Trade winds Cinema

A cracker of an opening

A still from Vedalam  

Ajith is on a roll. His Deepavali release, Vedalam, has taken the biggest-ever opening for a Tamil film. It had grossed approximately Rs. 15.5 crore from Tamil Nadu on Deepavali day. As per trade sources, it has beaten the record created earlier by Lingaa and Kaththi on day one.

Today, Ajith (44) is riding a wave of popularity, especially among the youth (15 to 25 years group). In the last few years, this phenomenon has projected him as the heir apparent to Rajinikanth. It has been a fierce no-holds-barred battle for supremacy with arch-rival Vijay, for the Kollywood throne.

Though Ajith is not on any social media platform, his fans have tried to make social media their own. The rivalry between Ajith and Vijay helps to garner huge openings for both stars, and has only worked towards their advantage. In a way, the bitterness has created a halo around them, similar to the MGR-Sivaji, Rajini-Kamal rivalry of yesteryears.

Ajith, in his early days, was a romantic hero in films like Amaravathi, Aasai, Kadhal Kottai, and Mugavaree. It was A. R. Murgadoss’s debut Dheena (2001) followed by Citizen (2001), which made him an action hero. After Dheena, his fans started calling him Thala, a moniker that has added to his aura. During this period, Ajith also portrayed characters with shades of grey with films such as Vaali, Villain and Billa. The actor’s strong negative characterisation in Mankatha (2011), Arrambam (2013) and now Vedalam (2015), has further expanded his fan base.

The conventional commercial mass hero of the 1980s and 1990s was a good family man, who took on the role of a crusader. Ajith, however, reworked the traditional hero concept, which had a direct connect with the youth audiences. Ajith came to be called the ‘King of Openings’, as his films took very good openings, thanks to youth audiences, who make up 90 per cent of the first weekend’s footfalls. It had its pitfalls, of course, as collections of such films fade after a terrific initial, as family audiences avoided his films.

In fact, Vijay films collect more in Tamil Nadu’s B and C centres, as they are made keeping family audiences and kids in mind. In a way, Vedalam is an answer to his critics, who said he cannot influence the large family audiences—the backbone of the success of a superstar like Rajinikanth. Vedalam had a U censor certificate (most of Ajith’s recent films have been certified UA, with Billa 2 getting an A certificate for its violent theme), making it eligible for entertainment tax exemption. Lakshmi Menon played the pivotal sister in a story that revolves around the sister sentiment. In the first half, Ajith plays Ganesh—a calm, friendly taxi driver who is an embodiment of goodness—while in the flashback portion, he plays Vedalam, a don. Director Siva got the commercial formula right, which not only made Ajith fans happy, but also brought in the family audiences.

A theatre owner from Madurai, said, “Director Siva, through Veeram and now with Vedalam, has made Ajith acceptable to the family audiences. We have never seen such a large number of women in our theatre for a Thala film. It is a clear sign that Vedalam is a super hit.”

Another major factor that worked in favour of Vedalam was its huge release across Tamil Nadu in the best screens with large capacity. For example, in Salem (which has the maximum B and C stations in Tamil Nadu), it released in a record 77 screens. The film has also taken a good opening in Kerala, Karnataka and international markets. As per trade sources, by the end of the first week, the film would be profitable from theatricals alone.

Meanwhile, two days after the release of Vedalam, Ajith underwent a knee surgery at a Chennai hospital. As of now, his next film will likely be with the same director, Siva, and is expected to release by the end of 2016 or early 2017. Till then, the legend of Ajith will continue to rise.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 1:44:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/vedalam-has-taken-the-biggestever-opening-for-a-tamil-film/article7877428.ece

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