Kochi, June 18, 2021: The covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the Indian film industries, especially, Malayalam. Due to the months of closure and lack of fresh content in cinemas, the Mollywood industry got hit hard, which is turning into money and job losses. The state government was also too late to allow theaters to reopen after the first wave, which kept audiences in check before they got some confidence to visit cinemas.
When theaters in Kerala were allowed to reopen in January this year, they needed big stars to step up to revive the ailing Malayalam film industry. Their chances of some sort of relief were dented when superstar Mohanlal decided to release his long-awaited thriller film, Drishyam 2 directly on Amazon Prime Video, skipping its much-needed theatrical release. This move from Mohanlal, however, invited criticism from The Kerala Film Association
, who called this move a selfish act by the superstar.
Despite Drishyam 2's OTT release, theater owners were still hopeful for a quick recovery with an exciting upcoming slate of films. However, when good days were all set to shine all over again, the devastating second wave of the covid-19 made things further worse. The films which were slated for release in April and May, stand postponed as cinemas halls were shut again.
It really became a game of patience and was always up to the filmmakers to blink first. And they did, Fahadh Faasil and Prithviraj Sukumaran - two of the biggest stars of Malayalam cinema, decided to release their most waited film, Maalik and Cold Case directly on OTTs, ditching theatrical release. Both the movies were held for theatrical releases for a long time but the prevailing situation of covid-19 in the state forced the makers to make the tough call.
However, for theaters and exhibitors in Kerala, the OTT releases of Maalik and Cold Case are a massive jolt to their chances of quick recovery post the second wave. They were hopeful that Maalik and Cold Case will bring the audiences back to theaters, which are expected to reopen in mid-July as corona cases are going down regularly. However, there is Mohanlal's big budget, Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, and Aaraattu, scheduled for release in theaters, but theaters need other big stars to step to help them out.
Fahadh Faasil particularly could face the consequence for his continued interest in OTT platforms. Maalik is his fourth consecutive direct-to-digital release in 9 months, despite the stern warning from The Kerala Film Body, who had warned FaFa to refrain from releasing his movies directly on OTTs by overlooking theaters
. It will be interesting to see if the Film Body takes action on him or he will be giving the benefit of doubt. Meanwhile, Faasil is playing the antagonist in Allu Arjun fronted Telugu movie, Pushpa, which will release in multiple languages including Malayalam.
For the record, the Malayalam industry is the lowest-grossing industry as the total net collection Malayalam movies have generated so far in 2021, is approx Rs. 35 crores, which is far less as compared to Telugu and Tamil industries. The Telugu film industry is leading in 2021 with approx Rs. 450 crores India net collection.