For Bollywood, how 2020 was about surviving the bad to bring home the good

Like many producers, I too have survived disrupted schedules and long periods of uncertainty to now look back at this year with gratitude.

 |  4-minute read |   10-12-2020
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Like a dystopian thriller, 2020 has thrown up twists that nobody saw coming. Who, for instance, could have imagined a pandemic that would shut theatres, stop film shoots, jeopardise post-production schedules, bring down lavishly and lovingly made sets, limit access to outdoor locations and make it impossible for big-ticket films to enjoy rip-roaring openings.

To add to the gloom, industry veterans like Rishi Kapoor saab, Irrfan and our promising young star Sushant Singh Rajput departed too soon. 

main_theatres_reuter_121020050851.jpgWho would have imagined a pandemic that would shut theatres, stop film shoots, jeopardise post-production schedules? (Photo: Reuters)

Daily-wage workers who form the backbone of the industry were hit the hardest by the lockdown and filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors too became uncertain about what the future held for them. I have been told that the exhibitors alone have approximately lost over Rs 1,500 crore from March to September. The entertainment sector well and truly needed a ray of hope and after a long walk through the tunnel; it found one. In its own resilience and indefatigable spirit.

This is not to say that adapting to the new normal is easy or inexpensive.

Yes, film shoots have begun but the cost to sanitise and make sets Covid-19-proof is not negligible. The emotional stress that actors and the production crews go through as they try to adhere to safety protocols while trying to create magic on sets, is also not to be scoffed at.

All of us however found a way to deal with curveballs.

When Abhishek Bachchan who is starring in my production, The Big Bull and Amitabh Bachchan ji with whom I had shot Chehre, tested positive for Covid-19, it was a harrowing time for me because I consider them family. The focus then was on their well-being and recovery. 

Once that happened, they did their best to finish all their projects like the professionals they are. Proving to me once again that dreams delayed are not dreams denied.

Like many producers, I too have survived disrupted schedules and long periods of uncertainty to now look back at this year with gratitude. The industry is beginning to adapt to restrictions imposed by Covid-19 and there is no doubt in my mind that we will soon thrive despite the odds that 2020 has thrown our way.

The pandemic is teaching us so much, including how to think out of the box when looking for solutions. Drive-in theatres? OTT releases? Theatres reopening with safety guidelines in place? We are open to any option that will keep people employed, businesses running and the audience entertained. Grants and salary subsidies would be welcome too, as also continued brainstorming between producers, financiers, exhibitors and all stakeholders.

We cannot say either that OTT platforms, one of which will also release my film — The Big Bull — are in conflict with theatres. Our world is in a flux right now and it is unfair to pit one mode of entertainment against another. With the way technology is advancing, there will be many more conduits of entertainment that we cannot even imagine right now, and the big-screen experience will still be a big draw because it is inimitable and irreplaceable. 

Sure, some estimates have put the total loss experienced by the industry to over Rs 9,000 crore this year, but let us look beyond the numbers at the bright side. 

This year, we saw breakout stories by young writers and a new crop of actors who did not need box-office success to define their success.

We saw the industry coming together to support daily-wage workers and taking care of its own when the streams of revenue dried up.

We understood that it was possible for films to succeed even in the absence of massive publicity budgets.

We saw homegrown productions like Delhi Crime winning the International Emmy.

We saw Dimple Kapadia making an international audience swoon over her in Tenet.

We realised, there is always a silver lining to the darkest of clouds.

The glass, from my perspective, is never empty. It can always be filled with hope and resilience. The show, as always, will go on. So will we.

Also Read: How pop culture failed us in the times of coronavirus

Writer

Anand Pandit Anand Pandit @anandpandit63

The writer is a veteran Hindi film producer.

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