These are unprecedented times for people as governments the world over continue to bolster their efforts in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The rise of positive cases due to the Omicron variant over the past few days everywhere, including India, has led to several states already calling for a lockdown and new guidelines being issued as a means to once again try and curtail its spread. Just when the nation thought the worst is behind us, the Omicron variant has caused major problems for everyone and the effects can be felt everywhere, including the Tamil film industry and its related businesses. Things were on track for movie buffs and film aficionados around the country to watch three big films in back-to-back succession namely the pan-Indian ventures RRR and Radhe Shyam, including Ajith Kumar's Valimai, which had been announced to come out in Telugu and Hindi. Despite the need for public safety being the call of the hour, the last-minute decision to postpone all three films has no doubt come as a big blow for fans and those in the trade, including theatre owners. 

Starting off with SS Rajamouli's RRR starring Jr. NTR and Ram Charan, the film was promoted extensively around the country, with the cast and crew heading out to several major cities for the promotions. The period action magnum opus' pre-booking in the U. S. is also reported to have been sold out, with theatres having to refund the tickets, leading to a loss in huge numbers. RRR, which was announced to arrive in theatres worldwide today (January 7), does not have a set release date now as the makers had informed that they will be looking to bring the film out once the situation gets back to being normal. The same can be said about Prabhas’ epic romance Radhe Shyam, which has been one of the most-awaited films in recent times and has been carrying sky-high expectations ever since it was announced a couple of years back. 

Coming to Tamil cinema, the big and only release this Pongal was set to be Ajith Kumar's highly-anticipated Valimai, which was expected to draw in a large audience in theatres. The H. Vinoth directorial produced by Boney Kapoor's Bayview Projects LLP was taken off the Pongal release schedule at the last moment on Friday, with many expressing their disappointment, but also approving the team's decision in light of the recent events. With Valimai now postponed and a new release date to be announced next on a later date, many in the industry, including fans are wondering as to how this will impact the other Tamil films, which have already been announced to come out in the months ahead. 

As known already, Suriya's Etharkkum Thunindhavan under Pandiraj's direction and produced by Sun Pictures is slated for a February 4 theatrical release. Considering theatres in Tamil Nadu will be operating with 50% occupancy till January 10, it remains to be seen whether the Covid-19 cases drop and how the state government proceeds going forward. Considering there is a huge spike in the number of positive cases in the state, ideally, the TN government will be looking to implement tighter restrictions in the days ahead. And, that is exactly what Sun Pictures too will be looking forward to if they plan to bring Suriya's Etharkkum Thunindhavan in theatres next month. The blockbuster production banner had also announced the upcoming rural action family entertainer to be a pan-Indian release and will be looking for a terrific opening. It also raises the question as to where Valimai will be placed in the release schedule considering the upcoming biggies like Etharkkum Thunindhavan, followed by the already announced Vijay-starrer Beast has been announced to open in theatres in April. The same goes for 'Ulaganayagan' Kamal Haasan's Vikram under Lokesh Kanagaraj's direction, which is currently in its final stages of production. An out-and-out action crime thriller, Vikram also starring 'Makkal Selvan' Vijay Sethupathi and Fahadh Faasil is a film that is at the top of Tamil cinema fans for a while now and had been announced for an early April release. 

Beast directed by Nelson Dilipkumar is also another venture Sun Pictures is pinning high hopes on and the prestigious banner will be aiming for a similar opening like 'Thalapathy' Vijay's Master took in theatres during Pongal last year. The film has hit the right notes without any big hassles in terms of every stage of its development starting with its launch in March last year, followed by the successful completion of the production by December, with the buzz nothing short of staggering among fans since day 1. A box office powerhouse, Vijay’s Beast is already being billed to be in top contention to sell tickets like hotcakes and Sun Pictures will be looking to have all roadblocks cleared by the time it’s ready for its release.

There's also the 'Chiyaan' Vikram starrers Mahaan and Cobra, with the former ready for release, while the latter is in its final stages of production. Both ventures have generated massive curiosity among fans starting with Mahaan, which has the National Award-winning actor sharing screen space with his son Dhruv for the first time, and that alone is the major USP for the film for the fans, who have been expressing their desire to watch the father-son in action on the big screen. Directed by Karthik Subbaraj under Lalit Kumar's 7 Screen Studios banner, there have been rumors for a while now stating that the film could be heading for a direct OTT release, but the makers are yet to confirm. That said, there's also Cobra, which too is a 7 Screen Studios venture under Ajay Gnanamuthu's direction, and is yet another big venture for Vikram, who will be looking to hit it out of the park. Sivakarthikeyan's Don and Vijay Sethupathi's Kaathu Vaakula Rendu Kaadhal are also currently in their post-production stages and are expected to get ready for a release in the days ahead. And, one must also not forget the pan-Indian action film, K. G. F: Chapter 2 starring Yash, which as well has been confirmed for an April release, and the Telugu biggies namely Mahesh Babu's Sarkaru Vaari Paata and the Pawan Kalyan and Rana Daggubati-starrer Bheemla Nayak

It truly is a dilemma for the concerned production houses and distributors in Tamil Nadu considering all biggies are next to being ready to hit theatres. And, it all comes down to how the makers arrive at a decision to present their films considering there also needs to be a window gap for each of the ventures to draw in audiences and reap large profits at the box office. The ongoing month is crucial and the actors, producers, and distributors will be keeping a close eye on the developments of the pandemic and also be hoping for a quick turnaround considering Vijay's Master kicked in the revival of the theatre business last year, followed by Sivakarthikeyan's Doctor and Silambarasan TR's Maanaadu, with hopes for each of the ventures to get a similar big outcome. And, if in case, the Omicron variant continues to rage on into February and March, it will be a big ordeal for the business related to all the films that will be ready soon. Ideally, the best possible solution in such circumstances would be for each of the films to receive a two-three week open window to have a theatrical run before another venture opens in theatres. These are crucial times and will no doubt require tough decisions if the teams associated with each of the films will look to bring them out as early as possible. Let us hope we cruise through the difficulties that are presented ahead of us and be hopeful that all the films come out in theatres and enjoy a successful run.