'Vishwaroopam' ban can spell Rs.30 crore loss: Experts

Chennai, Jan 27 (IANS) The delay in the screening of Kamal Haasan's Rs.95 crore film "Vishwaroopam" in the wake of a ban after some groups tagged it as anti-Muslim is likely to result in an estimated loss of Rs.30 crore, say industry experts.

"A film like 'Vishwaroopam', which was promoted at a huge scale, will perhaps have to bear a loss of around Rs.20 to Rs.30 crore. But it also depends on the fate of the film. If the film again gets delayed, then the loss might even cross more than Rs.30 crore," Mumbai-based distributor Rajesh Thadani of Multi Media Combines told IANS.

After the ban on the international espionage drama, directed and produced by Kamal, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, distributors and theatre owners are worried about recovering the cost.

Karnataka distributor Gangaraju said that when a star's film gets banned, the losses are heavy.

"If a single-screen theatre shells out about Rs.5-Rs.10 lakh for a film involving a big star, then only good opening can help break even in two weeks' time," he added.

A theatre owner said: "By Jan 22 we started bookings for 'Vishwaroopam' and removed all other other films that were playing. But the ban has come as a shocker and we had to fill the screens again with old films such as 'Alex Pandian' and 'Samar'."

The Tamil and Telugu versions of "Vishwaroopam", which deals with the adversities of war, were scheduled to release Jan 25, but couldn't come out on the schedule time as a ban was imposed by the Tamil Nadu government following protests from Muslim groups.

A day later, the Madras high court restricted the film's release till Jan 28.

On Friday, some theatres in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala screened the film, but had to stop the run after religious leaders approached Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy and urged a ban.

Prakash Reddy, a distributor, said: "A Kamal Haasan film is bound to have a good opening but sadly, that was not in the case of 'Vishwaroopam' as the shows were disrupted."

Now "Vishwaroopam" is substituted by "Race 2" and "Akaash Vani" in the multiplexes, while single screen theatres are playing Pongal releases like "Naayak" and "Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu" in Hyderabad.

It was the same in Karnataka.

"We definitely missed the box-office opening of the film. But our biggest problem now seems to be the reimbursement of tickets that were bought and booked online. Some said they don't need their money back and demanded screening of the film again," Gangaraju said.

To watch a film in a multiplex, viewers have to shell out somewhere between Rs.120-Rs.150 for a film. In cities like Bangalore, multiplexes some times charge Rs.250 per ticket at the weekend.

In single-screen theatres, the tickets are priced at Rs.70 to Rs.100 in the region.

Some audiences, who booked online, demanded instant reimbursement and made a ruckus at the theatres.

"Usually, a third party vendor takes care of online booking and it usually takes a few days for the money to get credited into their account, but since the shows were cancelled, most of them were disappointed," added Gangaraju.

In Karnataka, multiplexes are now playing new Hindi releases along with Sudeep-starrer "Varadanayaka". Some are also showing "Alex Pandian" and "Samar".

In Kerala, "Vishwaroopam" released on 82 screens Jan 25, but soon after the first show, most theatres were forced to stop the screenings.

But on Jan 26 the film was shown in some theatres in Kerala with the help of youth wing members of certain parties.

"In places likes Trivandrum there was tension but members of Yuva Morcha and Hindu Munnani opposed the ban against the film and ensured a smooth run," said Arvind.

But those who can't run the film in the state are showing the Mammootty-starrer "Kammath Kammath".

Initially, the film had a peaceful release in the overseas market, where distribution price is reportedly Rs.1.5 crore.

"'Vishwaroopam' collected Rs.57.13 lakh in Britain in the first three days," tweeted trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

But now the trouble has travelled abroad with a ban on the film's screening in Malaysia.

Confirming the same, A. Ramalingam, distributor of the film in Malaysia, said: "The film ran to packed houses on the first day but following a request from the ministry, we had to stop screening on Saturday."

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