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Exhibitors bullish on big stars to revive theatres

Big film stars in both Hindi and southern language cinema are announcing multiple projects with an eye on bringing business back to theatres.

While Rajinikanth’s next Annaatthe is slated for Diwali in November, rival Kamal Haasan has just started shooting for a film titled Vikram that will feature Vijay Sethupathi and Fahadh Faasil along with him, even as he is reported to begin a sequel to his popular 1990s hit Indian.

Hrithik Roshan has announced some big projects recently such as Fighter along with Deepika Padukone and a remake of Tamil hit Vikram Vedha besides Krrish 4.

Padukone herself will be seen in a multilingual film with Baahubali star Prabhas, a remake of Hollywood film The Intern and a retelling of the Mahabharat from Draupadi’s perspective. Ajay Devgn who may have had to release his latest Bhuj-The Pride of India on Disney+ Hotstar has announced more than five projects, including one that he will direct himself.

Film trade experts and theatre owners believe that the top stars of the country should do more films post covid to draw audiences back to theatres. Several stars had cut back on their work – with some doing barely one film a year. Faced with the challenge of remaining relevant in a post-covid world, many are fast building buzz around big projects.

“The presence of big stars (in a film) definitely adds great draw to it and speeds up the process of recovery,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar agreed. “After remaining out of action for nearly two years, the stars also realise it’s important to be seen and are on the lookout for something that may be up their sleeve,” Johar added.

One of the things people have missed about the cinemas is the spectacle it brings and the experience of watching a largescale film on the big screen, said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas. “We all know that big films in India usually have the big stars,” Puri pointed out.

Abhimanyu Singh, CEO, Contiloe Pictures said it is going to be content where you need a collective experience that will bring audiences back into theatres. “One draw in Bollywood definitely is the stars, so as long as you have a good script and a big star – that is a combination that will work well. Otherwise, good scripts by themselves are now going to become the order of the day for a lot of content that the audience are viewing on digital platforms, which is of variety and quality, so they’ll get used to a certain standard until the theatres open up,” Singh added.

To be sure, the covid-19 pandemic has dealt a definite blow to the star system with several films compelled to skip release in theatres and then barely managing any draw on OTT services. Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said any star worth his salt in the southern movie industry would want his upcoming film to hit the big screen first, given how they see the system slowly crumbling. “Plus, they know things will not normalize as quickly post the second wave. The economy is in shambles and the common man has no money,” Pillai said.

Industry experts like Mukta Arts’ Puri said that making such big films is challenging referring to the fewer number of big star vehicles being released each year.

As films become more complex and the advent of technology brings more imaginative experiences to screen, a larger investment from the main actors may be required.

“Big stars are big because they have a huge fan base and you are willing to spend money to buy their tickets for a movie but that alone will not be good enough. We have to make content that demands from the audience to come and have a wholesome experience on a big screen with explosive sound, so even movies with stars should be the perfect combination,” film and web content producer Goldie Behl said.

In these times of excessive content, the aim should be for the audiences to want to watch their favourite stars’ movies and they should have no choice, but the big screen, he added.

It is more likely that content that is designed for big-screen experience without a big star might still work compared to content featuring a big star that is not backed by a big-screen spectacle as people may want to watch the film at home, Behl explained, indicating that presence of a star and scale are equally important. Live Mint

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