Monday, July 04, 2005

Hits and trends


Kollywood's half-yearly report is out. SREEDHAR PILLAI lists the winners

Winners all: Chandiramukhi, Anniyan, Arindhum Ariyamulum, Ullam ketkume

It is boom time for Tamil cinema in the first half of 2005 (January to June), as 45 films were released. Among them was a mega blockbuster, two super hits and at least three films which will recover their cost and breakeven. Tamil Nadu Theatrical Rights (TTR) has emerged as the biggest domestic territory in the country. Among the 2005 releases so far, three films will collect a distributor's share of over Rs. 15 crore-plus from TTR. Compare this with India's biggest territory, Mumbai for Bollywood biggies, which has potential only to do business worth Rs. 10 crores! The overseas market for Tamil films is also booming and newer markets are emerging. In South Africa, hitherto an unexplored market, Rajnikanth's "Chandramukhi" is a huge hit and there are plans to dub the film into Zulu, the local African language! And if the Tamil film industry becomes more professional and streamlined, it will be able to attract institutional funding and NRI investments.

Size does matter

It was the star spangled extravaganzas that drew mega bucks. The biggest hit of the year "Chandramukhi" thanks to its charismatic star Rajnikanth has made Sivaji Productions a brand name. The film is reported to have done business worth Rs. 50 crores worldwide from domestic, audio, overseas and satellite rights. The film is clearly the biggest box-office hit in the history of Tamil cinema.

Sometimes the box-office revenue outweighs the general perception the audience may have about a film. Take for instance, Vijay's "Tirupachi" that opened amid mixed reports. The mass entertainer was lapped up by a section of the audience that simply loved the film and its dapankoothu songs. According to trade sources "Tirupachi" is the first film of Vijay to get a distributor's share of over Rs. 2 crores from the Coimbatore-Nilgiris area! But everybody cannot make a film with Rajnikanth, Vijay or Vikram. Actors like Surya, Silambarasan, Jayam Ravi or even a rank newcomer like Arya are also saleable though they don't get the kind of opening that big stars have. This year, at least a dozen young stars, some of them being producers' sons, are trying to enter the `star slot'. An actor like Jeeva, son of leading producer R. B. Chowdary, was noticed in "Raam" which was appreciated for its presentation and enjoyed a youth audience.

The stars and the packaging are what matter as proved by both the big hits and average grossers such as "Raam", "Arindhum Ariyamalum" and "Ullam Ketkume". All these films are targeted at the youth who like peppy numbers and glitz. Though the audio industry is on its death bed, music continues to be an important aspect in the packaging of a film. Vidyasagar, Yuvan Shankar Raja and Harris Jayaraj are the top music directors who strike a chord with the youth.

The content and concept of films may not have changed, but the way they are marketed has changed. It is surprising that the box-office trends in Tamil Nadu seem to be following the Hollywood pattern. The way "Chandramukhi" and "Anniyan" have been marketed is unique and it has made them money spinners — thanks to a combination of high voltage marketing, record number of prints, high priced tickets in the first two weeks, multiple shows during weekends and, above all, the film being marketed as brand!

In Tamil Nadu, the State Government policies — lowest entertainment tax and crackdown on video piracy — have brought the audience back to the theatres. On the downside, the Tamil film industry is now totally dependent on its superstars to deliver the goods. The cost of star movies has gone through the roof and star salaries are astronomical, almost 55 per cent of the budget, which may result in the boom going bust. But the highlight of this mid-year trend is that gross box-office collections of Tamil films have increased worldwide.

Facts and figures

January 1 to June 30

Number of films released: 45

Mega Blockbuster:


Super hits:

Tirupachi, Anniyan

Average grosser:

Arindhum Ariyamalum,

Raam, Ullam Ketkume

(The ratings are based on the box office collections, the cost of the film and the price at which it was sold to distributors)

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