After two successive ‘flops’, is the Rajini effect weakening?

R Ravikumar Jarshad NK Chennai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 29, 2014



Blame it on animated Kochadaiiyaan, Lingaa’s wrong timing, and gap between films, say industry watchers

After a particularly intense scene in the 1999 superhit Padayappa, the female antagonist tells Rajinikanth: “ Vayasanulum un styleum azhagum innum unna vittu pogala (You may have become old, but your style and looks still remain).”

For many years, the box-office appeared to agree with her. But after two consecutive ‘duds’, Tamil film industry pundits are wondering if age has finally caught up with the man who debuted almost 40 years ago in Apoorva Raagangal. Both his releases in 2014 — Kochadaiiyaan and Lingaa — have fared poorly, prompting many distributors to ask for refunds. The budget for each was close to ₹100 crore.

While Kochadaiiyaan’s bad show was blamed on it being an animated film, Lingaa’s tepid performance would be more worrying for Rajinikanth and his legion of fans. It is also unnerving for a Tamil film industry that’s going through a rough patch with only a handful of movies doing well, and at least a hundred lying in the cans with no takers.

“He definitely doesn’t have that kind of box-office pull anymore,” said TFU Kannan, independent film analyst, referring to the box-office history created by Rajinikanth’s 2010 film Enthiran. The film directed by ace director Shankar holds the record for the highest revenue collected by a Tamil film with some estimates putting the collections north of ₹300 crore. “He is still the number one, but not with the power he had four years ago.”

‘No magnetic force’

Others echo similar sentiments. “Brand Rajinikanth is weakening,” said a senior executive who played a crucial role during the production of Sivaji, the actor’s 2008 superhit. “It is no longer the kind of magnetic force it used to be.”

Film analyst Kannan said a reason could be the long gaps between releases “The youth are shifting allegiance to other actors like Vijay and Ajith,” he said.

Various reasons have been attributed for Lingaa failing to meet expectations: wrong timing (it hit the theatres when schools had half-yearly exams), release in too many screens (close to 650 in Tamil Nadu alone) and a rushed job (the film was made in six months), among others.

But not many buy them. “The argument that Lingaa was released in over 600 screens in Tamil Nadu alone will not hold water. On the third day, there were vacant seats in theatres,” said the executive quoted above, pointing out Sivaji, produced by AVM, ran to houseful shows for two weeks in over 230 screens. “You do the math.”

Ramesh Bala, a film analyst, said Enthiran had set the bar very high and following it up with a film by KS Ravikumar meant lower expectations and buzz among fans.

But analysts are unanimous that Lingaa was sold to distributors at a very high price. A reason why though it was one of the biggest grossers of 2014, it failed to give decent returns.

“The film was sold at a higher rate than Enthiran, taking into account that film’s performance,” said Bala.

“But Lingaa did not have the quality to demand that kind of money.” Many distributors who bought Lingaa were, in fact, first-timers as in the case of Sukra Films of Coimbatore. Also contributing to the weak showing is the cap on ticket rates in Tamil Nadu, where multiplexes can only charge a maximum ₹120. “Fans are willing to pay more,” said Bala. “But with a cap, multiplexes are unable to charge higher rates.”

However, Kannan said the limit was only enforced in cities and unofficially movie tickets for Lingaa were sold for ₹250-300 in other parts of Tamil Nadu. “Rajinikanth’s films are sold (to distributors) taking this into account,” he said.

Still not out

PC Balasubramanian, author of Grand Brand Rajini - Brand Management the Rajinikanth Way, said it would be a mistake to write the actor off just yet. “Rajinikanth is a big brand with high stakes. It is the producer and director’s responsibility to ensure that the fans get the ‘Rajini experience’,” he said. “A brand like Rajinikanth will always bounce back, whenever it is challenged.”

Published on December 29, 2014
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