Dear Malayalam cinema, don’t alienate your patrons outside Kerala

Manoj Kumar R
Trance movie

Trance has hit theaters in Kerala today.

Dear Malayalam cinema,

What is the point of making good movies, if you don’t intend to show it to as many people as possible?

I was anxious when I first heard the loud whispers about producers mulling to make postponing the simultaneous release of new Malayalam movies in other parts of the country by a week or two a common practice. So far, I was under the assumption that only makers of small and medium budget movies avoided the same-day release outside Kerala to cut the expenses. But, I was not aware that it was also a mechanism to fight piracy.

Now, I have many questions as to how the delayed-release shall protect the interests of Malayalam filmmakers from movie pirates. I also wonder if such a move would alienate a massive section of the audience who love Malayalam movies. Isn’t this a situation where the disadvantages outweigh the benefits?

Recently a Bengaluru-based movie distributor mentioned to me that he can’t recall the last time a Malayalam movie that made losses after releasing in the city. In other words, Malayalam movies rarely fail at the Bengaluru box office. It is because Malayalis are everywhere. You remember the old joke that goes, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon only to find a Malayali is already running a teashop there. What about Malayalis who have made other states and countries their home and spreading the rich tradition and language of Kerala across the whole wide world? What about us? Don’t we deserve to watch a new movie at the same time as our fellow movie buffs in Kerala? What makes our appreciation and love for your work of art inferior to people living in Kerala?

Also, did you give a thought about alienating the non-Malayali audience, who have just started discovering the pleasures of Malayalam cinema? And all the amazing work that you have been doing to debunk the myths and misconceptions about masculinity. And your determination to prove that mainstream movies don’t necessarily have to be artistically, intellectually and aesthetically bankrupt. We don’t go to a Fahadh Faasil movie hoping to see him mouth punchlines, take on a bunch of goons singlehandedly, engaging in hideous banter for comic effect and run around a tree singing duet with his love interest. We buy a ticket for a Fahadh Faasil movie because we know that he won’t be doing any of the above-mentioned activities that have come to define mainstream in our country.

Why do you want to deprive us of that pleasure? The reasons that justify all the troubles one takes to get out of the house and pay an inflated price for the ticket to watch a movie in the cinema have already become scarce. And delaying the release of highly-awaited movies like Trance outside Kerala is not really helping the cause.

Even from a business standpoint, it is unclear how Malayalam movies will benefit from such a move. Assume that the embargo on a new movie somehow plugs the leakage, what then? Assume that as you expected it increases footfall across some 650-odd screens in Kerala and helps you recover the cost and make some profits at the state box office, what about all the moolah that you would be missing out with this embargo? Do you think Mohanlal’s Pulimurgan (Rs 100 crore) or Lucifer (Rs 200 crore) would have become the biggest earners in the history of Malayalam cinema if their makers had failed to cash in on the hype and expectations around these films across the country?

And how do you think this idea will fare at a time when almost all new movies debut on an OTT platform just four weeks after their initial theatrical release? If I have already waited for a week or two, I can wait two weeks more to watch a movie from the comforts of my home without having to go through a lot of trouble?

I wonder, do you even consider these points while bringing up such matters to debate?

You want to fight piracy, very good but do it systematically. Use all the legal options that are available at your disposal. Put in place a comprehensive practice, including blacklisting theaters that facilitated piracy. Invest in technology that prevents torrent sites from streaming pirated copies of your movies.

Also Read | Trance movie release LIVE UPDATES

Instead, such a knee-jerk reaction to combat piracy only hampers your growth as an industry. It is not a permanent solution. It only drives your honest and loyal patrons to the verge of desperation, and they may even seek out pirated copies of movies to quench their thirst of curiosity.

Don’t make us feel desperate, please.

Yours truly,
A film buff