The viewer deserves a top-notch cinematic experience inside the theatre: Girish Chandran in ‘Balcony Baatein’
Discussions regarding theatre accreditation have been doing the rounds for quite a while now even as opinions of film lovers regarding the services offered at cinema halls in the state remain quite varied. It’s in this context that Balcony Beats met up with Girish Chandran, the Managing Director of Sree Padmanabha Theatre, the best cinema hall in Trivandrum city and one among the 15 Platinum Grade theatres, as selected by the Government of Kerala from among a total of 399 theatres in the state.
BB: Sree Padmanabha theatre has undoubtedly set a benchmark when it comes to quality standards among the film theatres in the state. Could you tell us a little bit about the criteria on which you select films for screening?
Girish Chandran: Primarily, I have two concerns while selecting a film – I prefer family oriented movies that could hopefully appeal to the youth as well. Films are not selected on a monetary basis alone, which is why those with offensive content or even some films that might guarantee you a fantastic initial, but which would fail to keep up with the standards of what we have identified over the years as good cinema, would not be screened at Sree Padmanabha. The anticipated quality of a film is definitely a criterion for selection. Hollywood, as we all know maintains production standards that are quite superlative. At times though, dubbed versions of Hollywood films do not match up to these yardsticks. Quite recently, we decided to stop screening one such film after two days, since we felt the projection quality was abysmally low, though the collections were in fact, quite good!
BB: We have been hearing quite a lot of allegations recently that have been leveled against theatre owners, that they have denied many a good film, a deserved long run in the theatres. Just a few months back we heard the makers of ‘Ee Adutha Kaalathu’ and ‘Beautiful’ crying foul, and I personally remember that fine film ‘T D Dasan Standard VI B’ being meted out a terrible deal in the theatres. How much can a theatre owner ensure that a good film stays in theatres for a while?
Girish Chandran: (smiles) What you should remember is that when ‘T D Dasan Standard VI B’ was released, there was very little hype surrounding it, and very few people even knew that it was released. A theatre like Sree Padmanabha has a seating capacity of 959, and when a film as this is released, the audience turn up would be quite thin. It would be difficult for a theatre owner to screen the film in such circumstances, and this is especially true of good films that fall into a genre as that of ‘T D Dasan’.
Either the theatre owner could go out of his way to screen the film, for the sole satisfaction of having done justice to a brilliant film. Or else, they could limit the screening of the film to a single show per day, so that even if the collections are minimum, it could be managed pretty well. See, it’s not enough that good films are made; efforts should be made to make them reach the public as well. A film like ‘Adaminte Makan Abu’ gets noticed, and people flock to the theatres to see it, because it has a good distributor behind it. Not all good films unfortunately can claim the same. Let’s face it, a majority of the exhibitors do consider it as a trade…
BB: And we can’t really blame them as well…
Girish Chandran: …Exactly! Because, given the huge investments, it’s absolutely justifiable that they feel that way. ‘Ee Adutha Kaalathu’ was a fine film, and I think it did quite well in Trivandrum. However, it had a running time of nearly three hours, which for small stations could have been an issue, when you consider the power supply charges. ‘Beautiful’, I agree was as beautiful a movie as its title, and it did deserve a much better run.
BB: They said ‘Beautiful’ was forced to give way to a Tamil film, barely a couple of weeks after its release. How real a threat to Malayalam cinema, are other language films?
Girish Chandran: You see, you can’t really see it a as a threat. Fifteen years back, Malayalam cinema was looked upon as one of the finest film industries in the country, and somehow things went for a nosedive later. However, the mood is quite upbeat at the moment, since there is a fresh breeze blowing by on the Malayalam film scene at the moment. Last year was quite productive, and we had ‘Traffic’, ‘Beautiful’, and ‘Chappa Kurish’. This year looks like it’s even better, and we already have ‘Ee Adutha Kaalathu’ and ’22 F Kottayam’ making waves at the box office.
In the Tamil film industry too, this movement has very much been there for the last several years, and films like ‘Subrahmanyapuram’, ‘Nadodigal’ and ‘Maina’ had rewritten box office history with neither huge actors nor huge banners backing them. What I am saying is that, it’s only a matter of time before Malayalam cinema is back on a turf where it truly belongs. And it wouldn’t be long before we have truly wonderful films in Malayalam again.
BB: On the flipside, how is it that almost all films have a pretty decent run at the Sree Padmanabha theatre? ‘Tejabhai and Family’ was a film that was panned by critics all over, but it did manage to stay at the theatre for quite a while!
Girish Chandran: (smiles) If a film deserves to be screened for about fifty days, I see to it that it stays in the theatre for at least seventy five. My logic is quite simple in this regard. If I have a film that is running pretty even, and if I don’t have another huge project in my line up quite soon, I would prefer the current film to go on. Bringing in a new product that doesn’t guarantee the returns doesn’t make any sense.
