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Ajith fans were eagerly looking forward to celebrate Pongal through Valimai. But the release was put off owing to the 50% restrictions imposed by government on cinema theatre occupancy. The head of the cinema halls owners association, Tiruppur Subramaniam, had said that since Valimai is a big budget movie, it could succeed only when cinema halls are allowed 100% occupancy.

The postponement of the release has made the movie makers launch the film in five languages. Earlier, it was supposed to be in Tamil and Telugu. Now it will be in Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi as well.

Meanwhile, Beast starring Vijay is also not getting a release. Already, Rajamouli’s RRR, Prabhas’ Radhe Shyam have not been able to get a release. While this is a setback to the movie industry, it has opened an opportunity for small budget films.

Sasikumar’s Kombu Vecha Singamda, Vidharth’s Carbon, Nai Sekar that will introduce Satish as hero, Cook With Komali Ashwin’s Enna Solla Pogirai, Lakshmi Menon’s AGP, Radhika’s Marudha, Vignesh’s Pasakkara Paya, Prabhu Deva’s Thel are some of the films set for release.

Deepavali and Pongal typically see the releases of big stars in Tamil filmdom. Pongal and Deepavali are the biggest festivals for Tamils and going to the movies of the big stars became part of the festivities. After the era of Sivaji and MGR, the festival days were typically marked by either a Rajini or a Kamal film release, sometimes both.

In the last 40 years, some 42 films of big stars were released on the day of Pongal. Only a few years did Pongal not see a big star film.

Since the 1980s, the films of Rajini and Kamal had been the most expected since by that time they had become the biggest stars in Tamil film world. Pokkiri Raja (1982), Paayum Puli (1983), Naan Magaan Alla (1984), Mister Bharat (1986), Panakkaran (1990), Dharma Durai (1991), Mannan (1992), Badshah (1995), Petta (2018) and Darbar (2020) were Rajini’s Pongal releases that made a mark.

Meendum Kokila (1981), Oru Kaidhiyin Diary (1985), Punnagai Mannan (1986), Kadhal Parisu (1987), Mahanadhi (1984), Sathileelavathy (1995), Pammal K Sambandam (2002), Anbe Sivam (2003) and Virumandi (2004) were Kamal’s big draws on Pongal days. In 1986, Kamal had Punnaigai Mannan while Rajini had Mister Bharat. In 1995, Badshah and Sathi Leelavathy competed for attention.

In the middle of the 1990s, Ajith and Vijay grew to become big stars. Ajith’s Vanmathi (1996), Nesam (1997), Thodarum (1999), Dheena (2001), Red (2002), Paramasivan (2006), Azhwar (2007), Veeram (2014) and Viswasam (2019) were the Pongal feast he offered his fans.

Coimbatore Mappillai (1996), Kalamellam Kathiruppen (1997), Kannukkul Nilavu, Friends (2001), Vaseegara (2001), Thiruppachi (2003), Adhi (2006), Pokkiri (2007), Villu (2009), Kavalan (2011), Nanban (2012), Jilla (2014), Bhairava (2017) and Master (2021) were 14 Pongal releases of Vijay.

In the last 40 years, some 42 films of big stars were released on the day of Pongal. Only a few years did Pongal not see a big star film.

In 1988, when there was no Kamal or Rajini film, Sathyaraj’s Anna Nagar Mudhal Theru and Prabhu’s Kalaiyum Neeye Malaiyum Neeye got a chance.

In 1988, when there was no Kamal or Rajini film, Sathyaraj’s Anna Nagar Mudhal Theru and Prabhu’s Kalaiyum Neeye Malaiyum Neeye got a chance. Similarly, Prabhu’s Nalaiya Manidhan in 1989; Captain Magal, Jathi Malli and Marupadiyum in the year 1993; as well as Marumalarchi and Ponmanam in 1998; Housefull in 1999; Vanathapola in 2000 and Rajini Murugan in 2016 were some of the noteworthy films released on Pongal. What helped the films in these years was the lack of a big star release. This year, therefore, presents an opportunity for small budget films of smaller stars.

But what is significant this year is that not even the second line stars have lined up anything for Pongal. So this year, Pongal will see no role for established stars.

Despite Vadivelu’s pleas, Naisekar is releasing. Cook with Komali Ashwin had said that he listened to 40 stories that only put him to sleep before the 41th story he listened to made him sit awake. Pongal will see if that story in Enna Solla Pogirai interests viewers, too.

Introduced in Minnale in 2001 and getting a star turn in Myna in 2010, Vidharth will have his 25th film this Pongal. A hit this year will add star value to him. Radhika’s Marudha has been ready and this year has given an opportunity for it. This film features a song sung by SPB with music by Ilaiyaraja.

Even with 50% entry, small budget films can make money if they run for a few days. This Pongal gives them the biggest opportunity in recent years. If they succeed, it would help Tamil cinema move beyond big stars as the main guarantors of success.

Here’s wishing Happy Pongal to the Tamil film industry


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