Malayalam Features

Piracy Thrives As Currency Crisis Hits Mollywood Hard

A lot of theatres in Kerala, single screens and multiplexes, were empty on November 11, three days after the Prime Minister’s demonetization announcement.


There were two major films in Hindi and Tamil – Farhan Akhtar’s Rock On! 2 and Gautham Menon’s Achcham Enbathu Madamaiyada – hitting the screens that day.

Two Malayalam movies, scheduled to release on November 11 – Director-actor Nadirshah’s Kattappanayile Hrithik Roshan and actor Dhyan Sreenivasan’s Ore Mugham – were postponed to November 18 after the PM’s announcement was made.

Satheesh, manager of a multi-screen in Muvattupuzha, a major town in central Kerala, said that they had to cancel shows of Rock On 2, Acham Enbathu MadamaiyadaPuli Murugan and Swarna Kaduva on Friday as not even 10 people had showed up. “It doesn’t make sense for us to screen the movie for two-three people,” he said.

At Angamaly Carnival theatre, run by Reliance Digital Cinema, there were less than 20 people to watch the afternoon show of Rock On! 2.

“When such a bad financial crisis hits the country, entertainment becomes the last item in people’s agenda. It’s not surprising that people are not going to theatres now,” said B Unnikrishnan, General Secretary of Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA). “The collection from theatres has come down by around 40%,” he added.

“There is no point in releasing a film when people have no currency notes, so I felt I should delay the release. If I was the viewer, my priority would not be to spend my money on a film at a time like this,” director Nadirshah told The Hindu.

Liberty Basheer, the head of Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation, has busy days ahead. “Business has crashed across the state. On November 8, the theatres had 80% occupancy. Immediately after the demonetization announcement, it came down to 25%,” he says. Theatres are unable to issue tickets to those who come with notes of Rs 2000, because of petty cash crunch. What affected the business is the shortage of currency notes of Rs 500.


Unlike Chennai and Bengaluru, majority of the theatre business in Kerala is cash-based. Though online movie booking sites like Ticketnew and Bookmyshow have a good presence in the state, people are yet to get used to it. “The audience for movies like Pulimurugan are mostly people who don’t do online reservation. The business was mostly over-the-counter,” said Basheer.

Puli Murugan, whose business had crossed 100 crore last week, is now facing the heat of demonetisation. “The film was running housefull in theatres. In that pace, it would have touched the Rs 150 Crore mark. But now, theatres are near-empty,” Basheer said, adding that this cash crisis has boosted movie piracy.

To plan for the tough days ahead, the Theatre Owners association will be holding a couple of meetings this week.

“Taking account of the present situation in the market, I am not sure if those films (Kattappanayile Hrithik Roshan and Ore Mugham) would release on the said date,” remarked Basheer. “The prime minister has announced that this crisis would continue till December last week or even further. The release line-up for Christmas might also go in for a modification,” he said.


A staff working with Casino, a leading theatre in Ernakulam said that the theatre, which has a seating capacity of 440, is now running shows with 40-60 people. “We haven’t yet cancelled any shows so far. But the footfall is really less. We don’t know how long this situation would continue.”

Although Casino is listed in BookMyShow, the online booking number has never been over 30. These days, it is much lesser.

Film shoots have also been affected by this shortage of petty cash. “So far not many shoots have been cancelled, thanks to the cooperation of daily wage earners who are accepting credit. But this cannot go on for long. I really don’t know the way ahead,” said B Unnikrishnan.

On Monday, the shooting of Sakhavu, starring Nivin Pauly, was called off, thanks to cash crunch. According to a Southlive report, the crew wasn’t in a position to pay caterers and others on the sets on a daily basis.