Tradewinds Cinema

The bigger, the better

A look at Kollywood’s love for larger-than-life hoardings and cut-outs

Till a few years ago, Chennai was known for Kollywood superstars’ larger-than-life cut-outs and posters. A big hero’s box-office clout was measured by the size and height of the cut-outs in prominent locations in the city with the hoarding opposite Safire theatre on Anna Salai (Mount Road) being the most important.

As per Kollywood grapevine, it was Kalaipuli Thanu, then a leading distributor, who first christened Rajnikanth the ‘Superstar’. Thanu re-released Bhairavi (1978) two years after its initial release by putting up a 35-ft cut-out of Rajinikanth with the writing ‘Superstar’ in front of the Plaza theatre (now defunct) next to Cosmopolitan Club.

Thanu has now put up a giant flex board from his forthcoming Rajinikanth-starrer Kabali at Sathyam Cinemas. The gigantic Kabali hoarding is a treat for Thalaivar fans. Says Thanu: “Prior to the Internet and YouTube release of teasers/trailers, film posters and cut-outs were the most important vehicle for film publicity. It was like a first look and it created a lot of buzz. .”

J. Venkateswar of Jayram Arts says, “We were the pioneers in putting up cut-outs and hoardings. We have made them for over 1000 films. It was a status symbol for big heroes to have a cut-out on Anna Salai. Now, we are no longer making wooden cut-outs and have moved on to digitally printed flex boards.”

A lot of the business also comes from star fans, who want the latest flex boards for their heroes. The fans of Vijay and Ajith compete with each other in bringing out massive flex boards that cost anywhere between Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 40,000.

In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld a Madras High Court decision to ban all hoardings and cut-outs. Since then, outdoor cinema hoardings, barring a few put up by fans during release , have disappeared. The last big hand-painted wooden cut-out was for Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi (2005). Today, cinema hoardings have been digitalised, and are done on flex boards, and as per law, can be put up only inside the theatre compound.

Rakesh Gowthaman of Vettri Theatres in Chrompet says, “Huge cut-outs and hoardings at the entrance and inside a theatre premise have always been a part of the hype of a big Tamil film release. Now, we are strict that the permissible digital hoardings are placed inside our compound. Of course, fans set the tempo by doing digital innovative hoardings and mercury lighting.” In fact, a young digital designer recently got a call from a star to do exclusive designs for his forthcoming film, which can be used for outdoor theatrical promotions.

Veteran designer Kannan, who used to specialise in cut-outs in the 1980s and 1990s, says, “Once, a big star visited my office with a gift to express his happiness that the cut-out I designed made him look realistic and handsome. Today’s digital designers can make any actor look young and dashing.” A prominent director in Kollywood, says, “Online and digital facilities have made film promotions a level field. Earlier, only the big stars gained with these giant, expensive cut-outs. Today, even a newcomer can catch the attention of the audience if his film’s posters and design can catch the attention of the audience. ”

Added director Arivazhagan, who has made an impressive motion poster for his new medical thriller Kuttram 23 starring Arun Vijay: “Now, the whole promotion process has gone online. So the first look of a film has to be done with a lot of care.

The graphic work and tagline should be eye-catching and different; the opening of any film today depends largely on the first look and trailer.”

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:57:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/The-bigger-the-better/article14386233.ece

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