2014 will go down in the annals of Malayalam cinema as the one year which was dominated by women and women oriented themes. Bangalore Days, directed by Anjali Menon created box office records and ‘How Old Are You,’ Manju Warrier’s comeback movie after a gap of 14 years, became a hit. The third movie to figure in the list was the surprise hit ‘Itihaasa,’ which had a female element in its theme. The low budget movie succeeded in humorously narrating the unbelievable story of a man getting trapped in a woman’s body and vice versa. Actor turned director Geetu Mohandas’ movie ‘Liar’s Dice’ was nominated for the Oscas underlining the dominance of women in Malayalam film industry.
2014: A tale of profits and losses
For the third consecutive year Malayalam film industry scored a century in terms of the number of movies released. This year the count stood at 150 as compared to 158 in 2013 and 127 films in 2012. This year is noteworthy not only in terms of the invested capital in the business of cinema, but also in terms of the sharp rise in losses. As per the estimates of Kerala Film Producers Association, a total investment of Rs 400-450 crore went into movie making this year, the returns stood lower at Rs 150-180 crore. Among the 150 movies released during the year, only 10 managed profitable gross collections from theatres to earn themselves a berth in the list of hits. As per the Association’s estimates the only movie to collect more than Rs 10 crore from theatres was ‘Bangalore Days.’
While nine other movies made profits from theatre collections, another 30 movies achieved break-even from sale of television telecast rights. All other movies failed to bring in revenues. The average production expense for movies released this year ranged from Rs 2-10 crore. ‘Cousins,’ which was released towards the year end with a multi-star cast, was the only big budget movie in 2014.
‘Drishyam,’ which was released towards the end of last year was running successfully in packed theatres till March this year. Producers said that issues relating to television telecast rights affected the business badly. The television telecast rights of more than 80 movies released in this year remain unsold. The telecast rights of even some hit movies were sold only after their releases. Movies of leading stars failed to perform in the theatres, but managed to achieve a break-even backed by television telecast right.
Producers were forced to bring in stringent control on production costs this year. Shooting at overseas locations is considered to be a costly affair and hence not many Malayalam movies had scenes of exotic foreign locations this year. Yet, it did not help bring down the production cost much as it took longer to complete projects, according to M Ranjith, Secretary, Film Producers’ Association. Earlier it normally took 30-40 days for an entire film to be shot, this year it took 40-50 days on an average to complete a film. It took even a hundred days to shoot some of the films released this year.
According to Ranjith, the majority of films failed to recover even one-fourth of the production cost. This created the risk of loss-hit producers staying away from any further ventures and the Association feels that this could affect the Malayalam movie industry in the coming years.