Cinema screens were shut throughout India and films were cancelled globally. We appear to live in a script of the Black Mirror. A whole industry which is based on collaboration between large crowds and large audiences is now facing an unprecedented crisis.
At the same time, more than ever before, people watch movies and shows. TV ratings have increased, and online streaming platform membership has increased, but the truth behind the scenes is complicated.
Books, Movies and Masala shows
India has always had a long and shaky bridge between books and screen content. In the 1980s, films in India moved from meaningful stories to decades-long commercial entertainment. In Indian publishing, it wasn’t during this time that filmmakers turned for the material.
Since the movies are motivated by the vision, the books must be read by filmmakers. Some Indian novels and stories, like Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, were turned into fascinating films and adapted to the movie several times. Munshi premchand’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi was a grand Satyajit Ray classic. Shyam Benegal changed a pigeon flight from Ruskin Bond as Junoon, and Tamas was taken from Bhisham Sahni as Govind Nihalani ‘s film.
Many shows have used books as source material in the television world. Jane Austen’s sense and sensitivity are the foundation for the show Kum Kum Bhaagya. One of India’s longest-standing television shows, Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is based on Taarak Mehta’s writer “Duniya Ne Oondha Chashma” column. Another popular TV show, Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, is based upon the novel Custody by Manju Kapoor.
A shortage of funds
For any manufacturing company, buying book rights or stories means starting up a new project, in turn, spending money. Shooting and projects were delayed since the COVID-19 lockdown started. The lack of funds means that even after the lock-off ends, production companies will not jump to make a new deal.
Ideally, web series and TV networks should satisfy increased content demand, but their advertising volumes have declined significantly in the same systems. This is because companies need to prioritize their spending first to pay existing employees and do not have excess advertising money. With no advertising money, television networks have fewer new content funding.
Making new movies
Talking specifically about films, even if theatres are re-opened with restrictions and modifications, audiences may not rush to buy tickets for fear of contracting the virus. Recently, during a chat, the CEO of one of India’s leading online streaming platforms said the fall in advertising income means that the app development networks will allot funds for project development alone – at least until July. Shibashish Sarkar, CEO of Reliance Entertainment, shared a similar point of view.
Large film production companies are now focusing their resources on low-budget films that need compact crews and fewer interns for internships in controlled locations, so that execution is not hindered. Sarkar said that restrictions on movement in metropolitan cities like Mumbai could hinder regular shooting in the future.