay, the investment made by the producers, their hesitation to proceed with the project and the advice they received for the same, caused the remaining 75 per cent,” he adds.
Director Sri Ganesh, who had a hit debut with 8 Thottakal in 2017, had a setback after the postponement in production of his sophomore, Kuruthi Aatam. Announced in 2018, the director shares that the actors’ schedules were one of the grounds for the delay, but not the foremost. “The main reason for the production delay was financial difficulties. Of course, there are also other undisclosable factors.”
The young director further also divulged that at one point the delays also gave him the dilemma of letting go of the project, but he chose to stick on to it. “A lot of debut artists and technicians were associated with Kuruthi Aatam. I could not be selfish and let go of the project because that would mean affecting a lot of people’s livelihoods.”
Stumbling through production
The woes of those involved in a film project do not miraculously vanish once the shooting gets back on track. In fact, that is when they start facing more snags. Shanthanu Bhagyaraj, who resumed shooting for Raavana Kottam 1.5 years after the first schedule, says that maintaining the look for the film was the biggest challenge. “I had a bunch of films for which I was shooting during the break for Raavana Kottam. Returning to the look and filming counteractive shots a year and a half later, was extremely challenging.”
Roganth, had a different set of problems as his film had war sequences set in Sri Lanka. “Everything had changed by the time we returned for the shoot, almost 250 days later. We were pushed to shoot the Sri Lanka war flashback portion in 3 to 4 days, as opposed to the original 8 days schedule that we had planned. Other scenes, including the climax, were shot in 2 days,” reveals Roganth, adding that the rushed schedule definitely affected the quality of the film.
Echoing this sentiment, Sri Ganesh observes that nine out of ten times when a film is delayed, the technical quality of the film is directly affected. “Kuruthi Aatam was in the can for a long time, and the release was finalised at the last minute. A lot of visuals and editing were incomplete. I felt helpless as most of the edits were not in my hands.”
The post-production paradox
While the challenges of actors and directors are complex, they are also documented. However, the technical crew’s efforts during such instances are often overlooked. An editor or a music composer is tasked with patching up continuity and making the audience forget that the film is a deferred one.
Music composer Nivas K Prasanna is an unfortunate recipient of such ill luck. While some of his films —Takkar, YOYK — saw the light of day, projects like Sumo and Kallapart are still awaiting release. "Music is as time-sensitive as content. Every six months, music and audio technology get updated, and the music or score for a film has to be updated accordingly when it doesn’t get released at the said time,” says Nivas, also letting us in on the other challenges. “During such rework, the director’s mind also sometimes changes, and I have to make changes accordingly. Also, I have to mention that I didn’t always get paid for these reworks. Yet, our time is used up and I couldn’t commit to any other film.”
The Impact on Career and mental health
For Vasanth Ravi, who technically began his career in 2013 with the start of Taramani’s production, the actor has only had three releases in the past decade. “When I came into the industry, I was not worried about the level I had to reach. So, I strongly believe that my career would only be affected if I don't do films that give me satisfaction.”
However, that is not the case with all actors. In fact, Nikhila Vimal, who has only had 7 Tamil releases in 7 years says that postponed releases have made her more picky about the films she does in Tamil. Her delayed films include Ranga, and Ombathu Kuzhi Sampath among others. “Most of the delays are due to production-related issues. Over the years, my script-choosing process has also started involving the thought of whether or not the film will have a timely release,” she explains.
For someone like Sri Ganesh, the postponement and sudden release of Kuruthi Aatam took quite a toll on his career. He says that he had to press pause on his work and think about everything that went wrong before working on his next film. “Thanks to my first film 8 Thottakal, and possibly my goodwill, I am working on a script now after taking a long break. The script is in the final stages.”
The consequences are, however, never only on career, as it also takes a swing on mental health. “I was emotionally very affected after the release of Kuruthi Aatam. When the work itself is incomplete, we cannot ask the audience to be lenient with the film, right? It took time for me to come out of it,” says Sri Ganesh.
Nivas also faced similar psychological issues, so much so that he had the good mind to quit the music industry, altogether. “Mentally, I could not work on other films because, at the back of my mind, there was a constant reminder that a part of my work is unreleased. At a point, I even considered giving up music composition and taking up a different field altogether,” he says recalling the stressful times he was put through.
A Producer’s Perspective
While producers of many of these films were not very open to comment upon the reasons behind the deferral in production, we reached out to an important voice from their end — producer PL Thenappan of Shree Rajalakshmi Films, and former Vice President of Tamil Film Producers Council. He agrees that miscalculation on the side of the producers is probably one of the reasons for delayed releases.
Although Thenappan has never produced a film that had a delayed release, he taps into his years of experience, and says, “Producers who are relatively new to the game may miscalculate the budget required for a film. Sometimes, what they have planned for a whole film may get perished in a single schedule. Then, they are forced to pause production of the film until they can come back with finances to continue it.”
Additionally, Thenappan says that the star cast of the film decides the producer's interest in reviving a project. “For those projects that had to hit the brakes during the pandemic, the producer may have reconsidered re-investing in the project if the director or the actors were new in the field. However, if a film has a big star in the lead, then the market will be able to save the producer from woes, once it releases.”
As per Thenappan’s observation, in some cases, the directors may also be accountable for production delays. Explaining that producers are also at a loss, Thenappan says, “Sometimes, the director would say a certain budget is enough for the film. Yet, due to the addition in the story or unforeseeable circumstances like weather changes, their schedules would go on and on. The producers are then forced to bring in more money to back the film, for which they need time.”
Production delays are not new in Cinema. The pandemic was only an accelerating factor. While we speak about delayed releases here, there are some films that are still languishing in production hell, including Naragasooran, Sathuranga Vettai 2, and Garjanai, among others.
It is important to note that most of such films are either the debut films of aspiring filmmakers or starring up-and-coming actors. The consequence a delayed release can have on a budding talent may be manifold, and at times, unrecoverable. While this might not be the last time we see delays, for whatever reason, affecting a film and all its players, all we can hope for is a future where everything goes according to plan. Hopefully.