Star power in three tiers

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Father and son Nagarjuna and AN Rao in a still from Manam
Father and son Nagarjuna and AN Rao in a still from Manam

In contrast, even though there is a wing of Ramanaidu Studios in Visakhapatnam, except for location shoots (coastal Andhra Pradesh offers some scenic locales visited often by film directors and crew), there is hardly anything else that happens in the region by way of filmmaking. The reason is simple: there is no skilled labour there who can work on film projects. Even if the newly formed governments of divided Andhra Pradesh decide to offer tax rebates, the absence of skilled labour will be a major factor influencing the filmmakers’ decision to shift the industry or even attempt to make films there.

Agreeing that viewership for Manam after bifurcation is not going to dip in any way, national award-winning director of Naa Bangaru Talli, Rajesh Touchriver, throws more light on the tax issues. He says: “It is only the tax structure that is probably going to be a cause of speculation for release of films. For example, Chennai gives a huge rebate to Tamil films, but if any other language film gets dubbed into Tamil, it is levied 100% tax in order to promote indigenous films. So filmmakers at times prefer to remake a film, rather than dub a film into Tamil. The new states that are soon going to be created also need to establish their own Film Development Corporation,” he says.

Senior writer and actor, Gollapudi Maruti Rao, has yet another view on the matter. He believes the best way to adapt to the situation is to invite and entertain each other. This way we can enjoy the sizeable revenue that Telugu films make in both the regions. It is in the interest of the two new states to formulate a film-friendly tax structure, considering the popularity of Telugu films. There is no reason to shift and there will not be a shift because it is after all one language and Telugu films enjoy equal patronage in both areas. Rao adds: “This is especially the case for a film like Manam that stars a hero who has been in the hearts and households of Telugus through the 75 years of the Telugu film industry. Bifurcation is hardly going to be an issue. And it has the unique identity of being the last film of the thespian whose tragic death happened during the making of the movie. The audiences, irrespective of which state they belong to in the divided Andhra Pradesh, will want to get a glimpse of him.”

Whether the film industry will shift to the Seemandhra region is a debate that many in Andhra Pradesh are getting into. Nagarjuna gives some clarity to it when he says: “It is too early to say if the industry will shift or how it is going to be in the future. There may be new studios built in Seemandhra, but the four walls of a studio do not make an industry. It took so long for the industry to shift from Chennai to Hyderabad. Annapurna Studios was built in 1974, but it wasn’t until 1990 that the industry formally shifted. Film-making needs skilled labour, technicians etc. Human resource cannot be built overnight.” So it’s going to be a long haul before any geographical shift in terms of where the movie-making magic unfolds in divided Andhra Pradesh. Evidently, the Telugu film industry is not terribly worried about the outcome of bifurcation. For them the audience is the same — whether there are two states or one. More so for a film like Manam, which has raised expectations on many fronts.

So while there aren’t many changes foreseen in the wake of bifurcation with respect to the Telugu film industry, it is expected that special attention would be paid on formulating an efficient tax structure that each of these states can go with. Meanwhile, for the audience it is only about the next interesting film. And for Manam, which is releasing at such a momentous time, it looks like a cakewalk — straight into the hearts of people.

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