Tradewinds Movies

Festival frenzy

A box-office stand-off is imminent as top stars compete for a piece of the lucrative festival pie

Festivals are synonymous with the release of a big Tamil film. Superstars try their best to schedule a release adjoining a festival as it increases the box-office collection by about five to ten per cent. This year, the big festival season starts with the Puja holidays starting on October 7, followed by the Deepavali weekend during the end of October, Christmas-New Year holidays in December, and then, the biggest of them all, the Pongal holidays in January.

Already, top heroes have blocked the festival dates and are working to get their films released on those days. This has led to a situation where as many as five top-hero films will clash on Deepavali. This competition has affected the business of Tamil cinema, as audiences get divided. .

One actor is reportedly even willing to take a salary cut, so long as the film releases on the festival date. In private, the actor is reported to have told his producer that should his film not be pitted against the rival hero, it could end up in his Telugu dubbing market slipping away, which is crucial for his survival at the top. In Tamil cinema, there is bitter rivalry among the younger heroes. In the 80s and 90s, a star could survive a series of flops if he had the occasional hit. Today, every film has to be a hit, or at least promoted as one on social media. That’s why many of these heroes are working on multiple projects to try and keep themselves afloat. Upcoming actors are also feeling the heat, as they try to target the overseas markets and the crucial Telugu dubbing markets to become saleable. The market has also become ruthless, as the buying price of a top hero’s film depends on how well his last film did. The trade cannot be conned any more, (even though a lot of new celebrity-smitten producers are getting into the business) as buyers know exactly how much a film has made and at what price it was purchased.

It has been proven time and again that a solo release helps a film more than a festival fraught with competition. Recently, Vikram-Nayantara-starrer Iru Mugan got virtually a solo release run for two weeks in Tamil Nadu, which helped the film sail through at the box-office. Leading exhibitor and distributor, S Pictures Sreenivasan, says, “It is becoming increasingly difficult to get a solo release. The moment you offer a wide choice of films to the audience, the collections of all films, irrespective of how good the content is, get affected. From my personal experience, a festival date today cannot accommodate more than two films.” According to a leading producer, the Puja season is a recent Kollywood creation. Until very recently, this season was not considered auspicious for releases. The Puja festival, in comparison with Deepavali, is low-key in the state. This year, the holidays are from Saturday, October 8, to Wednesday, October 12, a public holiday on account of Muharram.

RD Raja, producer of Sivakarthikeyan’s Remo, has locked the release date on October 7, three months back. “That’s because we get five continuous holidays, which keeps the box-office momentum going. Also, term exams for students end by then.”

Remo will face competition from Vijay Sethupathi’s Rekka and Prabhu Deva’s Devi. L. The Sivakarthikeyan film will have an edge, as the release date has been announced much earlier, and the best distributors are marketing it with more than 500 screens in Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, Kollywood is also eagerly awaiting the Deepavali releases. Five films have announced their release, through the Twitter handles of their respective stars. Dhanush’s Kodi, Karthi’s Kashmora, Vishal’s Kaththi Sandai, GV Prakash’s Kadavul Irukaan Kumaru and Vijay Antony’s Saithan are all lined up.

Trade sources believe that only a maximum of three films will release on the festival day, as there are simply not enough theatres to accommodate them. Also, competition kills the business, as nobody will get MG (Minimum Guarantee) from screens, and playing terms will end up favouring the theatres. It is still early, but the Twitter handles are being closely watched to find out who buckles first. In Bollywood too, a fierce battle is on as Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay are vying for the same release date.

Meanwhile, it looks like Suriya will get a solo Christmas date, as his S3 has announced its release on December 16. Producer KE Gnanavelraja has smartly avoided December 23, as Aamir Khan’s Dangal is slated for worldwide release on that day.

Pongal 2017 has been pre-booked by Vijay. His Bharathan-directed Bhairava is scheduled for release. Already an upcoming distribution concern has snapped the Tamil Nadu theatricals at an astronomical rate. The festival goes on.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:42:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/Festival-frenzy/article14649653.ece

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