Vishwaroopam ban spells doom for distributors – viewers demand refund of ticket fare

If not lifted soon, the ban on Kamal Haasan’s controversial film could end up with a Rs 30-crore loss

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,” said Mumbai-based distributor Rajesh Thadani of Multimedia Combines.

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 January 22, we had 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 on January 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 January 28. Today, the Court has deferred the hearing by a day and requested Haasan to settle the issue out of court.

On Friday, some theatres in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala screened the film, but had to stop the run after religious leaders approached Home Minister Sabitha 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 still 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 sometimes charge Rs 250 per ticket on 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 with 82 screens on January 25, but soon after the first show, most theatres were forced to stop the screenings.

However, on January 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, Vishwaroopam 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.”

READ: Kamal Haasan’s statement on Vishwaroopam ban