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How important are the B and C markets to today’s Tamil cinema?

Trade Winds

July 18, 2018 01:30 pm | Updated July 21, 2018 06:19 pm IST

The B and C market in Tamil Nadu is alive and kicking, as proved by the success of Karthi’s Pandiraj-directed Kadaikutty Singam, produced by Suriya’s 2D Entertainment. The rural family entertainer, which opened on a slow note due to stiff competition from Tamizh Padam2, has picked up during the weekend and has now emerged a winner.

The market buzz is that Kadaikutty Singam will be profitable from Tamil Nadu theatricals alone and is likely to collect a distributor share of ₹ 15 crore and may emerge as Karthi’s biggest hit. The film, made on a budget of ₹ 15 crore, was profitable for its producers even before release thanks to the sale of Telugu dubbing rights, satellite, digital and overseas theatricals. The producers released the film in the State through a single distributor (Shakthi Film Factory), which promoted it aggressively as a farmer-friendly film, catering to family audiences.

Rajsekhar Pandian, CEO of 2D Entertainment and co-producer of the film, said, “I feel certain myths surrounding B and C films have been broken. There is still a huge market for content-driven family films.”

Once upon a time, the B and C markets, including rural areas, were considered the backbone of Tamil cinema. Big star films used to release in 70 to 100 screens in 80s and 90s, and later expanded to other smaller stations that were called in distributor’s parlance as “shifting centres”. A shift happened in the early 2000s when theatres started migrating from film prints to digital cinema.

The rules of the game changed when film screening became digital. With films getting shot in digital cameras and declining use of projectors, many theatres in rural areas shut down. The rise of multiplexes, especially in the last five years, has seen a new breed of urban directors taking over Kollywood. The content of Tamil cinema has changed, with filmmakers trying to attract the audiences in the 3 Cs (Chennai, Chengalpet, Coimbatore) and the growing overseas audiences.

Up to 2000, 80% to 85% of the films were made to cater to the taste of B and C audiences... but now, 80% to 90% are made to attract urban audiences.

The divide is sharp and there for everybody to see.Thamizh Padam 2 took the early lead due to the urban audiences in 3 Cs, butKadaikutty Singam edged ahead in semi urban and rural areas. One look at the overseas collection, and you’ll observe the trend; while Thamizh Padam 2 is leading in collections by a huge margin in the US, the scene is different in Malaysia (the traditional Tamil cinema fortress) in which Kadaikutty Singam leads. The urban–rural divide was evident during the release of Rajinikanth’s Kaala as well. For the first time, a Rajinikanth film, which normally does best in B and C markets, collected more in Chennai than other areas in Tamil Nadu, due to the subject and image changeover of the superstar in the Pa Ranjith-directed film.

Today’s big heroes are careful in choosing subjects that have an universal appeal. For example, Vijay has stopped doing typical mass B and C movies like a Thirupach i or a Sivakasi and is comfortable doing a Mersal , which has elements closer to ‘A’ centre audiences. The phasing out of single screens, which are either getting demolished or made into multiplexes with smaller screens, have also changed viewership patterns. Dubbed Hollywood films are also posing a threat to local content in smaller markets. At the same time, you cannot ignore the sentiments of the B and C markets; a well-made family film filled featuring local traditions still work. Tamil Nadu and Andhra are the only states in the country where ‘B and C sentiments’ work big time...and this is evident by the way audiences have taken to films like Rangasthalam (Telugu) and Kadaikutty Singam .

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