The new rivalry in planet Kollywood

The upcoming Puja holidays weekend will prove to be a litmus test for the star power of Sivakarthikeyan and Vijay Sethupathi

All eyes are on the Puja holiday releases on October 7, touted as the battle between two of the fastest-rising stars in Tamil cinema, Sivakarthikeyan and Vijaysethupathi. Sivakarthikeyan’s Remo is being pitted against Vijay Sethupathi’s Rekka, with Prabhudheva’s trilingual, Devi, also releasing alongside.

Both Sivakarthikeyan and Vijay Sethupathi are thought to be outsiders who have grown despite the absence of any powerful connections. Sivakarthikeyan’s rise from a television anchor to a superstar in the last four years has been phenomenal. Earlier this year, his Pongal release, Rajini Murugan, went on to become a sensational hit throughout Tamil Nadu, especially in the B and C centres. The film is reported to have collected as much as a star-driven film does in Tamil Nadu. It is believed that Siva has won over the crucial family audiences.

Vijay Sethupathi’s story is even more inspiring. From being a struggling junior artist for six years, he graduated to hero roles in offbeat films, and now, has managed to establish himself as a saleable commercial hero. Sethupathi has been on a roll, with films like Dharma Durai and last week’s Aandavan Kattalai getting good reviews, and percolating into the B and C markets too.

Veteran distributor and exhibitor Tirupur Subramaniam says, “Sivakarthikeyan and Vijay Sethupathi have both come up the hard way. Today, they have become stars, and created a unique place for themselves in the industry. I know many people may not agree with me, but I feel that they are today’s equivalent of MGR-Sivaji, Rajini-Kamal and Vijay-Ajith.”

R.D. Raja, the producer of Remo, Sivakarthikeyan’s 10th film in four years, was clear right at the outset that he would rope in best technicians, like cameraman P. C. Sreeram and sound designer Resul Pookutty, to give the film the finish of a big-budget star-driven film. It is believed that the idea is to help Sivakarthikeyan evolve to the next level. Sivakarthikeyan himself, taking a leaf out of Bollywood promotions, is doing his bit to promote the film in key foreign markets like Malaysia and Dubai, and even in the emerging Kerala market.

Vijay Sethupathi, meanwhile, has been having a dream run this year, as four out of his five releases have worked at the box-office. Rekka, which is pitched against Remo, is said to be Sethupathi’s first mass masala film. His choice is likely the result of the belief that it isn’t enough to just be known as an actor of substance, in order to get the respect of the industry. Success in the B and C markets is often thought to be crucial. Vijay Sethupathi, at the Rekka press meet, said as much, when he conveyed his intention to build on his appeal in the B and C markets, where Dharma Durai worked big time. The actor also ruled out any bitterness about Sivakarthikeyan’s success by making a reference to a scene in Rekka, in which he imitates Sivakarthikeyan’s pose from Maan Karate. The director reportedly told him that he could pick Rajinikanth, Vijay or Ajith films as reference, but he chose Maan Karate because of Siva’s mass appeal. Speaking at the meet, the actor said, “The competition you see between me and Siva is created by the trade, and I’m sure it will help our films get a good opening. We are actually great friends.”

Meanwhile, Prabhudheva is trying to make a comeback in Tamil cinema with Devi as an actor. His last film as hero was Engal Anna in 2004. Though Devi is a trilingual, director Vijay says Prabhudheva has shot separately for the Tamil version, as it has a different cast. Devi could likely emerge the dark horse at the box-office.

There are five continuous holidays between October 8 and 12, which will enable theatres to screen at least five shows every day. The running time of all the three films is under 150 minutes, with all of them managing to get a U-certificate and is eligible for a tax rebate. The film that gets the most number of screens will reap the box-office harvest.

As per trade sources, Remo is the most preferred film among exhibitors across Tamil Nadu, as they feel Sivakarthikeyan has a huge draw among family audiences. The film is likely to get 450 to 500 screens. Devi producers are piggybacking on Remo, as they have given the film to the same set of distributors (except Chennai City and Chengalpet), who have purchased the Sivakarthikeyan film. It assures them of at least 250 screens, and some preferential treatment among exhibitors. Rekka, which has been taken up by a different group of distributors, is banking on Vijay Sethupathi’s current form, and will likely get around 300 screens. Come the Puja holidays, a relook at the star ranking system in Tamil cinema may be in order.

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Printable version | May 21, 2020 4:42:02 PM |

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