Changing audience demands a change in story and style. They also bring in a shift in the ways the movies are marketed and distributed. Unni K Warrier, Vinod Nair and N. Jayachandran track the return of the box office and the new market place called internet.
Premam, the bumper hit that raked in over Rs 60 crore, was the second directorial outing of Alphonse Puthren. Newcomers were behind the other recent hits such as Ennu Ninte Moideen, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and Amar Akbar Antony too.
If you take ten super hits that grossed rich for the producer last year, only two of them were directed by established directors – Siddique’s Bhaskar the Rascal and Ranjith Sankar’s Su… Su… Sudhi Vathmeekam.
When 151 Malayalam movies were released in 2015, 83 of them were directed by newcomers.
Malayalam cinema is waiting for the next big milestone – a film that can gross Rs 100 crore. With more than Rs 60 crore in collection, Drishyam, Premam and Ennu Ninte Moideen have already shown the industry the way forward. Kerala is no small market, considering the Rs 3 crore collected by Baahubali from a single multiplex in Thiruvananthapuram.
When veteran producer Mukesh R Mehta and fresher C V Sarathi joined to form the E for Entertainment banner, it paved the way for debutant directors to strike gold. The production house made six movies in three years and most of them went on to become super hits.
Rajeev Ravi’s Annayum Rasoolum, Anil Radhakrishna Menon’s North 24 Katham, Jude Antony Joseph’s Om Shanti Oshana, Shibu Balan’s Nagaravaridhi Naduvil Njan, Sreebala K Menon’s Love 24x7 and Basil Joseph’s Kunjiramayanam were produced and distributed by E for Entertainment.
The production house is working on two more movies by newcomers, John Paul George and Jayakrishnan. There are more freshers waiting to prove themselves.
Production houses such as E for Entertainment have brought in the much-needed professionalism to the industry. The producers get involved in each stage of filmmaking and ensure that everyone is paid on time.
“We let the shooting start only after the story and screenplay are approved. We take complete responsibility for the films we produce. We take newcomers into confidence because of their scripts and their imaginative ways of storytelling,” Sarathi said. “Gone are the days when someone would make a movie just because he has got a star’s date. But stars should also have a say in filmmaking,” he added.
Venu Kunnappally is busy with plans for the most expensive film ever made in Malayalam. He had done extensive studies before agreeing to produce R S Vimal’s Karnan. The Prithviraj-starrer is expected to cost Rs 45 crore.
“I do not want this film to be known as the most expensive. I want this movie to excel with global standards in technology, visual effects and costumes,” Kunnappally said. He has already roped in cinematographer Senthil, who shot the epic Baahubali.
Box office is the king
Only 27 of the movies released in Malayalam in 2015 were profitable. While Rs 530 crore was spent on all 151 movies, only Rs 180 crore was recovered, taking into account the box office collection and the sale of rights to television channels.
The rates for the satellite telecast rights have not gone up significantly in recent years. Television channels do not buy a film’s rights for more than Rs 6 crore as they are not sure of recouping the investment. Meanwhile, producers insist that superstar movies should be paid at least Rs 7 crore.
Producers no longer make a movie with only satellite sales in mind. Satellite telecast rights were sold for only 60 films last year.
Producers who have spent over Rs 3 crore on a movie are willing to sell it for Rs 25 lakh but television channels are not impressed. Apparently, some producers have asked television channels to air their films for no return at all.
Films like Premam and Ennu Ninte Moideen have been sold for satellite channels after successful runs at the box office.
World is a stage
Filmmakers have realised that internet is not just an evil mechanism that spreads pirated movies like wildfire. The net can also be used as a market place for Malayalam movies, as shown by corporate giant UTV Motion Pictures.
UTV had sold the streaming rights of B Unnikrishnan’s Grand Master, starring Mohanlal, to U.S. internet company Netflix for a lucrative sum. Netflix allows its users to watch a movie for $5 and the company encrypts the file before streaming it, to avoid illegal copying.
Lal Jose’s NeeNa was also similarly sold. The director sold the streaming rights on the 100th day of the movie’s release. He says this would be a major source of revenue for Malayalam moviemakers in future.
When everyone turns a critic on social media, filmmakers pay extra care to project an image online. Audience between 16 and 27 are crucial in the success of any movie. They are the ones who track social media. Filmmakers keenly watch the response to their teasers and trailers online. If hits cross a lakh, their day is made.