Round-up The first half of 2007 has seen a number of hits with content-driven, smartly packaged films doing the trick.

Tamil films never had it so good during the first half of the year. There have been 50 releases from January 1 to June 29, 2007, eight more than last year’s 42 releases during the same period. Kollywood has enough reasons to smile as there has been more number of hits than last year which augurs well for the industry. The hits of the year are ‘Pokkiri’(blockbuster), ‘Mozhi’ (super hit), ‘Paruthiveeran’ (super hit), ‘Naan Avan Illai’ (hit), ‘Unnale Unnale’(hit) and ‘Chennai-600028’ (above average).

Rajinikanth’s ‘Sivaji’ which released on June 15 to record openings, does not feature here as it will take some more weeks to gauge its success. Though the industry is superstar-driven, formulaic films clicked at the box-office.

The message is once again loud and clear — stars alone cannot make a film a hit, a novel script and presentation do matter.

Coming of age

In a way, the new trend of content-driven films in attractive packaging with essential commercial ingredients and smart marketing show that Tamil films have come of age.

The Vijay-Asin starrer ‘Pokkiri’ became a blockbuster because of its packaging as a mass entertainer, music and the larger-than-life image of its hero Vijay. Says Vijay: “I think ‘Pokkiri’ clicked because it had all the essential ingredients. Added to that there was a twist in the story, rib-tickling comedy, great songs picturised beautifully, sentiments and never-before-seen action…”

The film made on a budget of around Rs. 12 crores should have done business worth Rs. 35 crores worldwide, according to trade estimates. ‘Pokkiri’ also created new records in Kerala and overseas.

The Prakash Raj-produced ‘Mozhi’ was a surprise packet, as it did extraordinary business in the Chennai multiplexes and overseas. It is the highest collecting film at Inox in Chennai. ‘Mozhi’ had a bold storyline and director Radha Mohan showed a hearing-impaired and mute person in a way that struck a chord with the audience. Says Radha Mohan: “ ‘Mozhi’ was not a steamy tearjerker, instead we told a real story humorously, with great performances from the lead actors especially Jo, and it also had some melodious music.” The aggressive marketing of Pyramid Saimira, the distributors, also was a big help. ‘Mozhi’ made around Rs 2.25 crores and is likely to do business worth Rs 8 to 10 crores from theatre, television and DVD rights.

Ameer’s ‘Paruthiveeran,’ which had blood and gore, did extraordinary business in Tamil Nadu, while overseas and in Kerala it has not been as impressive. It has made a star out of its hero Karthi, who is the discovery of the year.

‘Naan Avan Illai,’ a remake of Gemini Ganesan’s 1979 film by the same name also turned out to be a hit, especially in B and C centres due to its glamour, songs and Jeevan’s image as an anti-hero.

The cameraman-turned-director, Jeeva, also churned out a hit with the candy floss love story ‘Unnale Unnale,’ which again was a multiplex-centric movie that did very well in Chennai and Coimbatore. . Jeeva, whose demise has left the industry shocked, had said: “I think ‘Unnale Unnale’ appealed to the urban youth who love my kind of soft romantic movies, which have exotic locations, and Harris Jayaraj’s peppy music.”

Another surprise packet is ‘Chennai-600028,’ which is still doing well in Chennai and its surrounding areas. Nobody expected a film on Chennai’s gully cricket with no stars, other than Yuvan Shankar Raja who scored the music, to become a rage among the youth.

Says Venkat Prabhu, who made his directorial debut with the movie: “I would say that the audiences are on the lookout for fresh and innovative ideas and not necessarily stars. I agree that star films take an extraordinary opening but they will not sustain, if the content is not satisfactory.”

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Future looks brightExcerpts from an interview with Ramanarayanan, president of Tamil Film Producers Association:

How has 2007 been for the Tamil film industry?

So far so good! The first six months have seen the release of 50 films and at least 10 of them will turn profitable for their producers.

This has come about because of the State Government’s path-breaking decision to exempt films with Tamil titles from entertainment tax. It has had a big impact along with a reduction in admission rates. Now the public can see more films at affordable rates. The proof is there in the success of films such as ‘Mozhi’ and ‘Paruthiveeran,’ which have done well all over the State.

What is the current trend in the industry?

I think big movies will have to co-exist with small, meaningful films within the commercial format. Even a bio-pic such as ‘Periyar’ has found its audience. People do appreciate good cinema.

I think the boom in production is going to last, as low budget films are able to recover their cost.

What is the future of Tamil cinema?

I think the future looks bright especially after the way ‘Sivaji’ opened outside Tamil Nadu. Today Tamil films are going global, which is a good augury. — SP