cinema Smaller cities and towns have become a great playing ground for producers to popularise their movies

When you make a small film, you need to give it all you have

Prakash Raj

Actor-Producer

The market is not restricted to Chennai anymore. These trips help get an objective, genuine response

G. Dhananjayan

Chief, South Film Business, Motion Pictures, UTV

T he audience in a packed movie hall is watching the latest release.

Suddenly, the lights brighten and the moving images on the screen fade. Before they realise what's up, the hot and happening stars of the film are on stage, beckoning. There are shrieks of disbelief, happy tears, and questions that just don't stop coming!

This reaction and the instant connect is what gives filmmakers hope that a film will work in the market, irrespective of its budget and star quotient.

And so, they set out, crew in tow, to blur the differences among metros and smaller towns, and also quench a star-starved audience's desire to meet their filmi icons, face-to-face.

Credit goes to Sivaji and Dasavatharam , says G. Dhananjayan, Chief, South Film Business, Motion Pictures, UTV. “These biggies brought down the barriers separating markets. Now, every film benefits from this expansion,” he adds.

Radha Mohan, director of films such as Azhagiya Theeye , Mozhi and Payanam , derived these benefits much earlier.

Along with producer and buddy Prakash Raj and the film's cast, he set out on a marketing drive for the delightful but small-budget Azhagiya Theeye in 2004. The promo across Tamil Nadu's smaller towns brought in the audience, and recognition for the team.

More recently, cities such as Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchi, Thanjavur and smaller towns have had their tryst with stars, courtesy films such as Ko and Deiva Thirumagal ( DT ).

Actors Jiiva and Ajmal, along with director K.V. Anand and the producer ensured the buzz around “Ko” did not die down soon — it recently completed 100 days in theatres!

Content is king, but promotion is vital, feel the stars. Jiiva, who also knows the production side of the business courtesy his father, producer R.B. Choudhary, says such strategies help an actor discover his strengths and weaknesses and get to know his audience profile. “The producer has to shell out money for the exercise, but it's worth it,” he insists. “We visited theatres four weeks after release when collections were steady, but I believe the extra mile we went gave the movie staying power,” adds Jiiva.

A matter of strategy

Actor Vikram, who set out with director Vijay and UTV's G. Dhananjayan across Tamil Nadu for the promotions of DT believes every film requires a different strategy.

“Some films need that extra push. Direct contact with the audience provides that. Your fans probably love you more than their own families, and watching a movie with a hall full of screaming fans is every actor's dream. You carry memories of such interactions forever,” he says.

For directors too, “such visits provide an opportunity to understand the pulse of the audience and see which scene works and which doesn't”, says Vijay, who did the rounds of theatres with his Madrasapattinam .

From the industry perspective, Dhananjayan says that tapping into these new markets is important. “The market is not restricted to Chennai anymore. You never know what works where. These trips are an opportunity to get genuine feedback. You interact and get first-hand reactions. And since we go well after the film's release, we get an objective, regular audience, not just fans,” he says.

Most important, such positive feedback motivates the team and gives them creative ideas to make a film that appeals to all.

Actor-producer Prakash Raj, who makes small-budget gems, says travelling to Tier-II towns has helped draw in the crowds.

“When you make a small film, you need to give it all you have. It pays. Even Payanam benefited from that. Plus, people get to see the minds behind the film; the camaraderie has to be seen to be believed.”

Radha Mohan agrees. “Without publicity, a good film will go unnoticed. And, where else can you get diverse feedback? People's interests and appreciation levels are different. This helps you hone your next script.”

But, does this really translate into more house-full shows? Tirupur M. Subramaniam, president of the Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur, Nilgiris District Theatres Owners Association observes: “Earlier, actors would come down only to attend the jubilee celebrations. They were an enigma, seen only on screen. That is not the scene anymore. When you give this extra push to a film, some of it translates into ticket sales. But, it will work only for quality films.”

Recalls Subramaniam: “Vijaya T. Rajendar's Oru Thalai Raagam , did not do too well when it was first released. He re-released it, put the team on a bus and held stage shows across the State. It ran for 100-odd days and became a landmark film.”

subha j rao