Given the tremendous response from audiences so far, Tollywood production houses are not only digitising previously released movies but also restoring older movies whose prints are showing wear-and-tear.

Mahesh Babu's Pokiri being played in a theatre with housefull of audienceScreenshot
Flix Tollywood Monday, September 26, 2022 - 17:50

Post-COVID, though cinema theatres reopened in the Telugu states, there was a fear among theatre owners. Will theatres ever be able to regain their previous glory, when euphoric fans crowded outside the premises and housefull audiences cheered at scenes and sang along as they watched their favourite actors on the silver screen? It was a distant dream, everyone assumed, at least for some years. Though there have been hit movies on and off, it did not really sustain the enthusiasm among viewers who love the theatre experience.

In this scenario, a new trend has emerged in Tollywood – fan shows. Previously released movies, usually blockbusters, are re-released for a limited number of shows after being touched up with the latest technology. Given the tremendous response from the audiences so far, this trend shows promise in injecting some colour into dull days at theatres. Tickets are usually available through online booking platforms like BookMyShow, instead of offline tickets.

The trend started recently when Mahesh Babu starrer Pokiri, a movie that released 16 years ago, was remastered and re-released in 4k technology in the US. When pre-bookings opened, the makers were amazed at the response – the tickets were sold out within an hour. They then decided to try the same in India. The 2006 movie, starring Ileana D’Cruz as the female lead, was re-released in India on August 9 on the occasion of Mahesh Babu’s birthday. Soon, the makers of Jalsa (2008), starring Pawan Kalyan and Ileana, followed suit. Re-released on September 1, Jalsa had special shows for two days.

Next came Chennakesava Reddy, starring Bala Krishna, Tabu and Shriya Saran, which was re-released in 4k on September 24, marking two decades of its release. Coming up next is Prabhas’s Billa, slated for re-release on October 23 to coincide with the actor’s birthday.

Overseas too, these fan shows have been a success, recording housefull shows in Australia, Singapore, Canada and the US, among other countries.

Sound business sense?

While fan shows started as special screenings on the birthdays of mass actors, they have become a potential source of income for theatres for very low investment. According to sources, while the cost of remastering a movie is about Rs 5-8 lakh, the returns are reportedly very high, with re-released movies collecting crores. Pokiri made approximately Rs 1.75 crore in one day from 320 shows, while Jalsa collected around Rs 3.25 crore from 500+ shows in two days. As per information from fan associations, the collections from both movies were given to charity.

Still, business is booming in the Telugu film industry with many more re-releases lined up. Production houses are not only digitising previously released movies but also restoring older movies whose prints are showing wear-and-tear, according to Kiran Kumar A, senior manager in the Restoration Department of Prasad Corporation, Hyderabad. Prasad Corporation, popularly known as Prasad Labs, works on video post-production and provides end-to-end services using the latest technology, including digitisation, restoration and VFX among others.

Hit movies lined up for re-release in the future include Chiranjeevi’s Indra, Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, veteran actor Krishna’s Simhasanam, Alluri Seetharamaraju, Jr NTR’s Simhadri, Mahesh Babu’s Athadu, Khaleja, Venkates’s Kshana Kshanam, among others, sources say.

Watch a song from Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari here :

Speaking to The News Minute, C Viswa from Mahesh Babu’s team said, “We are getting calls from even multiplex chains as Pokiri ran housefull in most places. Theatres are requesting us to screen such releases for at least a week, when there are no major releases scheduled. So, we have decided to remaster five of Mahesh Babu’s films including Athadu, Businessman, Dookudu, Okkadu and Khaleja on different occasions.”

The team is also planning to release actor Krishna’s Simhasanam (1986) in 8k technology. “Simhasanam was like Baahubali in those days, with its grand and massive sets. Fans have requested for the re-release of this movie. We have tied up with a Los Angeles-based company for its conversion to 8k. Apart from this, we are also planning for the re-release of Agniparvatham, Alluri Seetharamaraju and others. These are movies that are enjoyed not only by fans, but also cater to the general family audiences,” Viswa added.

Watch a song from Simhasanam here:

Recreating the hype of old movies

When asked why fans want to watch old movies, they say it’s like time travel. B Sathish, an avid Pawan Kalyan fan, said that the current generation wants to experience yesteryear classics in theatres. “We have heard a lot of hype about these old movies, so we also want to experience them in the theatre. It’s like going back in time… like time travel.”

The long gap in the release of movies from their favourite heroes is another reason that is urging audiences to theatres to watch an old movie, so that they can see their favourite star in action on the silver screen. Sathish points out that it’s been more than six months since Pawan Kalyan’s Bheemla Nayak released, so he wanted to go see the actor on the big screen.

Theatre owners say that the fan show trend looks promising. “We have been getting an excellent response for these remastered shows… it might also be because of its limited period. It goes to show that if the content is good, it will get repeat audiences coming to the theatre. For both Pokiri and Jalsa, we received good responses,” said Balgovind, owner of Secunderabad’s Sudarshan theatre. He added that he also found that the picture quality of both the movies was noticeably good.

Watch Jalsa trailer here :

“Even though people have watched these movies so many times on TV, they are still coming to the theatres. I believe that youngsters today want to socialise and watch good content. They want to go to the theatre with their friends and enjoy themselves. That’s very promising for theatre owners like me,” Balgovind noted.

One downside of these shows is frenzied fans going overboard and causing damage inside theatres, as witnessed in Kurnool and Vizag cities in Andhra Pradesh. However, there is no agreement on who will bear the cost of the damages.

What goes into remastering

Times have changed, so has technology. Digital film production did not pick up until 2010, with only a handful of digital films produced before that. Movies were available in reels/negative form. Herein lies the actual task, because current cinema theatres have upgraded themselves to suit the digital format and cannot play reels.

When a movie is remastered, it means that the movie obtained from the negative or the print is scanned frame by frame and then converted into 4k visuals with the addition of Dolby Atmos 5.1 sound, to modify it to the current viewing experience, said Kiran from Prasad Labs.

He added that they also do restoration work, not just remastering, which is required for older films. “Many of the old film reels might have scratches or appear pink in colour with vertical lines seen across the frame… all these need to be removed. We also need to add depth and sharpness to the frame and carry out colour correction,” Kiran explained, showing the sample of an old movie that they recently worked on. Restoration work is more expensive than remastering, costing up to Rs 15 lakh per movie.

With scanning, grading and restoration being the three steps in delivering a crystal clear output for any old film, there are about 450 people working in Chennai’s Prasad Labs on numerous projects. It takes anywhere between a couple of months to six months to restore a movie.

Saying that the remastering business has exploded in Tollywood, Kiran believes that re-releases will help theatres sustain during dry days. “As of now, mostly fans of certain heroes are coming to watch these movies. But there are many old movies that were enjoyed by family audiences. If we provide good quality output for those old movies and re-release them, just word of mouth will bring viewers to the theatres. It will be nostalgic for them as well.”

He suggested that producers should treat their movies like assets and keep upgrading them with the latest technology to make them future-proof and give them a ‘rebirth’.

As copyright issues are involved, Kiran said Prasad Labs begins remastering work only if the concerned producer or production company sends a written acceptance.

Edited by Vidya Sigamany

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