A CASH crunch following the government’s demonetisation move has spoiled the show for the Telugu film industry or Tollywood. Shootings have come to a halt or slowed down at studios in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, forcing directors and producers of big-budget films to postpone their releases.
Two big-budget movies, Intlo Deyam-Nakem Bhayam, starring Allari Naresh, and Dhruva, starring Ram Charan Teja, which were to release on Thursday, have now been postponed till December while the release of 12 other movies is uncertain. Tollywood produces 200-250 movies every year, including dubbed ones. Unlike Bollywood, new films are released on Thursday in Tollywood. Producers are wary about releasing their films as theatres in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been deserted for the last week, severely affecting box office collections.
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Producer and financier C Kalyan, president of the Telugu Film Producers Council, said the industry had been dealt a big blow as there is no cash to pay junior artistes, makeup artists, caterers, sound and lighting rentals, assistants and helpers, who are usually paid in cash at the end of the day’s assignment. “At least Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh in cash is required every day per film. Hundreds of workers, mostly daily wagers, are paid in cash. Without liquid cash, they cannot be paid and every thing comes to a standstill if they do not turn up for work. If a scene in a film requires 500 men who have been hired for Rs 1,000 per person per day, then Rs 5 lakh is required to be paid in cash at the end of the day. The workers do not want the old notes and raising that kind of funds in new currency will take weeks or months and till that time, filming will suffer,’’ said Kalyan, who is also a top producer.
B S Krishna, a leading agent who hires junior artistes, said, “Tollywood is a very cash intensive industry. A majority of the payments are made in cash and hundreds of people work in a film. For the first two or three days after demonetisation, these workers agreed to take the money at a later date but now even they are facing a crunch. They have been demanding their dues and some have stopped reporting to work.”
Filming has stopped at Ramanaidu Studios, Ramoji Film City, Annapoorna Studios and Padmalaya Studios in Hyderabad, said B Nagaraju, a member of the Movie Artists Association (MAA). Shooting on the sets of ‘Gautamiputra Satakarni’, starring popular actor N Balakrishna, has come to a halt with at least 400 junior artistes and assistants stopping work demanding their wages, which have been pending for a week.
A Venkata Subba Rao, a junior artiste, currently working in Telugu tele-serial ‘Abhishekham’, said junior artistes haven’t been paid since November 9. “Filming of television serials cannot be stopped but there is a severe cash crunch. Junior artistes are like daily wagers; they expect money at the end of the day. For nearly a week, we did not get any money and producers and agents promised to pay us later. We had no money for several days. Today, they started giving new Rs 2,000 notes which is again a big problem because they cannot be spent easily,’’ said Rao.