Pattas | Movies

Good content will net good collection: Sathya Jyothi’s TG Thyagarajan on Dhanush’s ‘Pattas’

Dhanush in a scene from ‘Pattas’

Dhanush in a scene from ‘Pattas’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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TG Thyagarajan of Sathya Jyothi Films who produced films like Ajith's 'Viswasam' discusses their business prospects

Over half-a-dozen SUVs greet visitors at the entranceway leading to the office of Sathya Jyothi Films in T Nagar.

The production house is abuzz with activity. For the firm’s chief, TG Thyagarajan, it is a regular day at work, though there is some cause for excitement as Pattas gears up for release on Pongal.

It is the second time in two years that a movie produced by Sathya Jyothi Films is hitting screens during the Pongal week.

In 2019, it was Ajith Kumar’s Viswasam; on Wednesday, movie buffs can expect to watch the Dhanush-starrer, Pattas, directed by RS Durai Senthilkumar, and which Thyagarajan expects would net the company a princely profit.

Good for business

Thyagarajan leads the way into his cabin, where his son, Sendhil Thyagarajan, also joins in for a conversation about Pattas, and its leading man, Dhanush.

Sathya Jyothi was in the news this time last year: for managing a blockbuster success out of Viswasam, and for signing Dhanush to a two-film deal. The news came in the backdrop of other actors like Jayam Ravi and Vishnu Vishal, to name a few, also signing multi-film deals.

TG Thyagarajan of Sathya Jyothi films

TG Thyagarajan of Sathya Jyothi films   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Signing stars to multi-film deals may help shield the producer from the inflationary economics that Tamil cinema and its stars have long been associated with. However, Thyagarajan asserts that it was not a reason behind the Dhanush deal, but adds: “it is now emerging as a trend”.

“It makes sense for them (actors) in the long term to have a pipeline of projects with a quality production house,” Sendhil interjects, adding, “That is how it used to be in the 1980s, when dad and granddad (Venus Govindarajan) were making movies.” Besides Dhanush was impressed with the scripts (the second film is directed by Ram Kumar of Ratchasan fame) he had been offered.

Very little about Pattas’ trailer gives the impression of a “sports film”, but Sendhil insists it is one. “[Pattas] is about an ancient Tamil martial art called Adimurai. It is similar to Kalaripayattu, and was mainly practised during the Chola and Pandya era. This aspect is the premise, and so it is a sports film. We talk about MMA, but this kind of Tamil [martial] art also needs to get recognition. It is still practised in rural areas,” he adds.

Management basics

Pattas is the second time that the production company is collaborating with Dhanush, after Thodari in 2016.

The star kicked up a controversy last year after he commented, during a film promotional event, on the “difficulties” actors face in getting their dues settled from producers. The comment attracted sharp remarks from former office-bearers of the Tamil Film Producers Council, some of whom are Thyagarajan’s peers in the industry.

“He must have had an experience with some producers,” says Thyagarajan, while Sendhil notes that it need not necessarily be a common experience for all actors. “In the past decade, a lot of players have entered the trade, and they may not have planned or managed their finances well,” he adds.

There are plenty of tales of financial mismanagement in Tamil cinema, and most of the times, as cine industry observers argue, where it starts to go wrong is when negotiating the male lead’s salary.

Sendhil Thyagarajan (left) with his father TG Thyagarajan of Sathya Jyothi Films

Sendhil Thyagarajan (left) with his father TG Thyagarajan of Sathya Jyothi Films   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

From the time of MG Ramachandran to the era of Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, Sendhil says that producers factored in a star's fan base (the sheer number of it) as a mile marker to calculate an estimate. Then, the quantum of business his past movies did is factored in.

“When grandpa did a film with MGR, he had about 38 lakh fans, which was around 15% of the population then. After Baashha, Rajini sir would have had 30 lakh,” says Sendhil.

While it was possible to have closer-to-accurate numbers in the bygone era, it is not the case anymore; producers, however, rely on figures thrown out by the Internet to help with the evaluation. For instance, Sendhil adds, “how many people logged in to watch a film’s teaser in the first one hour? These numbers give some indication.”

Aim for the star

The pre-sale factor is another aspect that determines an actor’s market value. “The stars, whose movies can be pre-sold... where people are interested in acquiring, and there is demand for satellite and digital rights, are bankable,” Sendhil says.

A good example is actor Vijay, and his upcoming film Master directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj. No teaser is out, and not even so much as an announcement over the release date has been made public, yet the film's domestic and overseas distribution rights have been sold, and at mind-boggling prices.

As far as Sathya Jyothi and Pattas is concerned, they have sold the satellite rights of the film to Sun TV whereas Amazon Prime is the digital streaming partner.

But this level of anticipation and demand creation, it would appear, is only possible when the film is backed by a star.

In Tamil cinema, it seems to be the way to attract footfalls to a theatre, says Thyagarajan, before adding a word of caution. “Content has got to be good... however big the star is. The collection from the first few days will come courtesy fans. Subsequently, it is the family audience who has to come to the theatres. That is when we see a good collection.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 12:40:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/a-chat-with-producer-thyagarajan/article30557793.ece

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