The Kannada film industry or Sandalwood, as it is popularly called, has been hit by a fresh controversy. It is being alleged that multiplexes in the city are trying different tactics to ensure that Kannada films do not get screened. If you try to book a ticket on the ticket aggregator web site Book My Show for recent Kannada releases such as Actor, Bhale Jodi or Madhura Swapna, chances are a user will get ‘Unavailable’ or ‘Sold Out’ message. Subsequently, the shows of these films are cancelled for lack of audience.
On personally visiting the multiplex, one viewer found that the hall was empty. He went on to share this experience on a social networking site. KM Veeresh, producer of the new movie Actor, who is also the editor of Kannada movie portal, Chitraloka, faced a similar issue, forcing him to bring the issue to the notice of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC). In their defence, the multiplex authorities are said to have called it a ‘technical error’.
Kannada producers and filmmakers feel that this is a conspiracy hatched by multiplex owners to prevent screening of Kannada films, since a ticket for a Kannada film is priced much lower than a Hindi or English film. Tax exemption enjoyed by Kannada films in the state is said to be the reason, which in turn, reduces the profit margin for a multiplex.
When Veeresh contacted Book My Show, they clarified saying “the issue arises out of the schedule changes from PVR” and suggested that he “get in touch with the PVR team for more clarifications”.
Watch Madhura Swapna trailer here:
Veeresh told HT that this is not an isolated case. Ever since he has spoken about the issue, many other producers (Rambo, Plus) have spoken to him about similar experiences faced by them in the past. They added that they too had approached the KFCC for help.
“This problem is faced only by filmmakers, whose movies don’t have any star value or have big names attached to them. Their earlier complaints might have fallen to deaf ears. This issue is making news today because I am a journalist myself and have dared to question the multiplexes, which carry a lot of clout. Despite taking so much effort, no action has been taken yet since both the parties in question are blaming each other.”
He added, “I have not even recovered the money I spent on advertising, let alone profits. I lost all the money I had put into this movie. Such dire situations have often led producers from our industry to end their lives in the past. The issue we are facing with the multiplexes is only going to make matters worse.”
Watch Kannada film Actor’s trailer here:
The penalty imposed on these multiplexes by the government is a measly Rs 10,000, Veeresh claims.
Producer Shashikumar attempted suicide in February 2016, since he had taken loans and invested close to Rs 3.25 crore in his film Half Mental. But he could not get it released for a year-and-a-half, due to non-availability of dates with distributors and theatre owners.
Speaking about how theatre mafia had reached even the multiplex industry, Kannada actor Chetan said, “As it is, a new small budget film faces many issues and this is only going to aggravate the situation. Any film industry grows because of new ideas and if you don’t allow small budget films to grow, how can one do experimental cinema? Multiplexes are expected to be systematic like a corporate setup, but this is equivalent to lying to the public and strict action needs to be taken.”
He said there is no lack of audience for Kannada films. “Since investment is relatively smaller in Kannada movies, recovery is smaller too.”
Filmmaker Dinakar Thoogudeepa, brother of popular Kannada actor Darshan, faced a peculiar issue with his recent film Maduveya Mamatheya Kareyole in January in 2016. “Out of 200 seats, almost 160 seats were sold out at PVR (Orion Mall). But when audience entered the hall, they were made to wait for almost 45 minutes and a different movie was screened altogether. When people protested, they offered to reimburse double the ticket amount along with parking fee. I had to reach the spot to control the situation. On asking why they didn’t screen my movie, they said the content submitted by the makers was corrupted. It sounded illogical because they have to download the movie via satellite anyway.” Thoogudeepa filed a police complaint against the management the following day.
He adds, “They can’t do this to big starrer movies and hence they’re trying these tactics with movies featuring lesser known faces. This is how multiplexes cancel shows by claiming ‘lack of audience’.”
While a big film release could guarantee you a minimum of four shows per day, others can only hope to get one or two shows at the most on a single day.
Well-known filmmaker Rajendra Singh Babu, who is the chairman of the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, said that the academy, along with the KFCC have already submitted a memorandum to the chief minister. “We want multiplexes to have a limit or maximum cap of Rs 120 on movie tickets, like it is in Tamil Nadu. We want a minimum of 2 shows per day for Kannada movies in all screens at primetime.”
Other demands include 300 Janata Chitramandiras (which will exclusively screen Kannada films) to be provided immediately in the state, as promised in 2015’s budget and release funds for a Film City in Mysore.
Popular Kannada film actor Shivarajkumar, son of legendary film actor Rajkumar, has also backed the memorandum and urged the government to implement it in 2016’s budget.
Kannada film director and producer Dayal Padmanabha has also started a petition on Change.org for multiplexes to have a maximum cap of Rs 120 on ticket prices.
Kannada film producer and KFCC president Sa Ra Govindu said that it is common for multiplexes to screen movies of other languages in the slot meant for Kannada films. In their last meeting, multiplex representatives admitted that such tactics are often used to prevent a Kannada film screening. “We are pushing for uniform rate of admission, irrespective of the language of the movie screened. We have given several recommendations in the memorandum and that is the only way Kannada movies can survive.”
Though no decision has been taken regard this dispute by the government so far, a meeting scheduled on March 11 between the KFCC, Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy, multiplexes and government officials is expected to provide greater clarity.
When contacted, PVR Cinemas’ PR claimed they were not aware of any such issue.