Even as COVID-19 hits Kannada cinema, bilingual titled 'Corona' being planned

The coronavirus outbreak has not only affected the screening of films, but also led to huge business losses

“An invisible virus has wreaked havoc on every aspect of our lives,” says filmmaker Jayatheertha. “Countries that hoarded weapons that could destroy the human race, are now kneeling in fear before this new virus.”

Like other film industries across the globe, Kannada cinema is also facing the wrath of coronavirus and activities have come to a stand still. The film industry and the government will incur a loss of 100 crore because of the virus. For the first time in the 85-year history of Kannada cinema, the government has issued a directive to close cinema theatres. Over 800 screens across the state (including single screens and multiplexes) have suspended screening of films since March 14. As many as 500 workers, artistes and technicians, involved in various parts of film production are badly hit, as shooting of films have been called off.

“The state’s move to close theatres has been respected by everyone involved keeping public interest in mind. The government has promised to review the situation and take a decision,” says KV Chandrashekar, President Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Association. The district administration has directed theatre owners not to screen films till March 31.

Besides the film industry, the government will also incur a huge loss on entertainment tax and GST collection, estimated to be around ₹ 70 crore, says Umesh Banakar, Vice-President Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC). “We have convened a meeting of exhibitors on March 17 to compensate the makers of films of Shivarjuna and Naragunda Bandaya, as these films’ screening was suspended because of the government order. We are also requesting UFO and QUBE-digital distribution platform to waive the transmission fee as the screening of these films were cancelled.”

If big budget films were lined up for release at this juncture, the loss would have been greater says a source from the industry. Producers of Vikram Yoganand’s Kushka, Sachin Shetty’s Ondu Shikariya Kathe and Turtu Nirgama have postponed the release of these films. Tarun Sudhir, director of Roberrt had planned to release his film on April 9, but, adds he will again take a call after watching situation.

This is not the first time the Kannada film industry is shut down. Earlier it was brought to a standstill after the abduction of the Kannada icon Dr Rajkumar in July 2001.

It is the producers who will bear the brunt of this situation. “All others are in the safe zone,” says DK Ramakrishna President Kannada Film Producers’ Association, adding that the total loss for the four films released on March 13 is almost ₹10 crore. The development will have an impact on Roberrt starring Darshan, Yuvarathna with Puneet Rajkumar, Kotigobba-3 starring Sudeep, and Banaras directed by Jayatheertha with the new comers.

Awareness drive by stars

Actors such as Shivarajkumar, Puneet Rajkumar, Ragini, Sri Murali, Harshika Poonachcha are focussing their attention on creating awareness among the people about the impact of the virus by sharing precautionary steps people should take to keep this disease at bay. Shivarajkumar asked people to be “at home with the family”.

Puneeth cancelled his birthday celebration scheduled for March 17 saying, “Your safety is the best present for me on this occasion.”

And now a film Corona

Meanwhile, Umesh Banakar is planning to make a bilingual film in Kannada and Hindi titled Corona. He has registered the title with the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce.

Shivakumar, who partnered with Umesh Banakar, applied for the registration of Deadly Corona with Mumbai Film Chamber of Commerce. “Title registration Committee of KFCC will meet soon to take a call on registering the title. We are planning to shoot the film in Bengaluru and Mumbai and the process of choosing actors, technicians is on,” says Umesh.

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