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This is a do-or-die situation: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan on Chola's wide release in Kerala

The unprecedented release of Sanal Kumar's Chola in 145 theatres across Kerala is being watched eagerly by independent filmmakers as its success will encourage them to venture towards the box office.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s film Chola has hit the theatres in Kerala with a bang. Released on 6 December in 145 theatres across the state, this is an unprecedented move for an independent film.

Sanal Kumar has focused on a strong marketing and publicity push prior to the release of Chola and is banking on the popularity of its leads, Joju George and Nimisha Sajayan, to lure audiences to watch the film.

Speaking about the wide release, Sanal Kumar said, “This kind of a film releasing in these many theatres with huge publicity and spending a lot of money, that usually happens for commercial cinema, so this is a brave thing. There are two possibilities: if the film becomes a hit, it will open a lot of avenues for independent cinema. Not only for my cinema, but for others also, because the industry people will get the courage that if we promote a good film, audiences will come and watch and make it a success. If the film makes a loss, then the damage will be more because nobody will come forward to support this kind of movement in theatres.”

While the filmmaker's earlier film, Sexy Durga (2018), had a limited release in theatres, it was not a success as, according to Sanal Kumar, the film was not supported by the majority in Kerala.

“People came to watch Sexy Durga, but they did not support it because of a lot of things in Kerala," the filmmaker said. "Because it is my film and I withdrew it from IFFK [the government-run International Film Festival of Kerala] and people associated with IFFK have an emotional connection with the festival. Once I pulled it out, they thought it was a brazen thing, so they did not support it. At that time, the film was a failure because we could not get much money and lost the money we spent. Now, this is a do-or-die situation.” 

Given his previous experience, one might have forgiven Sanal Kumar for taking a more cautious approach this time. But as the filmmaker explained, “This is actually the crazy stubborn optimism of Joju George. He is a mad cinema lover. He loved the film so much, so I was also confused when we decided to release it in 145 theatres, but he totally believes in the film. He said we should give respect to the film and it should be released in a deserving fashion. He believes the money will come back, but I don’t know.”

So far, the reviews have been largely positive, but it remains to be seen if the film will be declared a hit at the box office.

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Kazhcha Indie Film Festival IFFK