Mollywood is staring at its worst crisis ever as the second wave of COVID-19 has delayed the release of more than 100 films and dealt a blow to the job prospects of hundreds in the multi-crore industry.
Estimates by the Kerala Film Producers Association (KFPA) say about ₹600 crore is at stake as the worsening pandemic crisis is likely to further delay the release of the movies. “These include big budget films such as Marakkar:Arabikadalinte Simham and Malik. The release of nearly 60 movies was hit after the first wave in March last. Nearly 60 more movies were shot between July last and April this year following the relaxations,” said M. Renjith, KFPA president.
Stating that a possible third wave would aggravate the crisis, Mr. Renjith said that the prospects for the industry seem bleak in 2021. “A majority of the producers remain anxious as they have taken loans on high interest and there is no window being extended for its repayment,” he said.
Sibi Malayil, president of the Film Employees Federation of Kerala, said that over 50% of the about 10,000 members in the 19 trade bodies affiliated to the federation are daily wage workers and the pandemic has hit their livelihood hard. “They include outdoor unit workers, production and other assistants across departments, and assistant directors among others,” he said.
Explaining that the federation had tried to provide relief as far as possible to the worst-hit in the industry after the first wave last year, Mr. Sibi Malayil said that only a few enjoyed financial security in the industry despite the general notion that all was well in the industry. “There are many who have been left unemployed for long,” he said.
Plea to govt.
G. Sureshkumar, president of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce, said that the trade body has submitted a memorandum before the new government seeking financial relief and assistance amidst the COVID-19 crisis. “We have requested the government to do away with the entertainment tax collected on tickets over and above the Goods and Services Tax as it amounted to double taxation,” he said.
K. Vijayakumar, president of the Film Exhibitors’ United Organisation of Kerala, said that the second wave had doused the hopes of exhibitors, who had spent huge amount to resume operations in January after remaining shut for nearly 10 months.
“We request the government to announce an interest-free financial package to overcome the crisis. A waiver on the fixed electricity charges and the building tax for the period when the cinemas had remained shut would also be a huge relief,” he said.