Ever more television channels and a growing appetite for TV entertainment are producing in Andhra Pradesh (AP) a TV boom. But instead of more movies and more soap operas, the focus now is on game shows, talk shows, music, dance and reality shows.
So says Pawan Kumar Manvi, dean of Ramoji Academy of Film and Television. “The entertainment channels, which used to telecast one show per week, are now telecasting three or four shows a day.”
More shows means more buzz in film studios in Hyderabad and elsewhere in AP. The studios’ large floors, which once saw only partial use by the TV industry, are now fully booked through the year. “We are seeing more than 80 per cent occupancy,” says Nageswara Rao, manager at Ramanaidu Studio. What’s more, “during the peak periods, three-four months before the festival season, and during Pongal and other festivals, the studio gets advance bookings for both production and pre-production work.”
Ramanaidu Studio, set up in 1963 on six acres in Jubilee Hills, is busily adding space. It has built two new studios, one on 10 acres in Nanakramguda, and another on 35 acres in Visakhapatnam.
Shooting charges at Ramanaidu Studio are Rs 4.5 lakh a month for the non-airconditioned floor (the per-day rate is Rs 25,000) and Rs 6 lakh a month for the airconditioned floor.
Hemant Apte, owner of Captech Media, a TV production house, says, “All studios and floors were originally made to meet the requirements of the film industry. Unlike Western countries, India does not have a dedicated studio only for the TV industry.”
Apte’s company has made a 500-episode successful Telugu reality game show, Bhale Chancele (“Wow, What a Chance”), which is based on Snakes and Ladders. It runs on Maa TV. The show’s USP is the host, a character called Jumbo. He is a mute comedian who dresses up in weird costumes.
Some shows are made in Hyderabad studios for a pan-south-Indian audience. Last year, Gemini TV produced a show in four languages: Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. “The set, built at a whopping cost of Rs 45 lakh, was the same. Only some changes like names, graphics and colours were changed for each region,” says Vinay Kumar Jannu, who worked with the production house in Chennai.
These new-format shows require large studios. So each channel needs three or four floors to meet its requirement.
With more space and bigger budgets, producers are experimenting with elaborate sets, fancy lighting, high-definition, and high-end equipment including remote-controlled “Jimmy zip” cranes, multi-cameras, LED lights, audio-video sets, control cabins, and the like. It takes 10 days to a month to build such sets.
In AP, the four major entertainment channels — Maa, Gemini, ETV and Zee — occupy most of the floor space available across the four major studios: Ramoji Film City, Sarathi, Annapurna and Ramanaidu.
“Keeping in mind economic viability, now for production work, studios are booked on monthly and yearly basis, from three months upto one year,” says Ramanaidu’s Rao. “At a time, two-three different sets are being built to save time and money. The four studios cater to 80 per cent of floor demand. Also the Telugu film industry, which produces more than 120 films a year, use these studios to shoot some indoor shooting.”
Annapurna Studio, which had four floors, recently added a state-of-the-art facility with five floors, makeup rooms and a dance rehearsal facility. Padma-laya’s original studio has been demolished and the land is being redeveloped.
About Padmalaya, however, Captech’s Apte says the studio “is now building a [new facility] near Shamshabad Airport, which is practically unviable to go to and shoot in, for the producer, as it costs a lot to go so far out with cameras and crew.”
He adds, “The shortage of floor area is still there for independent programme producers.”