Jallikattu beats Aadyarathri, Vikruthi to top Kerala box office, earns Rs. 7.30 cr in opening week
Among the festival releases, the top five at Kochi multiplexes, three were OLFs – Asuran, War and Joker, with Malayalam film Jallikattu topping the box-office and Aadyarathri featuring at number four.
A boom in multiplexes and conversion of single screens into double screens has increased the box-office share in Kerala. This has resulted in an increased number of Malayalam releases and also a wider release; not to add: a larger consumption of other language films (OLF) in the state. The phenomenal growth of social media has also created a craze for OLF films in Tamil, Hindi, English and Telugu (dubbed into Malayalam) in Kerala. For every Tamil or Telugu superstars worth his box-office clout, fan clubs have mushroomed in a state where Mohanlal and Mammootty ruled.
Now Malayalam film producers and distributors feel threatened by OLFs as they are taking away the youth audiences away from Malayalam films. For the big Gandhi Jayanthi/Pooja weekend (2-8 October), four Malayalam films – Jallikattu, Aadyarathri, Vikruthi and Pranaya Meenukalude Kadal released along with four OLFs - War, Joker, Asuran and Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. Among the festival releases, the top five at Kochi multiplexes, three were OLFs – Asuran, War and Joker, with Malayalam film Jallikattu topping the box-office and Aadyarathri featuring at number four.
Meanwhile the Malayalam film trade was surprised by the success of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s art house thriller Jallikattu emerging as the number one at the Kerala box-office for the pooja weekend. As per trade sources the other Malayalam releases which were commercial family entertainers could not live up to expectations. Trade sources say Jallikattu has grossed Rs 7.30 cr (approximately) from Kerala theatres in its first week, while Aadyarathri has grossed Rs 4.45 cr and Vikruthi Rs 3.85 cr approximately. At the same time, a film like Dhanush’s Asuran has grossed nearly Rs 3 cr which is huge from limited screens. The Dhanush-Vetrimaran combination brought the youth audiences while Manju Warrier was able to attract the families too.
As per trade sources, 65 % of total Jallikattu collections came from the multiplexes situated in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram area. At the same time, single screens across Kerala preferred to play one of the other three - Aadyarathri, Vikruthi or Pranaya Meenukalude Kadal, and in some cases shared shows. And veteran director Kamal’s Pranaya Meenukalude Kadal turned out to be a disaster and many shows had to be cancelled in its first week due to lack of audiences. Some theatres replaced it by Sunday with Asuran or War which had better footfalls.
However, what has caught the Kerala film trade by surprise is the way Jallikattu, a 91-minute high-brow film performed better than “family friendly” films like – Vikruthi and Aadyarathri (despite the title ‘First Night’, it is a puerile comedy). A programmer at a leading multiplex in Kochi said: “What worked for Jallikattu was the power of the youth audiences who form the core of cinema viewers especially in the opening weekend. And film got rave talk after Toronto International Film Festival and Lijo Jose Pellissery, the director, is a big brand after Angamaly Diaries and Ee Ma Yu and the opposing Malayalam films did not have big stars. In fact, Asuran, War and Joker performed better in Kochi multiplexes in the opening weekend than Aadyarathri and Vikruthi.
Leading Malayalam producer and distributor Mukesh R Mehta said: “First and foremost there were too many Malayalam releases on 4 October. Malayalam films to be hits depend on Word Of Mouth (WOM) and family audiences especially in small towns and take time to build. At the same time OLFs' initial collection is always from youth audiences who throng multiplexes. And Kerala is the only state where a film after release can get a re-release a few weeks later if the WOM is good. The Tamil blockbuster that I distributed Ratchasan initially released in Kerala in 20 screens. I re-released it after three weeks in 105 screens and it worked like magic.”
The 4 October weekend clearly indicates that the audiences in Kerala are willing to lap up something different from the run-of-the-mill entertainers. Noted critic Vijay George, who has been covering the industry for years, said: “The key aspect to success in Malayalam of late has not necessarily been the stars, but it is the ‘content’. In fact, star movies have been bombing in recent times, with smaller content driven films like Kumblangi Nights or a Thanimathan Dinangal working big time at the box-office. The viewers here are looking for a hearty laugh at the cinemas or at least some thrilling moments and those movies which ensured it managed to rake in the moolah.”
Now all eyes in Kerala are on the Tamil Deepavali releases when Vijay’s Bigil clashes with Karthi’s Kaithi. As of now, there are no major Malayalam releases slotted for the 25 October Deepavali weekend, as Kerala theatres' first preference will be Bigil. But Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), along with film producers and distributors, have now decided to limit the number of theatres playing one film in panchayat or municipalities of the state. This, however, doesn’t apply to corporations or wherever there are multiplexes. FEUOK has fixed the maximum number of theatres for such films to 125. A big Tamil film like Bigil will go normally for a wide release and needs a minimum of 350 to 400 screens to recover its investment in the first week. The curtailing of the screens is likely to bring down the prices at which OLFs are procured.
A top Malayalam film distributor said: “We have to stop the rapid growth of Kollywood and Bollywood biggies in Kerala, where it is given priority over small Malayalam films, who are finding it difficult to get screens.” The battle for screens and shows will only increase as more and more multiplexes are on the anvil in Kerala.
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