Despite the indie hits, star power rules Kollywood

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January 14, 2014 11:00:53 IST

By Sreedhar Pillai

Some things never change in Kollywood. Superstar power rules the Tamil box-office and 2013 has not been an exception although some indies continued to make money.

The big hits of the year are Kamal Haasan’s controversial thriller Viswaroopam, Suriya’s mass masala Singam 2, Ajith’s action packed Arrambam, the Arya-Nayanthara romcom Raja Rani and new boy Sivakarthikeyan’s family entertainer Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam (VVS) .

If 2012 was the year of small budget movies like Pizza, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, the trend continued to some extent in 2013 as well. However, niche concept films made on a high budget of Rs 15 crore plus, including promotional charges and prints, such as the Bala-directed Paradesi and Dhanush’s Bharat Bala directed Maryan, failed at the box-office. At the same time, budget-conscious films made on Rs 5 to Rs 7 Crore like Ethir Neechal,Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya, Soodhu Kavvum, Theeya Velai Seiyyum Kumaru, Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga, Chennaiyil Oru Naal were hits.

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Kamal Haasan during promotions for Viswaroopam. Firstpost

The year has shown that superstar films of Vijay, Ajith and Suriya are major grossers mainly due to youth audiences. G Srinivasan of S Pictures who controls maximum number of screens in North Arcot area of Tamil Nadu says: “The superstars of Tamil cinema have a huge fan following among youth in rural areas. Today it is the youth audiences which create the opening for the stars. The advent of multiplexes and modernisation of existing single screens have brought back some audiences to theatres. If more stringent measures are taken against piracy, the cinema-going audiences will increase.”

Kollywood has a tenacious tie-up with Tamil politics from time immemorial, as successive chief ministers have been from the film industry. Those who were actively involved in Tamil cinema, either as writers (CN Annadurai and M Karunanidhi) or as actors (MGR, Jayalalithaa), ruled the state. And they made it a point to always keep a check on the industry. Today the most expensive ticket in Tamil Nadu multiplexes costs Rs 120, the lowest in India. The cap on ticket rates may have helped the common moviegoer to watch more films, but it has stunted the growth of the industry.

Added to that, Tamil films should have Tamil titles and censored with a U certificate, if they are to be exempted from entertainment tax, otherwise they have to pay 25 to 30 per cent on gross ticket rate as taxes. This has led to a situation where every producer is hankering after tax exemption. The distributors and theatre owners prefer to screen only films which do not have to pay taxes

Dr Hari Govind, proprietor of Chennai suburban multiplex Rakki Cinemas in Ambattur says: “The best collecting films for us this year are Ajith’s Arrambam Suriya’s Singam 2, Raja Rani and VVS - all with U certificates. For some of the other hits in our multiplex such as Viswaroopam, Soodhu Kavvum and Endrendrum Punnagai, we had to pay taxes as it was classified as UA.”

According to G Dhananjayan, Chief - South Business, Disney-UTV : “Today the trend in Kollywood is to release in maximum number of screens and gross big in the opening weekend. Ninety per cent of the lifetime theatrical collection of a film comes in 10 days, compared to 100 days a few years back. The idea is to bombard a film in maximum number of screens and get back your investment at the earliest.”

The promotional spend has increased, which meant a film made on a budget of Rs 4 Crore has to spent an additional 60 to 70 per cent of the cost on promotion and publicity. Escape Artists Motion Pictures' P Madhan, the most successful producer of the year with a string of hits like VVS says: “Today in Tamil cinema after subject and star are locked up, promotions and buzz around the film starts from launch day. Our hero Sivakarthikeyan created the right buzz when he went on a Tamil Nadu promotional tour which helped us to make VVS a super hit.”

Remember it was a year when Bollywood giants including Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan came to Chennai for the promotions of their Chennai Express and Dhoom 3 respectively. Both the films had a Tamil dubbed version and thanks to promotions were mega hits. Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish 3 was also aggressively promoted by the actor in Chennai.

Last year one of the biggest game changers in Kollywood has been the emergence of the social media in the promotion and awareness of a new film. Stars, producers and directors have realised that if you want to get the ‘real audience who pay Rs 120 and watch a film’ then it has to be on one of the social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. The rise of the virtually connected youth audiences has helped Kollywood in a big way. Today producers and music companies are releasing teasers or songs first on Youtube, before a theatrical release and before the teasers hit television. For music companies, considerable revenue is coming from digital downloads as there is virtually no physical sale of CDs or cassettes.

Concludes Somasundaram of Raja Talkies, Puducherry: “Technically Tamil cinema has improved by leaps and bounds, but not story-wise. As a theatre owner I’m not happy with the content. It is ultimately the age old word of mouth that still makes a film a hit. But we are in for some exciting times in 2014.”

Updated Date: Jan 14, 2014 11:00 AM

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