Trade Winds Movies

Its ‘Petta’ vs ‘Viswasam’ this Pongal

It’s an exciting day for Tamil filmgoers as Rajinikanth takes on Ajith at the box office

The start of 2019 is turning out to be an exciting period for Kollywood. Two mega movies, Superstar Rajinikanth’s Petta and Thala Ajith’s Viswasam, are releasing on January 10 worldwide. In recent times, no two big hero Tamil films have released on the same day. This has created havoc in the Tamil film trade as screens and shows get divided.

The last time big hero films clashed on the same day was nearly 14 years back; April 14, 2005, saw Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi taking on Vijay’s Sachein. A day later, Kamal Haasan’s Mumbai Express hit the screens. Of course, the Pongal of 2014 saw the Vijay versus Ajith confrontation when Jilla clashed with Veeram.

Since then, though, things have changed. The superstardom of the actors has increased and the way the business of big films is conducted has also changed. Veteran exhibitor Balasubramaniyam of Coimbatore Baba Complex says, “I still remember the last time when three big films released on the same day. It was chaotic and only Chandramukhi went on to become a blockbuster. But today, the situation is such that a big film requires a kind of solo wide release for that all-important opening weekend. With Petta and Viswasam releasing on the same day, the business is definitely going to get split down the middle as Rajinikanth is a superstar with a global reach while Ajith is the king of opening.”

In Bollywood, the superstars and the trade come to an understanding of sorts to avoid the release of two big films on the same day at any cost. Recently, Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero got a solo release for the Christmas weekend on December 21, while Ranveer Singh’s Simbaa hit screens a week later. But the situation in Kollywood is different; five films released for the December 21 weekend, with all of them eating into each other’s opening, with only two of them escaping unscathed at the box-office.

 

A member of TFPC said on the condition of anonymity, “Viswasam was the first to announce a Pongal release, while Petta arrived at the last minute. The current crisis in the industry is happening due to an ego game among stars of who is bigger at the box-office. After the disastrous Christmas free-for-all, which led to everybody losing in some way or another, it is going to be a battle for Pongal. TFPC will no longer get involved in this release bloodsport.”

The multiplex programmers in Chennai have divided the shows in their big screens almost equally among Petta and Viswasam. This is a win-win situation for the exhibitors in Tamil Nadu as, for the first time, none of them are paying fancy MG (Minimum Guarantee) amounts. However, Rakesh Gowthaman of Chrompet Vettri Theatre calls it ‘hara-kiri’. “Nobody really wins in this unnecessary confrontation as the opening gets divided. There should have been atleast two or three days gap between the films as that would have helped streamline the opening,” he says.

The focus has shifted from multiplexes in 3 Cs (Chennai, Chengalpet and Coimbatore) to the rural areas in Tamil Nadu, where single screens still rule. The entire focus of the Viswasam campaign is that it is a “family-friendly U certificate rural-based mass entertainer with brand Thala”. This seems to have had an effect on single screens in rural areas, giving an edge to the Ajith film. This is at a time when the trailer of Petta has given audiences a feeling that “the old magic of Rajinikanth with that suave style is back”.

Trailer talk

The trailer of the films had created a huge controversy among fans of both superstars. The Petta trailer ends with Rajinikanth warning his detractors and enemies (in the film) to run away. Viswasam’s trailer ends with Ajith calling himself a family man and ready for a showdown with his enemies over it. Meme creators in Tamil Nadu are having a field day, thus increasing the expectation meter for both films.

The scenario outside of Tamil Nadu is very different. In the Telugu-speaking states of Andhra and Telangana, there are three big Telugu Sankranthi releases: NTR Kathanayakudu, Vinaya Vidheya Rama and F2, releasing along with the dubbed version of Petta. The Telugu version of Viswasam has been pushed to end of the month due to a lack of screens. The latest is that the local distributor of Petta has made some disparaging remarks about influential Telugu distributors who were not willing to provide him with a wide release, which has led to a crisis of sorts. In the US, a major fort of Rajinikanth, the film has to share screens with Telugu biggies.

Both films have reported great booking. As Thursday dawns, everyone will be keenly watching the battle between Superstar and Thala at the box office.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 3:03:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/its-petta-vs-viswasam-this-pongal/article25950521.ece

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