An August season

Gold at the box officeStills (clockwise from left) fromMouna Ragam, Vasool Raja MBBS, Sakalakala Vallavan, Mullum MalarumandSholay  

Until the mid-1970s, Pongal, Deepavali or festival holidays were considered the perfect time to release big-budget movies. Though AVM’s Vedala Ulagam was released during August 1948, the film’s producer AVM Saravanan had said that August was generally avoided by production houses as it was too close to Deepavali.

Releasing a film in August meant that a film would virtually have no chance to complete its 100th day, as it would invariably have to make way for the big Deepavali releases. Saravanan even cited Kamal Haasan’s Sakalakala Vallavan, a major hit, as a film that could not complete 100 days for the same reason.

But the release of Sholay and Apoorva Raagangal would change that forever. Since the 70s, the Tamil industry has seen dozens of August releases tasting success.

Film producer AVM Balasubramanian says, “Generally, we would release big-budget movies during Pongal and Diwali, and small-budget films during August. Pongal was preferred by many, as it fetched extraordinary collections due to the large number of holidays. But in the case of Mundhanai Mudichu , we planned for a 25-week run and released it in July 1983.”

Film buff R Subramani says, “Production houses are sensitive as well as sentimental when it comes to their release dates. For instance, the second week of August was considered ideal to slot films that dealt with patriotic themes.”

A superstar is born

Sholay, which released on August 15, 1975, went on to become an all-time classic. Three days later, on Monday, director K Balachander launched a dark, young man into the film industry through Apoorva Raagangal . That film too went on to complete 100 days, and the young star, Rajinikanth, went on to become the next Superstar.

Later, the stars of this film went to battle it out on August 14 when Kamal Haasan’s Sakalakala Vallavan released along with Rajinikanth’s Engeyo Ketta Kural .

After the release of these movies, the star status of these legends went up by several notches.

Rajinikanth went on to star in other August releases such as Johnny, Mullum Malarum and Netrikkan on August 15. Director J Mahendran exposed a new side of Rajinikanth in Mullum Malarum . Johnny created a sensation, as it was the first movie in which Rajinikanth donned a double role. And with Netrikkan , Balachander got Rajinikanth to perform as both the father and son.

But Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram, released on August 12, was a flop.

Perfect timing

Kamal Haasan too saw a fare share of success during the month of August. It included Shankarlal , Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and Vasool Raja MBBS . Interestingly, Kalathoor Kannamma , his debut, too was an August release.

SP Muthuraman, who has directed over 40 films of Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, says, “I am proud to have two releases ( Sakalakala Vallavan and Engeyo Ketta Kural ) release on the same day (August 14). One was a commercial movie and another sentimental. Both were big hits.”

“After watching both the movies, AVM Kumaran said that if one were to remove the title card of the director, it would be difficult to say it was directed by the same person,” says Muthuraman.

Bharathiraja and Mani Ratnam also tasted success by releasing their movies during this period. Kizhakkae Pogum Rail (August 10), Roja (August 15) Muthal Mariyathai (August 15) and Mouna Ragam (August 15) were all August releases.

“But the current situation has changed with the increase in the number of screens, cities and audiences. Movies are released based on long weekends and hitting the 100-day mark is a rare phenomenon,” says AVM Balasubramanian.

Production houses are sensitive as well as sentimental when it comes to their release dates. For instance, the second week of August was considered ideal to slot films that dealt with patriotic themes