For Tamil film industry, 2019 was a mixed bag; Star power and content were key draws

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on January 01, 2020 Published on January 01, 2020

Ajith’s Viswasam and Rajinikanth’s Petta comfortably crossed the ₹100 crore box office collection mark, setting a new trend of co-existence in Tamil cinema   -  R RAVINDRAN

The year 2019 was a mixed bag of hits and misses for Tamil cinema. While star power and content-driven movies fared well at the box-office, small movies, barring a few exceptional ones, failed to make a mark.

The year started-off with two big blockbusters in January. Despite a direct clash, both the Pongal releases — Ajith’s Viswasam and Rajinikanth’s Petta comfortably crossed the ₹100 crore box office collection mark, setting a new trend of co-existence in Tamil cinema. However, the momentum did not sustain for long. Between February-July, Tamil film industry churned out several small and medium budget movies but very few performed well at the box office. Industry experts attributed the slowdown to the impact of IPL, General Elections, Cricket World Cup and absence of quality content.

While Director Ram’s Peranbu, RJ Balaji’s LKG, Santhanam’s Dhilluku Dhuddu 2 did well in February, Arun Vijay’s Thadam and Raghava Lawrence’ Kanchana 3 were the saving grace in March and April, respectively. Only two films — Vijay Antony’s Kolaigaran and Taapsee Pannu’s Game Over did reasonably well at the box office during the peak vacation month of June while none of the movies released in July made a big impact at the box office.

The period between February and July also saw more box office failures or under-performers than hits. Simbu’s Vantha Rajavathaan Varuven; Nayanthara’s Airaa; Vishal’s Ayogya; SJ Surya’s Monster; Sivakarthikeyan’s Mr Local; Suriya’s NGK, Vijay Sethupathi’s Sindhubaadh; and Vikram’s Kadaram Kondan could not sustain their box office run for a long time and the commercial success of these movies are still debatable. While Vijay Sethupathi’s Super Deluxe won rave reviews from both critics and audiences, the movie still is not one among the top grossers this year.

However, Producer and Director G Dhananjayan has a different take on Tamil Cinema’s performance in 2019. Presenting a ‘2019 Box Office summary’ in his Cinema Central YouTube channel , the producer says, of the total number of 185 films released this year, 35 were commercial successes, which means the producers were able to take out more money than what they invested. The returns include proceeds from theatrical rights, and from satellite, remake, broadcast and OTT platforms. However, the ‘commercial success’ does not factor the returns made by film exhibitors and distributors.

“This is the first time where 35 out of 185 films released are commercial successes which roughly translates to a success rate of 18 per cent, which is very healthy for the film industry,” Dhananjayan added.

Tamil Cinema got its mojo back in August with back-to-back release of big titles and solid contents. Ajith’s Nerkonda Parvai; Jayam Ravi’s Comali; Surya’s Kaappaan; Sivakarthikeyan’s Namma Veetu Pillai; and R Parthiepan’s critically-acclaimed Oththa Seruppu Size 7 — all released in quick session in August and September.

Record breaking collection

While Dhanush’s Asuran, released in early October, helped to sustain the box-office momentum, Diwali releases — Vijay’s Bigil and Karthi’s Kaithi set the box office on fire with record breaking collection.

“It’s a peculiar trend in Tamil Cinema. On one hand there was star power (Vijay) and the other hand there was a solid content (Kaithi) and audience have welcomed both which is encouraging,” says South Indian movie Tracker Prashanth Rangaswamy.

He also added that Tamil audience have become more global and demanding which is pushing directors to explore different varieties or become irrelevant. “Nothing but only quality content will sell hereafter in Tamil cinema.”

Despite its share of hits and misses, Tamil Cinema has also broke many of its previous records ranging from highest footfall in theatres to highest box office collection. According to Dhananjayan, Tamil Cinema’s total box office collection has for the first time crossed ₹2,000 crore out of which Top 10 Films (includes Bigil, Petta, Viswasam and Kaithi) alone accounted for ₹800 crore or 40 per cent of the total collection while the remaining collection came from the 175 other movies released during the year.

“On an overall analysis, 2019 was a remarkable year for Tamil Cinema and the rate of success will only increase in the years to come,” he added.

However, Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association President Tirupur Subramaniam strongly disagrees.

“Overall, this is one of the useless years for producers, distributors and cinema owners. Although movies did well, it was not beneficial to any stakeholders due to higher cost of artists’ and technicians’ salary,” Subramaniam said.

He also added that, of the total number of movies released, only ten movies did well at the box office with good returns which includes Bigil, Viswasam, Petta, Namma Veetu Pillai, Comali and Nerkonda Parvai.

Published on January 01, 2020
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