Pongal releases have played out to Dhanush and Rajinikanth's advantage.
In Tamil cinema, big-budget films or superstar outings take over the festival dates, Pongal and Deepavali. While Rajinikanth's Darbar, which was released on January 9, is maintaining its stronghold—today, Pattas, starring Dhanush, has hit the screens. The most successful films of Rajinikanth have been Pongal releases—Petta (2019), Baashha (1995), Mannan (1992), Dharma Durai (1991), Panakkaran (1990), Mr Bharath (1986), Naan Mahan Alla (1984), Paayum Puli (1983), Pokkiri Raja (1982) and Kuppathu Raja (1979).
Last year in January, at least, there was an Ajith film Viswasam that got released alongside Petta, splitting the revenue of both the biggies. However, this year, the clear winner is Darbar. Directed by AR Murugadoss, the film (in which Rajinikanth plays a cop; 27 years after the 1992 actioner Pandian), made on a budget of Rs 200 crore, was released on 4,000 screens in India—and has minted more than Rs 150 crore worldwide. Though Thambi, Sillu Karupatti and V1 occupy theaters, there is no stopping Darbar.
Though Thambi, Sillu Karupatti and V1 occupy theaters, there is no stopping Darbar.
“Rajinikanth has a global appeal and his films have a huge opening. In Chennai alone, the film has grossed Rs 8.14 crore as of January 14, 2020. The long extended weekend of Pongal holidays will set the cash registers ringing," says a city-based theatre owner. Though he emphasises, "Films releasing on festival dates guarantee massive openings," he quickly admits, the Tamil cinema Pongal release isn’t quite what it used to be. "In recent times, no two big commercial Tamil movies released on the same day, barring last year," he smiles. After a pause, he recalls, "2014 Pongal saw Vijay versus Ajith clashing at the box office with Jilla and Veeram coming out."
Pongal releases have played out to Dhanush's advantage much like his father-in-law Rajinikanth. In 2009, Padikkadhavan was released alongside Villu. The Dhanush-starrer was declared a hit, while Vijay-Prabhudheva outing turned out to be a dud. In 2011, Dhanush, once again, had a face-off with Vijay. Aadukalam clashed with Kaavalan. The former went on to gain both critical acclaim and commercial success—the latter was a disaster.
In the past few years, the most explosive fights at the box office have taken place on other occasions—although the festival crowd are the biggest draw. "Holidays give an upsurge to the business. After all, nobody wants to let go of the additional profit," observes a Chennai-based distributor. "An average film earns 80% of its business in the first week. So the biggies naturally eye festival occasions," he notes.
Nevertheless, Deepavali remains the most attractive of all festival dates. Usually, around this time, in Tamil Nadu, there will be a minimum of four releases, asserts another single-screen owner. "Previously, there used to be a huge pressure to get the big films out simultaneously on the Pongal weekend. But this time, the situation is different," he adds.
Dhanush starrer Pattas is written and directed by RS Durai Senthilkumar. (Photo: Dhanush/ Twitter)
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A film trade analyst concurs. "A decade ago, we could accommodate four releases, but today, it is certainly not possible. These days even big hero films don't have a solo release date and a breathing space to survive. With an increase in OTT platforms, the theater-visiting crowd has reduced drastically."
Reports suggest that Pattas should recover about Rs 17-crore theatrical share in Tamil Nadu to be successful for its buyers. Directed by RS Durai Senthilkumar, who earlier made Kodi with Dhanush, we need to wait and watch if the actor-director duo can repeat the magic. Pattas features the actor in a dual role. "The family audience is the core of any festival release. Ideally, this is a win-win situation for both Darbar and Pattas as they are crowd-pleasers," the trade analyst signs off.