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Home Blog COVID 19 - Virus which shook the Telugu movie industry
Covid and Tollywood

COVID 19 - Virus which shook the Telugu movie industry

Ever since the infamous COVID-19 pandemic has been declared, this invisible and pesky virus has made the lives of human beings a living hell. Covid-19 had its influence not just on humans but also on the world economy, which tattered. The entertainment industry was no exception to the Pandemic. From the closure of cinema theatres to the suspension of film shootings and events, the Pandemic had created havoc in the Tollywood film industry. With no release insight due to the scare, Tollywood was the worst hit. The abrupt halt was more devastating because it came at a time when a regular stream of films was set for release during the lucrative summer holiday season. The livelihood of several employees, who work for daily wages and paycheck to paycheck, has been affected. The Pandemic had also packed a devastating punch to several producers, whose financial situation became backbreaking with a lot of work to be completed and projects coming to a grinding halt.

Everything was going smooth in the Tollywood Film Industry until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It all started around mid-March when the initial lockdown was enforced all over the country disabling every citizen to do his/her routine job.

People who work on a daily/weekly/monthly salary basis

It includes Background dancers, spot boys, laborers, who work on erecting film sets, these peoples livelihood is very much dependent on Film shootings. Lock-down gave them no choice but to quit their jobs. They had no financial support to back them up. Getting their daily bread was impossible under those circumstances and some of them had been forced to utmost poverty. Their plight was no lesser than the migrant workers.

Movie Artists and TV Stars

Almost all the film artists of Tollywood had to halt their film shootings and have been in quarantine with their family and loved ones. It is fair to say that they also faced temporary unemployment in their careers during this spiteful pandemic. Budding stars and the newbies to the film industry had been worst hit during the lockdown, as they had no money to pay rent, get the groceries, and were in no position to pull the life cart long. Some ended up their lives, while others quit their dreams all of which went unreported, as they were no celebrities.

As much as we like to think that the movie artists are privileged and they got themselves prepared to face this pandemic with the enormous wealth they possess. The statement in itself is a paradox. The reason is that young and aspiring Tollywood artists who struggle to make their identity in this highly competitive industry were most likely not able to fulfill their dreams since they did not have enough film opportunities. This had its effect on self-esteem and also troubled them financially as they had scarce chances to get casted in films.

Filmmakers and Production crew

The filmmakers and the production crew had a tough time as compared to the actors. These are the people, who carry the whole burden of filmmaking. Considering the lockdown and the pandemic, they had no choice but to halt their film agendas and sit tight until things got cleared up. Until they don’t resume shootings, many jobs and lives would be at stake and would affect them as well as hundreds of artists, crew, and workers alike.

Celebs efforts to boost morale

The celebs have been indulging in several interesting things while being in quarantine. Cooking trending things like banana bread or whipping up a glass of Dalgona coffee, reading books, and playing nostalgic board games with their family. They have also been doing a fine job by using their fame by educating their audience through social media by spreading awareness on how to disinfect the house, doing chores on your own, practicing social distancing, making donations for the needy through trusted foundations and are also making sure to help keep the mental health of their fans sane. Celebrities like Lakshmi Manchu, Pranitha, Rana Daggubati, and Sudheer Babu have gone live up on social media to interact with other celebrities to boost the quarantine morale. Additionally, let’s not forget Samantha’s adorable gardening phase where she influenced her fans to use their free time for something productive.

Celebs also did their best in spreading awareness about the Virus and the precautions to be taken to keep the virus at bay and stop it from spreading across.

A helping hand from Tollywood Celebrities

Many Tollywood stars came forward and made enormous donations towards aiding people who are major victims of this pandemic. Nithiin, Pawan Kalyan, Chiranjeevi, Mahesh Babu, Allu Arjun, and Prabhas has been much generous and have made immense amounts of donations towards the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh CM Funds along with Kerala. They also helped out the daily wage workers and those of lower-income groups in TFI. Tollywood’s leading antagonist, Sonu Sood stood out totally different from other stars when it came to lending a helping hand. He has been praised by the celebrities and public alike for the way he helped the migrant workers reach back their home during the lockdown.

