Bigil, Mersal, Theri: How Atlee and Vijay's collaboration have set the bar high for mainstream Tamil films
Bigil is Atlee and Vijay's fourth collaboration and also stars Nayanthara and Jackie Shroff.
Director Atlee's self-assured speeches at the audio launch of his last two films, Mersal and Bigil, did raise eyebrows in the Tamil film industry. Some labeled Atlee as an overconfident filmmaker but the fans had faith in his conviction and the boldness with which he delivered those lines at some of Kollywood's most-watched events.
Atlee has helmed four films in his career since his directorial debut, Raja Rani (2013). Three of them have featured Thalapathy Vijay in the lead. With these successful projects, Atlee has proved himself as a box office friendly filmmaking force. The collaborations between Atlee and Vijay have set the bar high for mainstream commercial entertainers. They have even pushed the latter's contemporaries to walk the extra mile with their respective filmographies.
While there is an extensive debate on how Atlee's films heavily borrow themes and concepts from classic yesteryear films, there is no denying the fact that he has presented the emotions with a contemporary touch. When Mersal was criticized for its similarities to director Singeetam Srinivasa Rao's Apoorva Sagodharargal, Kamal Haasan expressed his shock at the comparisons after watching the Vijay-starrer in a private screening and vindicated Atlee from his naysayers on the internet.
"Atlee's confidence stems from his ability to present films in a grand manner. He understands the pulse of audiences and Vijay's fans very clearly. All his films have a lot of crowd-pleasing moments and provide a good theatrical experience. It's one of the reasons why his films pull audiences in droves to theaters when he joins hands with Vijay," a popular trade analyst, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Firstpost.
Theri, the first time association between Vijay and Atlee, was also the actor's first film to touch Rs 150 crore in worldwide theatrical revenue. It also sprinted past the Rs 10 crore cumulative total in the Chennai city box office. Theri, produced by Kalaipuli S Thanu's V Creations, still continues to be in the list of all-time top ten grossers of Tamil Nadu. The blockbuster success of Theri came at a crucial juncture for Vijay, since it was preceded by the disastrous performance of Chimbudevan's fantasy entertainer Puli.
Atlee demonstrated Vijay's full box office potential through Theri and surpassed his own record with Mersal, which amassed more than Rs 250 crore in global ticket sales. The dialogues in the film took a dig at digital India, the GST proposal and faced stiff opposition from political leaders across the nation. The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders even demanded the removal of politically-charged scenes from the film. However, the controversy only helped fuel Mersal's box office performance. Vijay's triple role as a magician, doctor, and village chieftain received a rapturous welcome in overseas territories as well.
From BJP's then-state unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan to General Secretary H Raja, Mersal faced the wrath of the ruling party and every other leader from neighboring states jumped on the bandwagon to express their support for Vijay. Popular leaders like Rahul Gandhi, P Chidambaram and MK Stalin extended their support to the actor and his film. Mersal became his first to touch the Rs 100 crore gross mark in Tamil Nadu. The song, 'Aalaporaan Thamizhan', composed by AR Rahman, became a rage and was declared the most played track on all popular FM stations in the state. Mersal was the most-streamed Tamil album of 2017 by music streaming app Saavn.
Mersal also pulled in nearly Rs 75 crore from overseas territories alone and touched $10 million mark in lifetime foreign takings. Now, Bigil is ready to set new benchmarks at the worldwide box office. Trade is eagerly waiting to see if the film would repeat the success stories of Theri and Mersal and set the bar high once again in Tamil cinema. If Bigil touches Rs 300 crore in worldwide gross, it will be another record breaking achievement for Vijay. The film has received good reviews and positive word-of-mouth. The Diwali holiday weekend has ensured good footfall for the sports drama.
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