“Toilet- Ek Prem Katha was the last Hindi film that did good business in Punjab”

Where is the cinema for the masses, asks Punjab exhibitor Sumeer Sabharwal of Smart Cinemaz

By Manishaa R

At a time when several star-studded Bollywood films are biting the dust at the box-office, producer, distributors and now Punjab exhibitor, Sumeer Sabharwal feels that masses are increasing tuning into regional cinema as the most viable alternative, “It’s a fact that regional cinema is fast taking over almost everywhere be it Punjab, UP, Maharashtra or Gujarat because the films that are made are simply not cut out for the masses. Both the recently released films Haseena Parkar and Bhoomi were a no-show at the box-office. Incidentally these films did not have a single show in Punjab because the exhibitors simply did not consider them worth a try. You cannot give intellectual films to the audiences and expect them to be endorsed. They simply don’t want to watch them,” Sabharwal revealed, adding that local Punjabi films were doing excellent business in comparison to the Bollywood releases in the past few weeks. The exhibitor, who is all set to open his second multiplex in Punjab next week, is confident that regional cinema will take over soon.

Sabharwal whose family has been in the business of Hindi filmmaking since the past many years, attributes the current state of the box-office to the increasing presence of corporate producers in the area of filmmaking, “Corporate houses are making city-based films for the intelligentsia, which rarely work in the interiors.” He feels that the Hindi film industry is heading for worse times, with the kind of films that are being made, “Where is the cinema for the masses? There was a time when we had movies like Deewar, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Manmohan Desai films. These corporate houses sign a handful few actors and bank on them to give them initial openings but today that is not happening either. With the rate at which they are going, they are killing the Hindi industry,” he said, adding that the last Hindi film that did really good business in Punjab was Toilet Ek Prem Katha, after the success of Sultan, “That was the last success. The rest were all washouts,” he revealed.

“Where is the cinema for the masses? There was a time when we had movies like Deewar, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and Manmohan Desai films.

A few years ago Sabharwal was looking at producing a Punjabi film but noticed that there was a dearth of good cinemas in smaller towns, which prompted him to get into the exhibition sector, “Now I am convinced that the exhibition business is a far safer bet than production especially when it comes to making Hindi films. More local Punjabi films are doing encouraging business here,” he said.  Sabharwal, is now set to diversify further in the exhibition business in Punjab, with the setting up of yet another two-screen multiplex, in Rupnagar, Punjab.