Reel of fortune
The year 2003 has lifted the sagging spirit of the Tamil film industry, says SREEDHAR PILLAI
IT IS party time for the Tamil film industry as the year 2003 has been bullish 97 releases with three blockbusters, four super hits, three hits and at least six films that will recover their cost. Compare this to last year's 84 releases with one blockbuster, two hits and two films breaking even!
Happy days are here again as Kavithaalaya's "Saamy" is the biggest blockbuster of the year. The film, produced at an estimated Rs. 5 crores, has grossed Rs. 16 crores! Indian Theatres Productions' "Thiruda Thirudi" is the next blockbuster, which proved that small is beautiful. The film made on a budget of Rs. 2 crores has grossed a rumoured Rs. 12 crores! Another blockbuster "Dhool", produced by Sri Surya Movies costing Rs. 7 crores, has done Rs. 12 to 13 crore business. Films such as "Jayam", "Kaakha Kaakha" and "Kathal Kondein" are superhits, while "Boys", "Tirumalai", "Parthipan Kanavu", "Ottran" and last week's "Joot" are profitable ventures.
The formula is changing. Gone are the days when larger-than-life superstar extravaganzas, packed with a clichéd story, unbelievable action scenes and sentiments and song `n' dance marathons, attracted the crowds. The new mantra for box-office success is innovative ideas, disciplined budgets and newness in presentation. Says Pushpa Kandaswamy of Kavithaalaya: "We completed the shoot of "Saamy" in just 70 days and director Hari not only knew his script but also finished the film in 85 rolls. As a producer, I have to be realistic and the bottom line is return on investment."
Young directors such as Selvaraghavan, Gautham Menon, Hari, M. Raja and Subramaniam Siva were brimming with ideas and were successful in making fast-paced, edge-of-the-seat, meaty entertainers without falling back on melodrama or clichéd situations. Gautham Menon's "Kaakha Kaakha" was a slickly made film without a conventional storyline. And Selvaraghavan's "Kathal Kondein" was appreciated for the newness in presentation. It also had an unconventional-looking hero.
Among the stars it was Vikram who has the greatest pull and biggest opening after Rajnikanth. His films "Saamy" and "Dhool" were blockbusters, and "Pitamagan", a hit at the box-office. In a male-dominated industry, 2003 belonged to Vikram and he is undoubtedly the top star in the Tamil firmament. Dhanush was the biggest discovery of the year with "Kathal Kondein" a hit and "Thiruda Thirudi" a blockbuster. However, the dark horse of the year was Surya with "Kaakha Kaakha" and "Pitamagan". A rank outsider Srikanth triumphed with "Parthipan Kanavu" and now "Joot". These stars were all hard working and willing to experiment with new subjects and well-packaged films made on a budget of Rs. 3 to 5 crores that makes them viable at the box-office. Among the debutant heroes, it was the cherubic faced Ravi in "Jayam" who became popular with the female audience. The film was a hit even in smaller stations.
Jyothika who featured in three of the top 10 films of the year "Dhool", "Kaakha Kaakha" and "Tirumalai" is virtually the undisputed queen of Kollywood. Trisha Krishnan is going places after "Saamy" and has signed some of the biggest projects of next year. A host of non-Tamil heroines who made a mark were Chaya Singh, Sada, Sonia Agarwal and Genelia.
The business of filmmaking has changed, as everything depends on how well a film opens in the first week. The fate of a film is determined by its opening and not the number of days it runs. Today, A centres constitute nearly 70 to 80 per cent of the collections, and B and C centres, once the backbone of the trade, are now becoming insignificant. So it is natural that Tamil films are being made to cater for an urban audience.
2. Thiruda Thirudi
5. Kaakha Kaakha
6. Kathal Kondein
10. Parthipan Kanavu.
(The top ten is based on collection figures from theatres, distributors and producers, and the ranking, on return on investment).
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