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Tamil cinema's new high

SREEDHAR PILLAI

The year 2005 has been a landmark one for Tamil film industry, with box-office successes like never before.



MAKING THE CASH REGISTERS RING: Chandramukhi

There is a lot to celebrate, as 2005 turned out to be the year of blockbusters for the Tamil film industry.

Never before have there been so many hits and super hits. Out of 97 films released in 2005, there were three blockbusters, two super hits, four hits and at least five films that broke even.

The combined gross worldwide from just two blockbusters "Chandramukhi" and "Anniyan" is said to be around Rs. 110 Crores, out of a likely box-office gross receipt of Rs. 400-500 crores.



Anniyan

Tamil cinema is the second biggest movie industry in India after Bollywood, with a total gross touching $100 millions.

Good news

The good news is that the overseas market is booming and the Indian domestic market (for dubbed Tamil blockbusters), mainly Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and multiplex audience in Mumbai and Delhi have brought in more revenue to the industry.



Ghajini

Added to that, new revenue streams have opened up. The mobile entertainment content like ringtones, internet rights, satellite and television rights for blockbusters are being snapped up at astronomical rates. Banks, private equities and corporates are coming forward to fund Tamil cinema produced by reputed banners at reasonable interest rates.

Amitabh Bachchan said recently in New York: "Indian films, mainly Hindi and Tamil, are being noticed worldwide as the country has become economically stronger and this is one of the reasons why anything coming out of India is getting attention."

Says Sanjay Wadhwa, a leading overseas distributor of Tamil films: "Overseas market for Tamil cinema is growing, though it is superstar driven and depends mainly on Sri Lankan Tamils."

Apart from "Chandramukhi," and "Anniyan," "Ghajini" is the third blockbuster (Together they collected three or more times their total cost).

The super hits (collecting twice its cost) were "Tirupachi," "Arindhum Ariyamalum" and "Sivakasi," while the hits (films which are profitable) included "Ullam Ketkume," "Thottijaya," "Kanda Naal Mudhal" and "Englishkaran." The rating is purely based on the box-office collections and cost of the film, as per trade sources.



Arindhum Ariyamalum

This trend clearly indicates the total domination of the star system in Tamil cinema. People worldwide pay money only to watch their favourite stars in packaged entertainment format, which consists of peppy music, glamour, sentiment, comedy, action and above all a good story with the required twists.

Our audience is also technically savvy and if the director is able to churn out something innovative within the commercial format, it works.

Another new concept is to make every film a brand by creating awareness about the product in print, television and on internet, as marketing is of utmost importance, to catch the attention and get re-call value for the film.

It is this awareness, created among the audience with hoardings and television ads by a mobile company, that made "Chandramukhi" a brand, which worked wonders for the film at the box-office.



Tirupachi

It is surprising, but slowly the box-office trends in Tamil Nadu seem to be following the Hollywood and Bollywood pattern. All the hits of the year have come due to excellent opening weekend collections, thanks to maximum number of prints and wide release. The idea is to milk a film during the first week when the marketing campaign and the hype are at their peak. Tamil film producers have realised that a film is like a parachute — if it fails to open, it leaves you dead. And the only way to fight this is to flood the market with as many prints as possible. Five years ago, Rajnikanth's "Padayappa" released with 11 prints in Coimbatore area, whereas this year "Chandramukhi" opened with 23 prints and after 100 days it was ahead by Rs.1.45 crores at the box-office by comparison.

Today a big Tamil film opens with 250-300 prints worldwide and the new mantra is how much it can collect and how fast! The number of days a film runs is immaterial to its box-office success. And in most cases after 50 days, the occupancy rate is just 15 to 20 per cent and the theatres run the films just to soothe the ego of the star! Another growing trend among filmmakers is to write scripts that suit a global audience. Movies that base their stories in the Tamil village milieu are slowly losing their flavour and more city-based tales, with an eye on Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the overseas market, are being filmed.

The year 2005 has been a landmark one for the Tamil film industry as content and business changed like never before. The young audiences (16- 25 years) have become all-important as they form the chunk of the opening weekend collection as proved by the success of movies without stars such as "Arindhum Ariyamalum" and "Kanda Naal Mudhal."

According to a recent study, Tamil cinema is poised to grow globally with bigger movies slated for next year.

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