Tollywood Celebrities came forward with helping hands to support people both within the industry and outside of it. Senior actors have shown to the young actors on lending a helping hand to the needy around.

Ram Charan came forward to donated funds after he was inspired by his uncle and the Power Star of Tollywood, Pawan Kalyan. They shared it across social media to inspire big and small alike to come forward in helping people during the testing times like the Pandemic.

A paradigm shift in film consumption habits of the viewers because of Pandemic

OTT is the new trend which stands for “over-the-top”, it refers to the devices that go over the cable connections or set-top boxes to provide quality content to the viewers. The content on OTT is digital and comes with a higher resolution via the internet which is much better than the conventional cable or broadcast means. Producers of the Telugu Film Industry changed its way of business completely. Although, releasing the films in OTT had its consequences. Some films had a truckload of profits. Ace director Dil Raju’s risk of omitting the theatrical aspect due to the pandemic has paid off strong, as he decided to release his film ‘V’ over the OTT platform on Amazon. Similarly, was the case with Nishabdam, it had a huge hype back in May when rumors were spiraling around that it would be released.

The 11th edition of KPMG Media & Entertainment report from ‘India’s Digital Future: Mass of Niches’, stated that a major change in the film industry has been the growing contribution of digital rights. It has grown by 30 percent in FY19 as compared to the previous year, which was driven by the heavy demand by OTT platforms, which consider new films as a key differentiator. Additionally, with growing importance on regional audiences, OTT platforms are also funding in developing regional libraries.

Amazon Prime procured the digital rights for 12 films out of the highest 30 grossing Hindi films this year, followed by Netflix who acquired nine, ZEE5 acquired eight, Hotstar three, and others two. The past few years have seen an increase in OTT platforms. The platforms grew from 9 in 2012 to over 30 in 2019. These numbers are backed by affordable data and has seen an explosion of video consumption by consumers. OTT platforms have been the only respite to the filmmakers and producers, who were worried about the future of their projects.

The survival of films in theatres is in limbo, and that the digital platforms served as a boon for the filmmakers. They were also a bane as it had its effect on the distributor model, the OTT has proved to be a double-edged sword. Distributors have been the biggest source of revenue for producers, but with theatres closed during the lockdown and the fears, post lockdown had witnessed a drop in footfalls. This could be a concern as it’s likely annihilating a traditional movie-watching experience. At the same time, filmmakers are now fearing a long-term loss in revenues, if they keep the content away from the digital subscribers. The digital rights would fetch more than satellite rights for Telugu filmmakers in the days to come.

Irrevocable dent Covid made on the Tollywood

Tollywood had its list of casualties because of Covid. Many senior artists, who were the jewels in the Tollywood Film Industry lost their lives to this Global monster. To name a few, Tollywood lost its renowned and versatile singer, mentor, and legend S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, who passed away at the age of 74. S.P. Balasubrahmanyam was fondly remembered for singing in several languages and was known for his film work. He was diagnosed with novel coronavirus in August 2020. His loss brought tributes from many notable musicians, politicians, and actors on social media.

A tribute to the enchanting and distinguished Indian Musician- S. P. Balasubrahmanyam   (1946 – 2020) 

Unlock and its effect on Tollywood Shootings

As the lockdown has been eased out for the Film Industry, the Tollywood directors tried their best to schedule out shooting schedules which is convenient and safe for the entire cast and crew. There are certain hindrances still faced by the directors during film shootings, like going abroad for shoots is no longer a simple option. The filmmakers now hold the responsibility for the risk of all the cast and crew’s health despite taking mandated COVID-19 precautions. DVV Danayya, who is producing SS Rajamouli’s much-awaited legendary action film RRR, confessed that he was more concerned about the safety of his cast and crew. However, he was not worried about the delay as he meticulously planned all the schedules and was of the thought that it would not lead to an additional financial burden. They also pushed their film’s release from July 31 to January 8 and had enough time to wrap up the remaining portions. He seemed to be optimistic about the conditions around him and concluded by saying that the situation would improve.