Girish Chandran: (smiles) What is very important for us is that, along with the film, we intend to provide a remarkable film viewing experience for our audience. We ensure that they have a great time inside the theatre, where they could be totally at peace in an air conditioned hall for about two hours. They know that there could be no issues as eve-teasing, and even if there were, the theatre authorities would stand by them in support. I felt very proud, when a lady commented on our Facebook page recently that she lets her daughter go out for a film with friends, if it’s at Sree Padmanabha. With the CCTV and other security measures that we have adopted, the support that we offer our viewers is optimum. This is also the reason why we often register packed houses even for second shows. What I have implemented in Sree Padmanabha theatre is everything that I would expect of a theatre to offer me when I venture out to watch a film with my family.
BB: It’s appalling that even these days, extreme conditions do exist in theatres in Trivandrum. There are still rats running around and the air conditioning is pretty dismal in at least a few. Personnel at the reservation counters in some theatres make you reconsider your decision to watch a film. All this in an age, when we talk of theatre accreditation and similar huge terms, and how much do you think accreditation has contributed in bringing about accountability to the state of affairs?
Girish Chandran: It’s sad, when you point out that things haven’t changed much. It’s true that the changes that have taken place aren’t uniform. At Sree Padmanabha, we spend a whopper amount per year for pest control alone. We are determined that we maintain the standards that are expected of a Platinum theatre, and the accreditation has only increased our sense of responsibility.
BB: I remember having seen a very interesting discussion on Facebook, where a group of fans sounded a bit disappointed that ‘Cobra’ was being released at Sree Padmanabha. And the reason was that, Padmanabha being a Platinum theatre, they weren’t sure if they could celebrate the First Show of the film by hurling paper scraps, as is the usual case. How do you deal with all this?
Girish Chandran: (laughs) Ah! They might have assumed that it wouldn’t be permitted in a theatre where everything is kept spick and span, and had met up with me on the eve of the release, and had briefed me of their plans. I told them I didn’t have an issue, and also that I would prefer it if they used flowers instead of paper scraps, since it makes cleaning easier. Cleaning up is indeed a gargantuan task on occasions as these, and the routine clean-up after every show becomes impossible on the first day. We had to literally carry out bundles of scraps on the second day and it took a long while, but it’s all a part of the show. I should say that I have never had any issues with fans or fans associations. On the contrary they have been extremely obliging, supportive and helpful to the core.
BB: There is no dearth of associations in the state, whether it be that of actors, producers, distributors or exhibitors. Has this become a classic case of too many cooks sitting together and spoiling the broth? What are the major issues that exhibitors are facing at the moment?
Girish Chandran: You can’t really say that associations have been the root cause of all these problems that we deal with today. In fact, associations have always helped us address our grievances and to initiate discussions and prompt actions at the government level. The major issue has been that the theatre expenses have risen phenomenally. The electricity expenses, for instance, remain the same whether there are 1100 people for a show or 10 people. Huge advances paid by the exhibitors to the distributors could also be quite detrimental, and there are several exhibitors around who have incurred severe losses. Scarcity of good films had also been an issue, which thankfully has been changing, as we discussed earlier. This Vishu has been a wonderful season, with several films making money, and it’s a positive trend.
Girish Chandran: For starters, we have done a massive renovation of the seats – both at the balcony and at the reserved class – and have ensured that the seating is in keeping with the standards that one expects of a multiplex. All our air conditioners have been upgraded, and the air conditioning would be uniform, irrespective of the number of viewers in the cinema hall. We have a special generator that would guarantee that the air conditioners would work even when the power supply has failed. Christie 2K Digital Cinema Projectors have been installed to ensure unparalleled projection quality for Hollywood films, and the Depth Q system has been installed for 3D films. We have an imported screen. All the Dolby Stereo and DTS JBL Speaker stations have been upgraded as well to offer the viewer matchless sound quality. We have a laser show inside the theater before every screening, that adds up to the total film viewing experience of a family. The cafeteria has been revamped, and the hall is cleaned up after every show to maintain perfect cleanliness. The toilets have been refurbished as well. Above everything else, all members of the theatre staff have been specially trained, thereby assuring perfect customer satisfaction in their interactions with the theatre personnel. To cut a long story short, we believe that the viewer deserves a top notch cinematic experience inside the cinema hall, and we see to it that he walks out of it a happy man.
BB: Such a pleasure talking to you, and all the very best to you and to Team Sree Padmanabha!
Girish Chandran: Thank You!
Tags: Girish Chandran, Sree Padmanabha Theatre