While the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners’ Association had earlier decided to shut screens in the state from tomorrow to protest the imposition of the local body tax among other things (renewal period of licence, theatre maintenance charges), a meeting was again convened last evening to discuss the viability of the strike.
Speaking to Silverscreen, S Sridhar, joint secretary of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners’ Association, said that the theatres in Chennai will not participate in the strike, and will continue to screen films in all languages. Bookings for shows have opened on all websites, and the new releases include Poomaram (Malayalam), Raid (Hindi) and Kirrak Party (Telugu). New releases in Tamil, however, are not to be found owing to the stand-off between the Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council (TFPC) and the Digital Service Providers (DSP)s, which will take a new turn tomorrow, with the TFPC having called for a total shutdown of the industry. This would mean stalling shooting, post-production, film launches and work on all fronts till the two parties reach an agreement.
While the Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada industries have resumed releasing films, satisfied with QUBE’s new rates, FEFSI President RK Selvamani, at a press meet convened this morning, extended his support to the TFPC in their strike. He said: “Almost 5 lakh people are employed in the industry. Their lives are at stake here; the government must institute a committee comprising IAS officers, industrialists and film people and have in place a regulatory framework to establish rates. No producer who has been around for a long time in the industry has seen profit. In 2017, after five years, the success rate of Tamil films went up to 11 per cent from six per cent. Twenty two films were successful, but the success did not translate into profit for the producers. We cannot adjust any longer. The government cannot dismiss the issue as something between QUBE and the producers. Addressing this issue is the need of the hour more than tax exemption. Also, earlier, of the 2,500 theatres in Tamil Nadu, around 1,000 catered to the A centre, 800 to the B centre and around 600 to C. The audiences would choose a screen based on affordability. But now, the C centres have almost vanished, and only the A and B are around. So producers make films – big budget, pan India – to target the A centre. Back in the time of MGR, he had introduced something called the video parlours that brought cinema to the common folk; likewise, we can have small-time theatres that offer tickets for say, Rs 30. That should be the government’s first duty.”
The theatres in the city, meanwhile, have taken to showing old, bankable hits – from the Rajinikanth-starrer Baasha to MGR’s Kumari Kottam and Enga Veetu Pillai, and Vijay’s Theri. Some theatres continue to screen releases from the last few weeks like Naachiyaar and Kalakalappu 2. Mariappan, manager at Albert theatre, speaking to us before attending the Theatre Owners Association meeting yesterday, observed that it did not make sense for the theatres to shut down. “But we may not have new Tamil releases, so would probably just resort to screening a Sivaji or MGR film – or a nadaga padam [a drama],” he said. Albert is currently playing MGR’s 1965 film Enga Veetu Pillai, and the 1000-seater theatre is seeing around 150 footfalls per day. “On Sunday, around 250 seats were filled. Adhuve periya vishayam [it’s a big deal], as we did not advertise it in papers. Our ticket prices remain the same even for old films as I think they are nominal – at Rs 50, Rs 80 and Rs 120.”
For Enga Veetu Pillai at Albert, audiences are mostly male, ranging from those who had retired from the workforce, to others looking for a quick break between meetings. M Nagarajan, a former PWD employee declared that he loves to watch old films – of Sivaji and MGR on the big screen. “The songs are easy on the ear, with no dirty dance sequences that feature in movies of today. Even last night, I was watching Sivaji’s Bhaaga Pirivinai on TV till 1 am. I don’t belong to any particular fanbase,” he said.
Gopalan, a businessman from Thiruvottiyur, caught the matinee between a few meetings he had scheduled for the day. “I am with the AIADMK, but that’s not why I like MGR’s films. I believe they have principles and show the ideal way of life. It’s always a pleasure to watch movies on the big screen. Last week, I caught Baasha at Casino.”
With inputs from Vinayak Mohan, Dani Charles
Featured image: Dani Charles