The Tollywood biggies have plodded out of their quarantine lives to get back to their respective film shootings. Tollywood Biggies were reluctant in the beginning for shooting films, but now they slowly started to work on their films. Chiranjeevi who reportedly has been working on distinctive looks for Ajith’s Vedalam remake, Shriya Saran’s expected classic film Gamanam, Sudheer Babu has been bagged for his upcoming unnamed film with director Karuna Kumar, Prabhas’s most awaited upcoming film Radhe Shyam. Young actors like Nikhil Kumar have been roped up for his next film Rider, Akhil’s Most Eligible Bachelor has been back on the charts, and Keerthi Suresh has been working on Goodluck Sakhi, and the list goes on. Since it is the time of the pandemic, there have been mandatory precautions taken to resume the shooting schedules. The cast and crew are being tested daily for COVID-19. The film teams have been directed to avoid visiting anyplace after going back to their homes.

Governments have come forward in facilitating the shoots. AP government with its Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, held high-level meetings with the Industry Biggies to facilitate the shootings. The move comes after the Central Government gave its nod to the unlock guidelines.

Unlock opens Theaters in the Telugu States

Now that theatres have been reopened, directors who refrained to release their films on the OTT platforms, are planning to release their films in theatres. Ram Gopal Varma comes first in this list, who is planning to skip OTT platforms and release his film CORONAVIRUS in theatres and the production house of the film “Red” has gotten many sparkling OTT platform offers but they did not cave in. Sai Dharam Tej took to Twitter to showcase how safe theaters are now by posting a video of his journey from his home to a theater and return from the movie theater. He also released his movie Solo Brathuke So Betteru in theaters on Christmas eve. All eyes are now on the Sankranthi, filmmakers are now queueing up their movies for the Sankranthi race.

Theatre released movies

January 2020 to March 2020 has seen a couple of releases from Tollywood in theaters. These movies have done considerably well in terms of the business they created. Some of them went on to become the highest-grossing movies giving tough competition to the OTT releases in comparison. The stats are some sort of a cheer to the traditional culture of watching movies on big screens. Filmmakers hope that this culture would soon be back to normal at least with the new year and with a new beginning.

*All collections are in Indian Rupee (INR) and in Crores.

The graph above depicts the Box Office collections made by the top 10 Tollywood movies within India, overseas, and an aggregate of both. Coincidentally the movies were released during the first quarter of the year 2020 i.e. January to March. The lockdown imposed later has shut down theatres. Right after which, most of the upcoming movies have been released on the OTT platforms. The kind of impact they created on the audience has been discussed before. With theaters open now, one does want to have a good movie time, but not at the cost of catching the virus. Latest reports suggest that theatrical releases have depreciated footfalls, despite imposing heavy precautional changes.

To conclude this analysis on how the pandemic changed the face of Tollywood, it can be presumed, as one hell of a journey for everyone who is a part of this esteemed industry. Everyone has become conditioned and adjusted to this “new normal” which seemed to be their only option. If this film industry stops functioning, it will not just put the audience’s entertainment at stake but also risk thousands of jobs. Even though this new normal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but is the best they could do to keep this industry running. And honestly, the efforts done by the celebrities who are conglomerates of Tollywood has to be appreciated. They have done a great job by using their fame and wealth to aid the pockets and sanity of their fans, giving them hope that there is a better tomorrow. This discussion would be incomplete if readers are not offered the chance to express their thoughts about this article. If you think that this wicked pandemic has done more good than bad over the Telugu Film Industry or is everything completely the opposite, and all of this is just a ruse? Please let us know.


  1. Arshad Baig Profile Image Arshad Baig says:

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  2. Arshad Baig Profile Image Arshad Baig says:

    The author is actually so good at writing. Tons of support! ✊🏼👏🏼

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