Chennai: Last Pongal season, Kollywood star Vijay was struggling to find theatres in Chennai and Tamil Nadu for his Kaavalan which later became a blockbuster in Bollywood in its remake avatar, Bodyguard.
This time around, he has one of the biggest releases in south Indian film history.
His Pongal release Nanban which is the Tamil remake of Three Idiots has been released in 450 theatres in Tamil Nadu alone, most of them the best ones in the state. In Chennai, the film is running in 27 screens, covering almost every part of the city. The suburban multiplex theatre Maayajaal ran a record 67 shows on the day of the release and is continuing to screen mind-boggling number of shows every day.
If Vijay faced a highly uncertain future early last year despite his immense fan-following as the “Ilaya Thalapathy (young emperor)” of Tamil cinema, same time this year, he is a roaring rage, a bigger star than ever before.
What made this incredible fortune makeover? The change of government from DMK to AIADMK!
It is strange indeed, but true. Politics can make or break your career in Kollywood.
When it was in power last year, the DMK had a vice-like grip on the Tamil film industry, where nobody could survive without its patronage. Almost the entire big budget-pie of the industry was controlled by big production houses such as Sun Pictures, Red Giant Movies and Cloud Nine Movies, all of which belonged to Karunanidhi’s near ones. They controlled most of the big star productions and the best theatres.
For whatever curious reasons, Vijay refused to fall in line and became an instant outcast. Rumour was that he rebuffed the movie-proposal of one of the scions. Their political muscle ensured that his Kaavalan didn’t get any good theatres and that he was under pressure from producers who demanded reimbursement of the losses of his previous movie. He was in a real fix.
The closest analogy, old-timers recount, is a similar fate faced by the late Chief Minister and filmstar MGR at the hands of the DMK when his film Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban was released in early 1970s. Despite his stardom, MGR had an extremely tough time getting even a single theatre in Chennai for his film.
Some even thought that Vijay’s career would come to an end and that if DMK came back to power, he would have to either forget cinema or fall at the first family’s feet. Yet true to the characters he plays in his films, Vijay remained belligerent. He refused to budge and waited for the polls. He threw in his lot with Jayalalitha and made public his support for her.
When the DMK fell, his stock rose instantly. He was back on the studio floors and his first release Velayudham after Jayalalitha came back to power opened in October with a mammoth 850 prints worldwide. He was a superstar again!
Next up was the Nanban, released last week, which had an even bigger release. It opened in every single theatre in every neighbourhood. Tickets were sold out in the city and the suburbs within minutes of the opening of advance booking. It was also released in 25 screens in the UK and became the first ever Tamil movie to be released in France with French subtitles. With the success of Nanban, Vijay is scorching hot in the market.
Whether as a political favour or not, Jayalalitha’s government has exempted the movie from entertainment tax, forgoing 30 per cent of revenue in box office collections. It's the first film to receive this exemption since she came to power.
While Vijay’s fortunes experienced a fantastic reversal with the return of the AIADMK, a highly popular comedian Vadivelu, who campaigned for the DMK, has suffered an exactly opposite fate.
Carried away by the belief that DMK would return to power, Vadivelu went overboard in his election campaign and shot off his mouth wherever he went to speak. Ever since Jayalalitha became the Chief Minister, he is sitting at home with no film at hand. Nearly all actors and producers don’t want to touch him with a bargepole. Just before the elections, he was so much in demand that he was selling his time by the day.