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Tollywood impasse continues as Rs 600 crore stuck

Tollywood impasse continues as Rs 600 crore stuck

No clarity yet on when film shooting will commence, which has been stalled since August 1, as industry deals with OTT and its own inflated cost structure.

According to Dil Raju, a noted film producer, this “course correction” is necessary in the larger interest of the industry According to Dil Raju, a noted film producer, this “course correction” is necessary in the larger interest of the industry

Tollywood, or the Telugu film industry as it colloquially known, is in the midst of a serious problem as shooting has been stalled since August 1. This is critical in the light of an average five new releases hitting the screens each week or around 250 films each year, making it the largest in the country. 

According to Dil Raju, a noted film producer, this “course correction” is necessary in the larger interest of the industry. At the crux is the need to bring back the theatre-going audience, something that has been severely hampered by OTT. 

From a time when a film could be viewed at home ten weeks after its release, that is down to 3-4 weeks now. With OTT platforms offering sizeable amounts to producers to acquire digital rights, most succumb to the temptation but at the cost of theatrical revenue. 

What has compounded the problem is the low success rate of Telugu films overall – if you knock off the likes of RRR, it is estimated that a substantial proportion (easily over half) fail to recover their money. 

“This period will be used to work on our cost structure as well, especially the peripheral ones,” points out Raju, who adds that it includes cost of production and incidental costs. Another producer points out that high remuneration (more specifically star fee) has zoomed out of control. The top actors, he says, are paid Rs 50-100 crore per film, with the minimum for the smaller stars being Rs 15-20 crore. 

“Over the last three years, that number has increased by at least 20 per cent, without any substantial change in box-office revenue.” Adding to that is the director’s fee – for a well-known name, it can be as high as Rs 40 crore.  
Though there are no official estimates, the value of the films stuck today is said to be somewhere in the range of Rs 500-600 crore. 

Among the prominent ones are Allu Arjun’s Pushpa 2: The Rule, Vijay Deverakonda’s Khushi, Nagarjuna’s The Ghost, Ravi Teja's Tiger Nageshwara Rao and Ravanasura. Raju picks his words carefully when he says, “we are optimistic that the issues will be resolved soon,” without giving a timeline.

Also read: Why Telugu films gave Hindi films a run for their money in the pandemic

Also read: Why Bollywood Lost Out to Movies from the South