Arts & Entertainment

Indian theaters to open after 7-month closure due to pandemic

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Oct 14 (efe-epa).- The return of Bollywood movies with the partial reopening of theaters in India from Thursday has ended a months-long wait of movie lovers in a cinema-obsessed country after months of a coronavirus shutdown.

However, filmmakers have scheduled no big releases that may disappoint the lovers of the glitz, vibrancy, and drama of the Indian film industry that produces the most number of movies in the world.

All states have not authorized the opening of the theaters, and movie companies also have not set the release of their most expensive productions amid uncertainty that has gripped the Bollywood after the death of one of its most popular stars.

The only movie hall in Jangpura, a neighborhood in south Delhi, is preparing to open its doors with no signs of worse for wear after shutting down for more than seven months because of restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus in India, now the second worst-affected country with more than 7 million cases.

However, a 15-minute drive to a movie theater in another south Delhi neighborhood, Nehru Place, tells a different story.

The posh multi-plex wears a bleak appearance. The door is barricaded with old cartons. The cases that displayed film posters only have the shells left. A thick layer of dust lay on the entrance.

However, despite the varying plight of the two movie halls, the takeaway fast-food restaurants located next to them present a similar picture.

How many Indians have been eating out at restaurants, or going to bars or shopping in malls since the authorities eased the strict lockdown imposed at the end of March?

That is the unreliable yardstick that the film industry can use for now to gauge who and how many will go to the theaters, Shibashish Sarkar, CEO of Reliance Entertainment, a division of the Indian giant Reliance, told EFE.

“We also need to see if the audiences are coming back to the theaters or not. You would not know unless there is a film release, you would not know from the re-release of an old film or smaller film. But how do you test whether audiences are going to come back or not,” Sarkar said.

A biopic on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that will be the first movie to be released after the reopening of theaters will not be enough to determine that.

But which of the big production houses will dare to release a multi-million dollar film to test the mood of the audience?

Reliance Entertainment has two films that are ready for release, including police saga “Sooryavanshi” starring well-known actor Akshay Kumar.

“So, right now we are in the midst of again fixing the release of the films. In between, we announced the release of the cop film during Diwali (festival),” Sarkar explained.

“But it is unlikely that we will be able to hold that date because as we speak now, not all the states have opened up their theaters. And we cannot release a film without at least less than a month or 45 days of promotion.”

As part of measures to revive the Indian economy, paralyzed after months of lockdown, the Indian government allowed shooting of films to resume at the end of June.

But the restrictions in place, which limit the number of people on a film set and make it impossible to record the extravagant dance numbers that are used by Bollywood to set the pace of films, make shooting difficult.

“Very few people are daring to start the production, nobody wants to take unnecessary risks,” Anil Nagrath, secretary of the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA), one of the leading bodies of Hindi film producers, told EFE.

India’s powerful film industry, which Nagrath says employs between two and three million people, remains largely paralyzed.

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