Conflicts, rifts cast shadow over Malayalam film industry

September 29th, 2008 - 10:51 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Sep 29 (IANS) Film technicians are fighting with one another, producers and exhibitors are at loggerheads - differences of opinion between various film bodies have cast a shadow over the Malayalam film industry. And if the problems persist, movies worth Rs.1.8 billion will get stuck, say industry watchers.”Former Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA) president Vinayan and three other office-bearers were declared persona non grata by the Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) following his allegations suggesting backdoor machinations by the body,” a MACTA official told IANS.

FEFSI president S.Vijayan postponed the MACTA elections in August, alleging that Vinayan had made a faulty voters’ list. Vinayan obtained a precautionary court stay against the poll.

“Several leading lights of the Malayalam industry called MACTA as the personal fiefdom of Vinayan - following his autocratic handling of director Siddique who had attempted to discipline errant actors and have deserted it,” a FEFSI official said.

Said producer-director-actor Balachandra Menon: “No creative person can be fettered by trade unions as every creator is an entity unto himself. Yet, there is a discernible trend to form groups and clash with similar entities in the industry - a totally strange phenomenon.”

While these attempts at one-upmanship may upset shooting schedules, producer-exhibitor skirmishes add to the problem.

Demands by a body of exhibitors in Kerala to stagger fresh releases - screening them in major cities first and bringing the same prints to rural areas later - has met with stiff opposition from producers who think that the move will only benefit DVD pirates.

A spokesman of Kokers, a leading exhibitor, felt the distribution system enforced by the producers left them in dire straits.

“Only 48 theatres in the state pay advance money to producers. The screening rights should be given to them first and the prints should reach rural areas only when it has collected on the initial thrust,” he said on phone from Kochi.

The theatres that cough up money in advance are feeling the pinch owing to a 48 percent entertainment tax and the ever-growing queue of flops in Malayalam.

“The 900-odd cinemas are facing a grim future,” the spokesman added.

“The move will only benefit pirates who will flood the market with VCDs and DVDs, killing a sizeable portion of the market and resulting in huge losses,” the Kerala Film Producers’ Association said in a statement as a response.

If the row persists, projects worth at least Rs.1.8 billion could get stuck. It includes big budget films starring superstars like Mohanlal and Mammootty.

“Pazhassi Raja”, a costume drama starring Mammootty, is being made at a budget of Rs.500 million, while Mohanlal starrer “Kurukshetra” is a Rs.200-million movie. Another Mammootty film “Mayabazar” has a budget of Rs.210 million.

Superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal command a price of Rs.15 million and allocate a maximum shooting period of 60 days per film.

Apart from this, seven films are in the making with stars like Suresh Gopi, Dilip and Prithiviraj. Each project’s budget is around Rs.100 million.

To combat the flops coupled with the stifling 48 percent entertainment tax and film body conflicts, exhibitors’ associations have announced that they would fund small budget films (around Rs.15 million) if released on time.

“Though the move is bound to encourage producers to make movies with fresh faces, the trend is not encouraging. Even in the absence of superstar releases during the recent Onam festival in Kerala, two Prithiviraj starrers and a Suresh Gopi film sank without a trace though they had the potential of mopping up close to Rs.200 million,” said film critic R. Parameshwaran.

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