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Decoding the release date announcement of Akshay Kumar’s Bell Bottom

The film will head to the theatres on July 27. While others are in a wait and watch mode, if COVID cases continue to decline, Bell Bottom may be the beginning of films returning to cinema halls.

In a pleasant surprise for trade, industry, the exhibition sector, and, of course, audiences, the makers of Akshay Kumar’s Bell Bottom have announced July 27 as the release date for the much-awaited film.

The announcement, made early this week, came out of nowhere and the approach was remarkably different from 2020 when COVID cases had started to drop. Even though theatres were allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy from mid-November (around Diwali), the only film that braved the challenge and opted for a theatre release was Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari.

Some smaller films followed Suraj Pe to cinema halls but half-heartedly. The only one of play on the front foot was Roohi in March 2021 after theatres were allowed complete occupancy. This was also the time when a dozen films marked release dates for the rest of the year but then the second wave hit India. Mumbai Saga was a major casualty of the furious second wave.

No wonder the release date of Bell Bottom has many wondering if the film will play in theatres. Let me decode the decision.

If one looks at the timelines, there are a lot of similarities between what happened in 2020 and 2021. In October 2020, when there was talk of theatres being allowed to play at 50 percent occupancy, India was on average reporting 60,000 COVID-19 cases a day.

When Manoj Bajpayee, Diljit Dosanjh and Fatima Sana Shiekh starrer Suraj Pe released in mid-November, daily reported infections were hovering around 40,000.

The drop in the cases in the second wave is somewhat similar. Earlier this week, when Akshay Kumar and the makers of Bell Bottom announced the release date, the daily case count was around 60,000-65,000. If the trend holds, cases should be down to around 40,000 by July 27. The optimists among us see the numbers falling way below 40,000, as the drop is fast, just as the rise was explosive.

If the team of Bell Bottom is to be believed, it will be happy to bring the film even at 50 percent occupancy. The action-thriller will be the only film playing in theatres at that time and will dominate the screen, irrespective of the occupancy factor.

It will be fair to assume that even the producers—Vashu Bhagnani, Deepshikha Deshmukh, Jackky Bhagnani, Nikkhil Advani, Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani—won’t be setting any major box office target.

Of course, Akshay Kumar is synonymous with Rs 200-crore club, as evident from the last hat-trick of successes— Mission Mangal, Housefull 4 and Good Newwz. In these times, the thrust is to bring people back to theatres, whether that results in Rs 50, 75, 100 crore or more remains to be seen.

The team is sure that Bell Bottom warrants theatrical release. Though only a few states have allowed cinema halls to open, things are expected to be better in a month.

The rest of Bollywood, however, is still waiting and watching.

I expected at least a filmmaker or two to confirm a theatrical release but no one has talked about it yet. A big Independence Day weekend is coming up in around two months but a formal announcement hasn’t come in.

Looks like producers have learnt from their experience early this year when many announced the dates and even released the promos—Thalaivi, Chehre and Haathi Mere Saathi— only to retract.

I am an eternal optimist though. I believe that when the Bell Bottom promo is released, slowly but steadily more filmmakers will join in. If and when that happens, it will be time for celebrations all over again, provided coronavirus doesn’t spring a nasty surprise.



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