Attakathi, Pizza and Soodhu Kavvum… Producer C.V. Kumar tells Sudhish Kamath how choosing the right scripts and working with fresh talent has raked in the moolah at the box office

Over the past year and a half, 34-year-old producer C.V. Kumar has had three releases that showcased newcomers, exciting young talent and unconventional, fresh cinema. But the most significant part of this story is that these three films together — Attakathi, Pizza and Soodhu Kavvum have done business to the tune of Rs. 45 crores with the sweet sound of ‘Kaasu Pannam Thuttu Money Money’ (Soodhu Kavvum) still going strong in the theatres, even after 50 days of release.

Walking the path shown by S.P. Charan’s Capital Film Works (that produced the trendsetting Chennai 600028 and the cult film Aaranya Kaandam) and S. Sashikanth’s Y Not Studios (that produced the outrageous spoof Tamizh Padam, a laugh riot Va - Quarter Cutting and the campus romance Kaadhalil Sothappuvathu Yeppadi), Kumar has not only chosen the right scripts and picked promising talent fresh off the TV (from winners of Nalaya Iyakkunar), he has also figured out a way to make all this profitable — from marketing it with the right kind of buzz and innovative promos to selling off remake rights to Bollywood.

Both Pizza and Soodhu Kavvum will be made in Hindi and Kumar is in the final stages of negotiation with an independent Hollywood-based production company for the English remake of Pizza. “I don’t know exactly how much my films gross because I sell them off after making them for a small profit,” says Kumar. “It’s all about finding the right partners and I was lucky to find Studio Green for Attakathi and Soodhu Kavvum and Sangam Cinemas to release Pizza.”

Madurai boy Kumar used to come to Chennai for his M.Sc. Psychology classes that he was pursuing through distance education at Madras University a decade ago. He had also started going for classes at Arena Multimedia in Madurai before taking a transfer to Chennai.

“I was 22 and married and my wife used to pack lunch for me,” Kumar recollects his early days in Chennai. In those three years between 2002 and 2005, he learnt animation, sound design, branding and even took scriptwriting classes. “My family had a travel and tours business. So I travelled extensively around the world.” It was a trip to Los Angeles in 2010 that changed his life.

“I spent only ten days in LA and I was inspired to start a production house. I am a big fan of Matrix, Lord Of The Rings and when Troy released, I had pretty much decided that I wanted to someday produce films of that quality in India.”

He returned to Chennai and started Thirukumaran Entertainment in 2010.

In August 2011, he started pre-production for Attakathi directed by Ranjith. “We went about it with clear deadlines. Started shooting on September 26, finished shooting by December 8 and had our audio release on January 9, 2012. I spent Rs. 25 lakhs on the audio launch and Studio Green bought the film immediately. I am thankful to them. When no one believed in us, they had the ability to put our movie out in the theatres. I made only a ten per cent profit but I learned how to market films.”

He applied all the learning to Pizza. “We made promos and had strategies on how to employ viral promotion through social media and it worked.” He had spent Rs. 1.6 crores producing the film. Sangam Cinemas and Red Giant agreed to spend an equal amount in publicity. “I spent another Rs. 80 lakhs from my end on print and publicity. Marketing spends on a small film should be twice that of a big film,” he says.

For Soodhu Kavvum, he ensured that they spent Rs. 2.5 crores on just publicity. “We may be making films unconventionally but since the distribution system is conventional, we have to be aggressive and let people know there is alternative fare too.”

Since he could not afford stars, he decided to go with films where the script was the hero. “Films are the director’s medium but we give freedom to every technician. We are a motivated close knit unit. We spend wisely and cut no corners. We want our films to look as slick as big budget films.”

However, the success of offbeat films has created new stars. Vijay Sethupathy has emerged as a breakout star with Pizza, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom and Soodhu Kavvum. Bobby Simha has arrived with Soodhu Kavvum and Neram. Ashok Selvan will be the next. Kumar has three film contracts with Selvan ( who is the hero of Deepan Chakravarthi’s Pizza 2 - The Villa and the investigative thriller Thegidi to be directed by Ramesh), and Sanchita Shetty (Soodhu Kavvum and Pizza 2).

Pizza 2 is in post production, Thegidi goes on the floors in July with Ram’s YouTube hit short Mundasupatti being developed as a feature to be shot in the next few months. After which, both Karthik Subbaraj and Nalan Kumarasamy will be starting their second projects with Kumar.

“Being a young entrepreneur I understand youth. I want to work with talented directors. I cannot afford star salaries or afford to wait for dates. We want to make a film within a budget, according to what the story demands and within a few months. The priority is to create an independent platform and deliver consistently. We have a good slate. Let’s see.”