A still from Sooryavanshi
A still from Sooryavanshi

On Monday, the makers announced the postponement of Sooryavanshi. The Akshay Kumar-Katrina Kaif starrer cop action drama, which was supposed to be Bollywood’s first mega release of the year on April 30, has been pushed indefinitely. The reason, of course, is the current Covid situation in Maharashtra.

The buzz is that the production houses backing the film – Reliance Entertainment, Dharma Productions, Rohit Shetty Picturez and Cape of Good Films – were not keen on putting up Sooryavanshi, an extravagant Rohit Shetty entertainer, for a direct-to-OTT release. But now, according to sources, the makers are reassessing the situation and based on the outcome of the same, might make an announcement on April 10.

Theatres in Maharashtra, which account for more than 40 per cent of box office collections, have been shut due to the spike in Covid cases.

While Bollywood is in a tizzy over the current shutdown of cinema business in Maharashtra, one of the most important markets for Hindi films, the fate of Sooryavanshi could have ramifications on film trade trends far beyond just the film. Being one of the most important Bollywood biggies of the year, the decision whether such a huge film goes directly to OTT could set the course for other films as far as future exhibition trends go (at least for now).

Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev in ‘83
Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev in ‘83

When cinemas opened up after last year’s lockdown, Bollywood was quick to announce an impressive line-up of films, beginning March this year right up to the yearend. Among the most-hyped films whose release dates were confirmed over the next months were the Ranveer Singh-starrer cricket drama ‘83, Salman Khan’s Eid 2021 release Radhe, Akshay Kumar’s Bell Bottom and Prithviraj, the Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and the period drama Shamshera starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt.

Salman Khan in Radhe
Salman Khan in Radhe

While no announcement has been made on any of the above films yet, release of the first lot of films, which were to open over the next few weeks, was already postponed even before the Maharashtra government officially decided to shut down halls owing to the second wave of Covid. These included the Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi starrer Chehre, the Rani Mukerji-Saif Ali Khan starrer Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Rana Daggubati’s Haathi Mere Saathi.

Mumbai Saga, which was among the first big commercial films to release in cinemas, fared below expectations, what with the public maintaining a cautious stance about visiting theatres. Still, the big films of big banners were undeterred and insisted they would go ahead with release.

Now, rumours abound that makers of many of these films are weighing the option of direct-to-OTT release and that negotiations might be on with digital platforms.

Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi starrer, Chehre
Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi starrer, Chehre
Amitabh Bachchan/ Instagram

However, most trade experts would rather take a wait-and-watch stance. “These are speculations, we need to wait for the official announcements. The theatres have shut down so people tend to believe that big films will release on OTT. But let’s not speculate. These filmmakers might postpone and release in the theatres,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Filmmaker Atul Mohan feels the situation right now is definitely uncertain. “We might have official announcements in a few days. Whenever a project is delayed, you need to restructure the schedules, get revised dates. Plus, you have to pay interest on the budget. For a 100-crore film, 15 to 20 crore worth interest is charged in a year,” he says adding: “In 2019, we made a profit of Rs 4,400 crore, but last year, in three months, we made only Rs 600 crore, and this year, we have made only Rs 55 crore. The profit was going up but now most of it has been lost. We lost Rs 3,500-4,000 crore in 2020. I don’t see movies making this kind of money in the near future.”

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