There is a new villain lurking in the Bengali film industry, and it’s the demonetisation move announced by the Prime Minister.
As many as four Bengali films – Romantic Noy, Teenawnko, Thammar Boyfriend and Kanamachi Bho Bho — were released at the theatres this Friday. Going by the first day box-office report, none of the films have managed to impress the trade pundits with the figures, all falling to the demonetisation knockout punch.
Director Bithin Das is especially disappointed. His debut Bengali film, Teenawnko, starring Rituparna Sengupta, Bidita Bag and Mumtaz Sorcar, released on Friday. “Compared to expectations, there’s a dip of 35 % in the sales on day one of the release. We managed to release the film after a lot of difficulty but the demonetisation announcement has left me flabbergasted. I had put two years of hard work into the film and this is what happens,” said Das.
Vivek Rungta, producer of Kanamachi Bho Bho, echoed the same sentiments. “There’s been a 30-35% effect of demonetisation on the box office of the film. The film has a social message and I would love more people to watch it,” he rued.
The Bengali film box-office has fallen by over 20% since the demonetisation announcement.
According to Subhasis Ganguli, regional director (east), Inox, the footfall is 20% lower at the multiplexes since November 9. “People are queuing up in front of banks and ATMs because the immediate priority is to withdraw money to buy daily necessities. Watching a film and enjoying popcorn are luxury in these times. The movie business has been hit just like the other markets such as retail, luxury and real-estate,” he said.
Producer Joy Ganguly of Colkatay Columbus blames the cash crisis for the abysmal box office performance of the film. The film, starring Mir as explorer Christopher Columbus and Tanushree, released three days after Modi announced his move. “In normal times the film would have done three times as much business as it has. There was positive word-of-mouth publicity and reviews too were in our favours,” lamented Ganguly.
In an industry, where small-time directors and producers struggle to get release dates and proper chain of theatres, it becomes difficult for producers to change their release schedules. Filmmakers are left with no option but look for other release schedule to avoid the money crisis.
Director Haranath Chakraborty has pushed back the release of his romantic film, Amar Prem, by more than two weeks. Debasish Sen Sharma’s film Aranyadeb, starring Jisshu Sengupta, which was scheduled to release on November 25, will now release in January.
“People are desperate to get hold of cash. I don’t expect to watch my film now,” said Sen Sharma.
Director Rajib Choudhury’s film Romantic Noy deals with male prostitution in Kolkata. The director said that all the promotional activities of the films were completed and he couldn’t afford to push back the release date. His film released in 25 theatres.
“Just like any other citizen of this country, I stood in front of banks and ATMs. There’s a crisis in the market and I know it’s difficult for people to spend money on movies. Yet, I am looking forward to the weekend,” he said.
Director Raja Chanda, who is set to start the shooting of his new film in December, too sounded anxious.
“The film requires me to shoot in north Bengal. What if I need two auto rickshaws for a sequence? Do you expect me to write a cheque to the drivers? During shooting, we need a lot of things, which are bought on cash such as props and food,” said the Le Halua Le and Rangbazz director.