Tracing how music is still a big commercial pull in Tamil cinema, with films like Asuran, Comali benefiting from hit songs
Films like Dhanush's Asuran and Jayam Ravi's Comali proved how after the teaser and trailer, chartbusters still help Tamil films secure a good opening.
2020 is here but even now, hit songs are mandatory in Tamil cinema. Yes, last year we had a blockbuster Kaithi, which released without songs but it is an exception. Believe it or not, hit songs are the biggest attraction in Tamil cinema.
Filmmakers here are trying their best to reduce the number of songs in the films to go the Western way but audiences flock in huge numbers to theaters mainly for the peppy songs and colourful visuals. Of course, they are no longer satisfied only with such grandly-shot hit numbers, and demand a riveting storyline and nail-biting screenplay but considering the limited span of theatrical runs, producers need a massive opening to get back their investment.
Let us check the number of hit films in 2019 to explain the scenario. Last year started with both the phenomenal run of Petta and Viswasam. Both the films had an engaging screenplay for a gallery-pleasing storyline but the chartbusters generated huge expectations for these films. Petta is one of the best works of Anirudh Ravichander in recent times. Needless to say, all the songs topped the charts. As Kabali and Kaala did not have any party numbers and enjoyable tracks, which fans used to listen in Rajinikanth’s films, they loved Petta for the instantly likable songs ('Marana Mass', 'Ullallaa'), and the adrenaline-rushing background score. The theme music of Petta is the ringtone of many movie buffs in Tamil Nadu.
Music composer Imman’s biggest strength is his ability to attract the masses in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ centers aka the rural areas and small towns. Being a mass entertainer, Imman’s songs gave a huge push to Viswasam in the mass circuits. The ‘Kannana Kanne’ number moved a lot of parents and kids emotionally. In 2019, Imman delivered a chartbuster album Namma Veettu Pillai for Sivakarthikeyan. These days, delivering a hit album has become a rarity but all the songs in the Sivakarthikeyan-starrer were huge hits, which eventually provided a good opening, and brought in solid revenue for the actor who was struggling with two consecutive box office duds.
The trade always cites hit songs as the pivotal factor for the huge opening of Vijay’s films. Many lyricists and composers have earlier said after MGR, Vijay is keen on the lyrics used in his films and the opening track. A few say even without Vijay’s involvement, composers have now started giving hit songs to him, considering his impeccable dance moves and the track record of his previous albums. Vijay-starrer Bigil is the highest Tamil grosser of 2019. Even before the release, the two tracks —'Verithanam' (sung by Vijay himself) and 'Singapenne,' composed by AR Rahman, topped the charts. After the release, the amalgamation of the speedy moves of Vijay and the high-spirited music of Rahman in ‘Bigil Bigil Bigiluma’ also became a huge hit.
Jayam Ravi-starrer Comali (Hip Hop Tamizha), Dhanush’s Asuran (GV Prakash Kumar), Natpe Thunai (Hip Hop Tamizha, Adhi), Monster (Justin Prabhakaran), Sivappu Manjal Pachai (Siddhu Kumar), Kolaigaran (Simon K King), and LKG (Leon James) had chartbusters. As a result, they had a good opening and solid run.
Forget the heroes, music composers like Hip-hop Tamizha Adhi, Vijay Antony, and GV Prakash Kumar have become heroes mainly because of their hit songs in their films.
In the year-end, the average soundtracks of Sivakarthikeyan-starrer Hero and Karthi-starrer Thambi failed to generate good expectations at the box office. Just like MGR, Rajinikanth, and Vijay, Sivakarthikeyan is known for his hit albums but none of the songs in Hero were hits, which eventually affected the film at the box office.
Ruben of GK Cinemas says, "Today, to bring in audiences to theaters, producers need at least one hook factor. After trailer and teaser, hit songs play an important role. Despite all the delay, the 'Maruvarathai' song form Enai Nokki Paayum Thotta, and the entire album gave a fantastic opening for the film. Though hit songs can't save a film, they contribute to the good opening. If the content is good, these hit tracks act as a catalyst at the box office."
Sakthivelan, a prominent distributor in Tamil cinema, also resonates with Ruben's thoughts. "Enai Nokki Paayum Thotta is the best example. Though the film was in the cans for a long time, the hit songs attracted the audiences to theaters. Having said that, songs can only fetch good opening but at the end of the day, content is king."
SR Prabhu, who produced the blockbuster Kaithi without songs, says, "Today, we all know that Vijay and Sivakarthikeyan have a solid kids fan base. Audiences under five are mostly influenced by the hit songs and colourful picturisation. Both these stars follow the mainstream pattern to bring in the audiences. For a big star film, especially for family drama and commercial action entertainers, songs play a pivotal role in attracting the audiences. Even in serious films like Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru, to neutralise the mood of the audiences, we need to place songs".
"In Karthi sir's Paiyaa, all the songs were huge hits, and the film went on to become a blockbuster. Later, Yuvan and Karthi joined together for Naan Mahan Alla. Though the songs in Naan Mahan Alla were not as huge hits as Paiyaa, except for the 'Iragai Pole' number, audiences still came in for the hit combination," he continues.
"From the business point of view, producers show songs, trailers, and teaser to showcase the budget involved in making a film. Also, songs act as an important memory of a film beyond its theatrical run. Some of them liked NGK, and a few didn't but now, the 'Anbae Pernabae' track is being played even now, and it's in the top 50 charts of the year. Yes, filmmakers have converted standalone dance numbers into montages but hit songs do play a pivotal role in films," Prabhu signs off.
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