House full halts Tolly trundle

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By RESHMI SENGUPTA
  • Published 28.08.04
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Too many films, too few halls. A problem of plenty is back to haunt city cinemas that thrive on Bengali films. Though most Tollywood releases in the past few months have been doing brisk business, at least four films are now desperately seeking screen space in a chain of halls.

At around Rs 3 crore, Aabar Aashbo Phire with Saswata Chatterjee, Koneenica Banerjee and Victor Banerjee is the biggest film on the waiting list. The Ravi Ojha film is likely to hit the Priya-Mitra-Globe chain only after the Amitabh Bachchan-Dimple Kapadia-starrer Ora Kara? fades out after its September 3 release. “We had some problem with halls but hope to make it by September,” reveals a spokesperson on behalf of the production team.

Film-makers like Raja Sen and Satarupa Sanyal have been waiting for months to release their films Devipaksha and Kalo Cheetah, respectively. “I finished work in January and have been trying for the halls since June. Now, we will probably get the Minar-Bijoli-Chhabighar chain in September-October. But that too would be for a limited period,” says an exasperated Sen.

With Durga Puja as the backdrop, Devipaksha — starring Rituparna Sengupta, Satabdi Roy and Koel Mullick as three sisters — could be a well-timed release in and around October, but a short run may mar its prospects, feels the film-maker. “We are under tremendous pressure as a number of films are coming up around the Pujas,” adds Sen.

If things finally fall into place, Sanyal might see her film featuring Rituparna Sengupta and Sharad Kapoor in the lead release at Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar by October-end. “Kalo Cheetah was earlier scheduled for September 10, but the date was postponed after other films slipped in,” explains Sanyal, who had wrapped up post-production by June-July.

Also in queue is the Prosenjit-Koel-Gargi Roy Chowdhury-starrer Shudhu Tumi, directed by Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha. “We were trying for Minar-Bijoli-Chhabighar from May, but as the hall-owners kept us waiting, we dropped the idea. Now, we are trying Darpana, Prachi and Bharati,” says the film’s producer Sagarmal Bhura.

Following a facelift, Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar have witnessed a spurt in footfall and a rise in distributor demand. “People are coming back and the situation is certainly brighter than before,” says Somnath Pal, owner of all three cinemas.

“Hall-owners are happy with the pressure,” adds Arijit Dutta, proprietor of Priya cinema and president of Eastern India Motion Picture Association (EIMPA).

The glut of films might augur well for the exhibitors, but those at the receiving end are the ones behind the film. “How do you expect producers to be happy when there are not enough halls to meet their requirements? It’s actually a very bad situation as several halls which only screen Bengali films, like Roopbani, Sree and Uttara, have closed down over lease expiry or labour problems,” says Krishna Daga, chairman of producers’ section, EIMPA. “The indefinite wait has caused us huge financial losses. We had launched the audio album of Shudhu Tumi a long time ago,” echoes Bhura.

According to an industry insider, the space crunch is likely to drag on for some time as several Bengali films running in these halls are faring well. “The last three years have been exceptionally good for the Bengali film industry and quite a few films have run for seven to nine weeks. But the flip side — too few quality halls — must be addressed if the industry is to cash in,” he adds.