By Sreedhar Pillai
There is a big production boom in Tamil and Malayalam cinema. In 2012, there were 150 plus releases in Tamil and 100 plus in Malayalam. Most of these are new generation cinema made by youngsters on low budget, using digital cameras.
Today, every week there are a minimum of four releases in Tamil and Malayalam. It has led to a situation where theatres in Tamil Nadu and Kerala are finding it difficult to accommodate new releases. Most of these films are given one or two shows in the smallest screens in multiplexes to oblige the producers.
2013 may see a record 200 plus releases in Tamil and atleast 150 in Malayalam. A new breed of producers have emerged in both the industries - small time businessmen lured by the glamour and glitz of show business, real estate dealers with liquid cash, controversial shady firms that want to double money and above all hundreds of NRIs.
In Kollywood, the superstars Like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay, Ajith, Vikram and Suriya have signed up with big production houses or are making their own films. They have the best of directors, producers with budgets of at least Rs 50 crore. In an interview, Vikram said that his Shankar directed ‘I’ for producer Aascar Ravichandran is going to cost a whopping Rs 145 Crore!
At the same time in Malayalam, the big two stars - Mammootty and Mohanlal - are going downhill, as their recent films have all been failures. They are now acting in films which are either produced by them or distributed by their companies. Dileep, the other big star who has been constantly dishing out crass comedy hits, is also marketing most of his films.
A new breed of actors also have emerged in Kollywood and Mollywood who are making films on shoe-string budgets and getting a decent "opening" (initial collection). Today actors such as Vijay Sethupathy, Vimal, Sivakarthikeyan and Mirchi Siva are flooded with offers in Tamil, with films being made on Rs 4-6 crore. When the superstars are charging Rs 15 crore and above, the new breed are doing films for Rs 50-75 lakhs.
The Malayalam new generation films also have created young and bankable actors who have considerable reach among youth audiences. The new era in Malayalam cinema is headed by names like Fahad Fazil, Asif Ali, Dulqer Salman, Nivin Pauly, Vineeth Srinivasan, Jayasurya, Anoop Menon and so many other youngsters. Here again compared to the superstars in the Rs. 1 crore club, the young guns have proved that they are commercially viable in the Rs 25 - 40 lakhs range.
Meanwhile with so many new heroes and films getting ready for release, none of them wants to clash with existing big hero movies. In the present scenario, a small film gets a better opening if it manages to get a solo release and the moment its release date clashes with a biggie, it’s a dead duck at the box-office. Therefore, they have to look at a new outlet to release their films.
The theatres also play a crucial role as it is they who pick and choose, with first preference always for the big star movies. And during the lean period, they want to push these small films. Now there is very limited number of screens in Tamil Nadu (1040) and Kerala (425) and for summer 2013 (April-May-June), there are a lot of biggies due. Added to that IPL season starts in April first week, which means a good chunk would watch T-20s everyday evening at home.
Therefore, for the first time ever, Kollywood and Mollywood have converted the month of March, traditionally the examination season, into a month for small movies and meaningful films. From today (March 1), more than 12 lakh students in India will be sitting for the CBSE class X examination and nearly 10 lakh will appear in class XII test, both beginning March 1. A good number of these students are from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Added to that, the state board exams and semester exams in colleges also take place in March.
Today (Friday, March 1) there are six Tamil releases and three in Malayalam. 15 other Tamil films including Bala’s eagerly awaited Paradesi (March 15) are expected to hit the screens in Tamil Nadu soon. And a similar number of releases are due in Malayalam as well. Says veteran exhibitor and distributor Abirami Ramanathan: “ We had no other go other than opening up March to new releases. Traditionally we hardly had any releases in March as it was considered to be the exam season. Now the trade is changing thanks to the weekend audiences.”
Today the trade feels, with net connectivity and penetration, there are other forms of entertainment to distract students. And movie going during weekends (Friday to Saturday), is as strong in March as in other months. And they feel it is better to release a small film or a critically acclaimed film during this season, as they will get screens.