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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Diwali dampeners

For the first time in the history of Tamil films, only two commercial star-studded films are opening worldwide for Diwali — Ajith’s Aegan
and Bharath’s Seval. Apart from these two, a little known film titled Megham, with newcomers in the cast, will have a limited release.

Normally, anywhere between four and six films get released during this festival. However, this time, even three days before Tamil Nadu’s second biggest festival, the usual buzz generated by big-ticket Diwali releases is conspicuously missing.

One of the leading exhibitors in the state Abirami Ramanathan says, “Most Tamilians, after having their traditional oil bath and performing pooja on the festival day, make it a point to watch at least one new Tamil release without which their Diwali is not complete. It is a part of our custom which ensures that a festival release gets a decent opening. Some of the biggest hits of stars like MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Rajinikanth have been their Diwali releases.”

Diwali has become a metaphor for big movies. The hype and hoopla surrounding it has to be seen to be believed. Whether it is the star cast, music or just the filmmakers, there is a tremendous buzz about Diwali releases. The fans and trade, to a certain extent, believe that a release during the festival of lights will determine the star power of a hero when he is pitted against other stars.

However, sadly this year, Gautham Menon’s magnum opus with Surya — Vaaranam Aayiram, Madhavan’s comedy Guru En Aalu, Prakash Raj’s Abhiyum Naanum and Silambarasan’s Silambattam have been postponed at the last minute due to various reasons. Says trade analyst G Sekharan, “You cannot say Ajith’s Aegan versus Bharath’s Seval is a clash compared to last year’s battle royale fought at the box-office between big-budget Vijay’s Azhagiya Tamizh Magan (ATM), Surya’s Vel and Dhanush’s Polladhavan.”
The competitive spirit is missing. Trade circles also admit that since “it is like India playing Bangladesh in a one-dayer, the fans will lose interest and this might impact box-office fortunes.”

What’s worse is that this year, so far, star-studded big movies have really failed to brighten the box-office.
Small movies like Subramaniapuram, Kathalil Vizhundein, Anjatheey and Santosh Subramaniam have raked in the moolah at the box-office.

A film like Dasavatharam, due to its big budget, just covered its cost and made a very small profit, while films like Kuselan and Sathyam did not bring any cheer to the trade which bet big on them.

To a certain extent, Diwali has lost its lustre due to the invasion of satellite channels. This Diwali, Tamil television channels are beaming super hit films. The market leader, Sun TV, is premiering Rajinikanth’s all time big 2005 blockbuster Chandramukhi while arch-rival Kalaignar TV is going to telecast Ajith’s all time big super hit Billa, released last December!

The trade is worried as they feel the real Diwali battle is on television and not in theatres. Rains all over Tamil Nadu and particularly in Chennai and surrounding areas ahead of the festival are also a worrying factor.

Among this year’s Diwali releases, Ajith’s Aegan is virtually getting a solo release as it is opening in over 400 screens tomorrow. The film is expected to take the biggest ever opening of the year as Ajith and Nayanthara, after Billa, are considered a red-hot pair, and the Ultimate Star, according to Kollywood trade pundits, has the second biggest opening after the Superstar.

Says Raju Sundaram, the film’s director, “The film is an unpretentious mass entertainer, which offers sufficient value for the price of a ticket. Enjoy!”

The trade feels mass director Hari’s family, action formula film Seval with Bharath turning into an action hero may emerge as the dark horse when it releases on the festival day (Oct 27).

They point out how Hari’s last Diwali release with Surya — Vel, after a slow start went on to become the Diwali hit of 2007. If the rains do not dampen the Diwali spirit, expect some fireworks at the box-office, though there is hardly much choice for the viewers.
Remember, the 2005 Diwali box-office was washed away by the rains?


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