Akshay Kumar in 'Sooryavanshi'. The film is slated to release in theatres on November 4.
It's finally happening. The Maharashtra government has assured the film industry that it will reopen cinemas from October 22, provided all the safety protocols and Covid-appropriate behaviour are followed.
Last week, I had written that Maharashtra was going to be the key for film business to bounce back at the box office. Now, with the decks cleared, there is reason to rejoice.
The first step in this direction has been taken by Rohit Shetty, who was a part of the delegation that met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and requested that cinemas be opened to audiences.
With a nod of approval coming his way, he has now announced on social media that he would finally be bringing his labour of love, Sooryavanshi, to the big screen this Diwali.
For someone who has held on to the film for 18 months already (the film was supposed to release in March 2020), Shetty would indeed have heaved a sigh of relief and pronto popped the champagne.
Diwali is on Thursday, November 4, this year. It would be the perfect time for the Akshay Kumar-starrer to arrive, given that it's a four-day weekend.
Of course, there is still the issue of the 50% occupancy rule, and also restrictions on night shows in many states.
Ironically, if Covid hadn't intervened and Sooryavanshi had been released as per plan last year, it would have been the first film allowed to start the last show at midnight - setting off a movement where movies would play in theatres well past 12am.
Get set go
Past expectations notwithstanding, right now it's all about survival. The first step in this direction is to have at least those permissions in place that were prevalent pre-Covid.
For Sooryavanshi, it is going to be get-set-go when it comes to the film's promotion and marketing, as only six weeks remain till the release.
Moreover, the entire team would be keeping their fingers crossed that there is no resurgence in Covid cases, as that's exactly what had thwarted the film's release earlier this year, after the end of the first wave.
Naturally, other films will announce their release dates soon - they could even hit screens ahead of Sooryavanshi - on October 22 and 29. After all not all films need a major promotion window and even four weeks would suffice for those which want to come in early.
Of course, there are more films that will arrive from November 12 onwards as well. However, considering the fact that at least 50 Bollywood films are ready for release and perhaps can't wait any longer, the time for release is now.
Yes, there is definitely an element of uncertainty, but that's a gamble that many in Bollywood would have to play.
Dinesh Vijan did that earlier this year with Roohi (Rajkummar Rao, Janhvi Kapoor, Varun Sharma), which had an all-India release. It wasn't a big hit per se, but it managed to recover costs. Moreover, apart from Akshay Kumar's Bell Bottom, it's the only Hindi film in the last 18 months to have made some money, so that pretty much tells the tale.
That's the reason why one waits to see if other big films that are ready like Ranveer Singh's '83, John Abraham's Satyameva Jayate 2, Shahid Kapoor's Jersey and Madhavan's Rocketry will also aim to arrive between November and December.
Some of these films have been much talked about right through the pandemic - shooting and post-production for these got over some time ago. It's all about taking that big plunge and keeping fingers crossed that there are no more external factors that turn out to be reasons for further stress.
Slated for release
Release dates have already been announced been announced for some films. Cases in point are Ayush Sharma's Antim (with Salman Khan), Ahan Shetty-Tara Sutaria's Tadap (December 3) and Aamir Khan-Kareena Kapoor Khan's Laal Singh Chaddha (December 24).
Then there is also a suite of films from the house of Yash Raj Films - Bunty aur Babli 2, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Shamshera and Prithviraj. While the last two in the list are big releases that could well wait for 2022, the first two can be expected to announce their dates for 2021.
The good news is that there is that Bollywood can now - finally - expect more business in the last quarter of 2021, beginning with Sooryavanshi.
Joginder Tuteja is a trade expert and film critic, and loves to talk and write about anything that is related to films. Views are personal.