It has been 45 days since one of Rajinikanth’s dialogues was last heard in Bengaluru, a huge market for Tamil films.
The Cauvery dispute, which has taken a virulent linguistic turn, has ensured that the neighbouring state’s motion pictures, which border on world-class production standards, have flickered out of single and multi-screen theatres here.
Fans across Bengaluru and the rest of Karnataka have been robbed of good entertainment as there is an unofficial ban on the screening of Tamil films. As a result, three new films never hit the screens this month, and with new Diwali releases lined up, the Tamil film aficionado community, and that includes a significant non-Tamil-speaking population, feels the issue has been politicised beyond merit.
“Even after surgical strikes against Pakistan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling our neighbour the mother ship of terrorism, Bollywood personalities are against banning Pakistani artists. But in the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu water tussle, not one film personality from either side has spoken out against this unofficial ban,” says Karthik Shivakumar, a Bengalurean and die-hard fan of Tamil cinema.
`Out of theatres’ is the message one gets to see when one logs onto ticket booking sites such as bookmyshow.com.
This continued unrest is also giving sleepless nights to theatre owners, who are losing large sums of money. Despite the losses, however, no one is ready to stick their neck out.
“Yes, there have been no screenings of Tamil films for more than six weeks now. There have been three box office movies released this month. Nobody has told us not to screen these movies and nobody has told us to go ahead. We all know that it takes little time to incite a mob to burn down the theatres. Do you think I should risk it?” asks a single screen owner in Frazer Town.
The loss to the distributor-exhibitor industry in Karnataka is being pegged at Rs 30-40 crore for the last 45 days, and things aren’t expected to change for another fortnight with Kannada Rajyotsava, or the State Formation Day, being observed on November 1st, a time when pro-Kannada sentiment is at a high.
“The decision (against) screening Tamil films is a voluntary decision because of the Cauvery water dispute that has been ongoing since September,” Vice President of the Film Federation of India Thomas D’Souza, himself an exhibitor, said earlier. This is the official word from the Kannada film industry, and it has not changed since.
A distributor complained:
This is what happens when cinema professionals gets pressured into supporting their respective states. There is not one voice from Tamil Nadu asking their Karnataka counterparts to lift the ban and screen the films. Sane voices are being shouted down by shrill film people with political interests.”
A multi-screen exhibitor in one of the city malls famous for movies says that footfalls have dwindled considerably as Tamil films are not being screened. “There has been at least a 30-40 percent loss for us, but who do we complain to? Our association is already at loggerheads with the Kannada Film Chamber of Commerce over playing a minimum number of Kannada films a year. This is the time of the year when people spend on movies and shopping. We are having a very bad time.”
Tamil movies are bought for undisclosed sums by distributors in Karnataka as they make good money along with the theatre owners or exhibitors. Apart from Bengaluru, towns such as Kolar Gold Fields, Mysore, Chamarajanagar and Bellary also exhibit Tamil films.
Tamil movies are universally loved for their production standards, technical perfection, use of graphics, action-packed scenes and unmatched comedy interludes. The industry readily embraces actors, producers and technicians from other states, including Karnataka.
Among likely box-office hits lined up are Dhanush-starrer Kodi (meaning Flag), a political thriller that is expected to be released in the last week of October; Kaashmora (meaning Deadly Spirit), in which Karthi and Nayantara are acting, expected to be released two days after Kodi; Saithan (Devil), featuring new faces; and in November, some more films such as Meen Kuzhambum Mann Paanaiyum (Fish gravy and the clay pot), Chennai 600028 – part 2 and Kaththi Sandai (Sword Fight), with Vishal Krishna and Tamanna Bhatia in the lead. At least in Karnataka, fans will not be able to enjoy a first-day-first-show experience of these films.
Apart from Rajinikanth-starrer Kabaali, Chandi Kuthurai, Enamma Katha Vudranunga, Tamilselvanum Thaniyar Anjalum, Thirunaal, Joker, Mudinja Evana Pudi, Wagah and Dharma Durai were also playing for a few days before they were abruptly pulled out of theatres.
In September, when the Cauvery trouble erupted, screens here failed to play many a good film, including Thodari (starring Dhanush), Irumugan, Aandavan Kattalai, and in October, Prabhdeva’s Devi and other flicks titled Rekka, Remo and Ammani.
Tamil movies cost anywhere between Rs 20-100 crore to make and smash Box Office records at least three to four times in revenues. However, in Karnataka, words such as smash and hit mean only one thing currently. And they have nothing to do with the box office.