In the absence of blockbusters, indie films set to rule the big screen

A string of independent Kannada films that would have struggled for space in a business-as-usual market is set to hit the big screens to cash in on the lean times at theatres.

Though theatres reopened after a break of seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no new films have been released. Fearing low footfalls, the release of most of the films headlined by marquee names of the industry have been postponed till the new year. However, this lull has worked out well for independent filmmakers.

Award-winning filmmaker Mansore’s directorial Act-1978, all set to release on November 20, will probably be the first new film to hit screens in south India since the COVID-19 pandemic. Another indie film Arishadvarga is slated to follow in a week or two, sources said.

“Several other low-budget films are in the pipeline,” said an industry source.

D.R. Jairaj, chairman, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, said that while multiplexes were running shows, many single-screen theatres are yet to open as the low patronage does not make it financially viable for them to operate. “Unless films starring marquee names are released, audiences are unlikely to go to theatres. However, no one is ready for a release till the new year,” he said.

That said, reports from multiplexes have been fairly encouraging, say independent filmmakers.

“Even for reruns of old films, theatres are seeing 50% occupancy, which is essentially a full house in accordance with the new guidelines. That indicates a hunger for the theatre experience and new films,” said Mansore, director of Act-1978

, a hostage drama starring Yajna Shetty.

He recalled that his previous film Nathicharami, which was released in 2018, was removed from theatres just as it started garnering word-of-mouth publicity. “In the current situation, both theatres and audiences are looking for new films, but there are none. We hope to get an undisturbed run for three to four weeks in theatres,” he added, explaining why the team has taken the risk to release the film now.

Harish Mallya, executive producer of Arishadvarga, an indie crime thriller, which is set for a theatre release, concurs with Mansore. “We had planned to release the film in February this year, but it was pushed to April to accommodate other big films. Then the country went into a lockdown because of COVID-19. Ours is an indie crime thriller with no stars, that even streaming platforms were not keen on buying before a theatrical release. But we are confident that a film-hungry audience will lap it up. We are taking a risk, but hope it will work in our favour,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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