Trade Winds Movies

What lies ahead for Tamil cinema in 2019?

Tamil cinema is in transition. What can audiences expect in 2019?

If 2018 was a year of change for Kollywood, 2019 promises to see faster transformation in terms of film production and marketing. The superstars will continue to dominate the trade, expanding the market outside Tamil Nadu. One of the most significant trends of 2018 was the growth of Tamil films in the domestic market (excluding Tamil Nadu). Today, major Kannada and Malayalam producers have turned distributors for Tamil films in their home State. They find it more lucrative than making films in their own languages. A point to be noted is that the Hindi dubbed version of Rajinikanth’s 2.0 grossed more than the Tamil version — a feat that hasn’t happened before! The Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala are becoming a bigger market for certain Tamil stars. A few years back, 90% of the revenue for a big film came from Tamil Nadu. But today, the other states’ revenue for a Rajinikanth or a Vijay film is as high as 40% of the total sale of theatrical and other rights.

Transcending boundaries

The overseas market is expanding to newer horizons. In the US, 2.0’s theatrical revenue matched some of the big Bollywood films. Tamil films are now releasing in places like Poland, Russia and Ukraine. There are so many new players who are willing to pay extra bucks for the big hero films. In a year, the market value of a star’s film has almost doubled in the overseas sector. However, Tamil films are yet to crack the Chinese market. Will 2.0 manage to rake in the moolah in China when it releases in May 2019? China is all set to become the world’s biggest film market by 2021, overtaking the US, though it has its restrictions (only 34 foreign films a year).

A few Bollywood films like Dangal, Secret Superstar, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Hindi Medium did extraordinary business there. However, it witnessed a decline after recent failures like Padman and Thugs of Hindostan. The buzz is that 2.0 is likely to do decent business, considering how Transformers: The Last Knight did extraordinary numbers in China. But China remains the last frontier for Tamil films, with Mersal yet to be released. The South Indian films that had larger-than-life characters (the Baahubali series also received lukewarm response) are yet to find acceptance among the Chinese masses.

Winds of change

What kind of content will Tamil cinema offer in 2019? Yes, there will be more films catering to multiplex audience since women-centric films have scored big last year. Rural-based stories have lost their charm outside the State. Still, you may find a lot of caste-based themes in 2019. The rural entertainers laced with a strong message like Kadaikutty Singam will continue to draw audiences in the B and C centres.

Now, the big question is: what’s the case with smaller films featuring lesser-known actors? Producing a Tamil film is no longer easy, as finance has dried up and television channels have stopped buying small films (Jyotika’s Kaatrin Mozhi satellite rights are yet to be sold). In addition, the Tamil Film Producers’ Council has disbanded its release regulation committee and it’s free for all. Leading producer G Dhananjayan said, “In 2018, 95 small-budget films (less than ₹3 crore budget) were released, out of which only Merku Thodarchi Malai worked critically and commercially. Most of the other films did not recover even the publicity expenses. Among films made in the ₹3-5 crore category, only five films such as Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuthu, Pyaar Prema Kaadhal, Pariyerum Perumal, U Turn and Thuppakki Munai worked commercially. It clearly indicates that small films have very limited opportunity to succeed and the future looks bleak.”

Currently, the hot topic in Kollywood is the clash between Petta and Viswasam this Pongal. According to the trade, the release dates for the next three months have been locked by influential producers and distributors. Unlike previous years, the multiplexes will now call the shots Producers are now migrating to OTT platforms, which are slowly gaining momentum. 2019, in many ways, is going to be a landmark year as the production and business of Tamil films are going through a metamorphosis. Nevertheless, the show must go on.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 11:54:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/what-lies-ahead-in-kollywood/article25887662.ece

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