Tamil film star Vijay’s inability to release his latest big budget Thalaivaa in the state because of reported bomb-threats by some unknown organisation is a near-repeat of the trauma that Kamal Haasan endured early this year.
It’s also a clear indication that the political tightrope walk that film stars take in the state are fraught with huge uncertainties.
While in Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, reported threats by Muslim organisations prompted district authorities to pass orders against the screening of the film across the state, in Vijay’s case it’s still unclear if the police or government authorities had any role in stalling the release.
All that is known is that a hitherto unheard organisation named “Oppressed Students’ Revolutionary Union” has sent threatening letters to prominent theatres in Chennai and the latter promptly decided to pull out the film.
And the rest of the state followed suite.
For both the actor and the producer, this could prove to be very costly because the “initial” (collections in the first couple of weeks) is what makes a movie a hit or a flop.
These days, producers try to recoup their investment by simultaneously releasing their films in hundreds of theatres across the state before pirated DVDs and CDs eat into their profit. An A-list film such as Thalaivaa usually gets to at least 500 screens and stars are valued for their potential for the “initial”.
As in the case of Vishwaroopam, Thalaivaa has been released everywhere, including in neighbouring states where the star has a good market, except in Tamil Nadu. However, the returns from these markets are insignificant compared to the collections at home. A delayed release will certainly make it less of a block-buster or even an ultimate loser because pirated DVDs from overseas markets reach the state in a week.
Although the plight of Kamal Haasan and Vijay are similar, the political undercurrents are curiously different.
In the case Kamal Haasan, the lukewarm response or the displeasure of the government was not surprising because the actor was perceived to be close to DMK president Karunanidhi and he had even made some public appearances that could have been politically interpreted against him. However, what is surprising in Vijay’s case is that he is an ardent AIADMK supporter and it was purely the return of the party to power that saw his resurrection in 2011-12.
Vijay was in deep trouble towards the end of the DMK regime and was nearly out of work because he got into the wrong books of the production-distribution stranglehold of Karunanidhi’s family. During 2011-Pongal, which is one of the few windfall seasons for film-releases in the state, he couldn’t find theatres for his Kaavalan, a superhit material that ultimately became an average grosser.
Vijay remained belligerent and didn’t give in to the DMK because he knew elections were round the corner. He threw in his lot with Jayalalithaa and made public his support for her.When the DMK fell, his stock rose instantly. He was soon back on the studio floors and his first release Velayudham, after Jayalalithaa came back to power, opened in October 2011 with a mammoth 850 prints worldwide. He was a superstar again!
It was followed by Nanban, the remake of Three Idiots, which opened in 45o screens across Tamil Nadu. In Chennai alone, it ran in a record 27 screens. His next, Thuppakki, by Ghajjini director AR Murugadoss, also opened big and became a blockbuster.
With Thalaivaa, the trade hoped to better the performance of Thuppakki and all the best theatres in the state were ready for the release when the bomb-spoiler came. The industry needs big hits because only 10 percent of the films make money.
Both Vijay fans and the Tamil film industry are clueless as to what could have happened to the actor’s apparent political support. He was clearly in the AIADMK camp and thought to have enjoyed the sympathy of its leadership. But when he needed support, it looked the other way.
On Thursday, the eve of the proposed release date, Vijay went all the way to Jayalalithaa’s Kodanadu residence in Nilgiris to meet her and appeal for her intervention. But, he couldn’t meet her and a secretary received his petition at the gate. While her office sources reportedly said that she didn’t meet him because he didn’t have prior appointment, it’s seen as a huge setback for the actor.
There is one more indication that Vijay may be politically disfavoured now — Thalaivaa failed to get entertainment tax exemption from the state government.
Now he has to wait, which will be very costly. Unlike in Kamal Haasan’s case, the industry hasn’t yet spoken out in his support.
Ideally, the police should have provided protection to the theatres and asked them to go ahead with the release, particularly given that the reported threat came from an insignificant outfit. But nothing of that sort happened.
To make matters worse, somebody filed a suit in a city civil court asking for a stay on the film alleging that it badly portrayal two Tamil community leaders who lived in Mumbai. The court has posted the case for 14 August. Thalaivaa, like Thuppakki is set in Mumbai.
Guess, who would have come to the rescue of Vijay?
None other than Karunanidhi! That makes the political farce in the state complete.
In a statement on Friday, he said what happened to Vishwaroopam was now happening to Thalaivaa and it amounted to trampling democracy. He also criticised Jaya for not giving an audience to Vijay.
Till this a debacle, Vijay was really riding high with the AIADMK in power. It’s not clear if even Vijay knows the reasons for the sudden roadblock. Unless the AIADMK leadership openly supports him, he certainly has reasons to worry.
And the other stars may have to be extremely careful because the state had more examples than Kamal Haasan and Vijay.
Updated Date: Aug 11, 2013 15:50 PM