The Tamil Nadu authorities’s newest resolution (introduced on January 4) to extend the seating capability of cinemas, theatres and multiplexes from 50% to 100% could hold the movie-crazy plenty pleased however might see a surge within the incidence of Covid-19 at a time when the state is formally ranked fourth in India by way of the variety of circumstances (8,,20,712) and second within the variety of pandemic-related fatalities (12,156).

Granted there was a gentle decline within the variety of circumstances and deaths every day however new hotbeds are rising in Chennai with 125 circumstances reported within the premium luxury-hotel phase (75 of them within the Grand ITC Chola and 20 within the Leela Palace). Cinema theatres, whether or not of the older standalone varieties or the brand new multiplex selection, are much more conducive to the unfold of the virus since they’re closed, air-conditioned areas.

Which explains why Kerala, which is ranked fourth within the variety of circumstances however eighth within the variety of deaths, solely final week permitted 50% seating capability in cinemas, theatres and multiplexes. Tamil Nadu permitted 50% seating capability way back to November 10.

Granted, the Tamil Nadu authorities has been receiving any variety of petitions from not simply the Tamil Nadu Exhibitors’ Affiliation but additionally film stars like Vijay whose “Grasp” is scheduled for a launch on January 13 within the week celebrating the multi-day harvest pageant of Pongal, with Silambarasan’s “Eeswaran” releasing a day later. Granted, the TN exhibitors have suffered revenue-losses operating into a whole bunch of crores on account of the extended lockdown in 2020. Granted TN leads the nation within the variety of screens, estimated at nearly 1,000 by the news-agency PTI in a report filed on November 10 when 50% seating capability was allowed within the state.

Nonetheless, the TN authorities allowing 100% seating capability makes completely no sense. The federal government order, as quoted within the media, is implicitly contradictory: “Now subsequently the federal government hereby permits to extend the seating capability for cinemas, theatres, multiplexes from present 50 per cent to 100 per cent by following the SOP (Commonplace Working Process) issued already.”

The SOP, efficient from November 10 when 50% seating capability was allowed, stipulated, amongst different necessary measures, the carrying of masks, frequent sanitization and social distancing. How on earth are you able to practise social distancing in a crowded theatre the place 100% seating capability is allowed! Even when contactless body-heat sensors are deployed in each theatre to verify the temperature of each moviegoer, what occurs if the individual sitting within the subsequent seat is an asymptomatic service of the virus? And the way do you implement this SOP in small standalone theatres in distant districts of Tamil Nadu?

Or is the Tamil Nadu authorities making an attempt to be too intelligent by half by showing to allow 100% seating capability in film halls figuring out absolutely properly that its “SOP issued already” won’t enable it? In any case, Tamil Nadu is one state the place movie stars have had an infinite affect on the plenty in all issues, not simply cinematic however political. C N Annadurai, the founding father of the main political social gathering, the DMK, used Tamil cinema extensively for political propaganda. The late Muthuvel Karunanidhi, the longest serving chief minister of Tamil Nadu, wrote scripts for 63 motion pictures, beginning with Rajakumaari in 1947 and ending with Ponnar Shankar in 2011.

The late M G Ramachandran, who died in workplace as chief minister, performed the lead position in nearly 120 motion pictures the place he championed the reason for the poor so relentlessly that he by no means misplaced an election after leaving the DMK and beginning the AIADMK. And the late Jayalalithaa, who led the AIADMK to victory in 4 meeting elections, co-starred in 28 box-office hits with MGR who made her the AIADMK propaganda secretary in 1983. And Kamal Haasan, who has acted in some 240 motion pictures earlier than launching his political social gathering Makkal Needhi Manram (Folks’s Justice Get together) in 2018, has not too long ago reiterated that he’s MGR’s political inheritor. And Rajinikanth, who has acted in over 175 motion pictures and was scheduled to launch his political social gathering this month, has determined not to take action after being hospitalised on December 26 for “extreme blood-pressure fluctuations”.

Hopefully, different states won’t observe Tamil Nadu’s instance of asserting 100% seating capability for movie-halls throughout the pandemic. The movie-exhibition business of different states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, UP and Bengal have additionally suffered income losses. On September 15, 2020, the Multiplex Affiliation of India estimated that the nationwide movie-exhibition sector had misplaced Rs 9,000 crores due to the lockdown within the earlier six months, on the month-to-month fee of Rs 1,500 crore. That determine might now be close to Rs 14,000 crore. In response to a report dated December 19, Bollywood had suffered a Rs 8,000-crore loss in 2020.

Nonetheless, giving in to populist pressures in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere might have devastating penalties by way of lack of lives. The affect of the pandemic is worldwide and never confined to at least one state or nation. Which is why the leisure big Warner Bros is streaming all its 2021 releases on HBO Max on the identical day as they’re launched within the USA, and why Walt Disney debuted its live-action model of Mulan on Disney +.

Till the overwhelming menace of the pandemic is eliminated, it will be silly and counter-productive for the Indian film business to attempt to pressurize state governments into allowing 100% seating capability in cinemas, theatres and multiplexes.



Views expressed above are the writer’s personal.


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