Regional cinema has been dominating television screens and OTT streaming platforms in India ever since the COVID-19 pandemic stepped on Bollywood’s toes – the abrupt closure of multiplexes and movie theatres to the public to stem the coronarvirus. Fast forward to August 2021, the Hindi film industry, which shatters the box office with its revenue, seems to be caught in a web of chaos.
The few Bollywood films that released over the past couple of months, including Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor starrer Roohi, Yash Raj Film’s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Salman Khan’s Radhe failed to leave their mark in the audience and at the box office. On the other hand Telugu cinema ran to the bank with films like Vakeel Saab, Thalapathy, Krack, Jathi Ratnalu and Uppena. And this time around during Diwali, fans would be waiting for Rajinikanth starrer Annatthe.
The latest Bollywood film Chehre starring Amitabh Bachchan, Emraan Hashmi and Annu Kapoor didn’t create any ripples at the box office with reports stating it just collected a mere Rs 2.50 crore in four days. According to trade experts, the regional language cinema, driven by Telugu and Tamil films, could make up nearly 50% of overall box office collections, a drastic jump from the 25-30% it would bring in before the pandemic. They believe the rest will be divided equally between Hindi and Hollywood films that are yet to find their bearings after the first and second COVID-19 waves; before the pandemic Bollywood (Hindi) films made up 50 to 60% of overall box office revenues.
Girish Johar, film producer, trade and exhibition expert, told Mint that it is clear that regional cinema will lead the way towards box office recovery in the next few months. “After the release of Akshay Kumar’s BellBottom, the Hindi film industry was expected to go into a complete overdrive, announcing films one after the other. But the collections haven’t matched expectations and one doesn’t see any new Hindi movie at least for the next month.” Sreedhar Pillai, independent trade analyst, agreed that the Hindi market remains a high risk bet and BellBottom, an action flick with a dose of nationalism, could have done far better under normal circumstances. “In terms of theatre releases, the Telugu film industry has raced way ahead of Bollywood. In states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, cinema is a passion and the favorite form of entertainment for the family.”
Vishek Chauhan, Bihar-based film exhibitor, told Mint that many more south Indian films will target the audience up north and Hollywood too will see exponential growth, both at the cost of Bollywood. He noted that niche, experimental films that cater more to multiplex audiences are even less likely to find an audience in these tough times.