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Cinema is primarily a business and only then an artform. This is the reality borne out by the roaring success of Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan-1 (PS-1).  News reports are pouring in about the film’s fabulous box-office collections not just on its home turf of Tamil Nadu but in other states and abroad as well.

The film is caught in the vortex of controversies over questions of whether it gives the same rich experience as reading Kalki’s classic novel; why the novel’s descriptions of the Pandya and Chozha flags and the Eelam landscape have been skipped in the film among others. The latest row sparking much ink and social media furore is over the question of whether Ponniyin Selvan aka Arulmozhivarman aka Raja Raja Chozhan was a Hindu King.

Unfazed by the controversies, the film has steadily been attracting thousands of viewers. The surge of a new-found interest among millennials in this historical is so overwhelming that other recently released films seem to have fallen by the wayside. Ponniyin Selvan-1’s runaway success has paralyzed the prospects of other films scheduled for release at this time. 

Shadow over ‘Naanae Varuvaen’
One such victim seems to be Selvaraghavan’s ‘Naanae Varuven’

The director’s early films – ‘Ayirathil Oruvan’,  ‘Iraantaam Ulagam’ –  felt like weird flicks with offbeat screenplays. But their mega budgets triggered major debates in the Tamil tinsel town. But as they bombed at the box-office, Selvaraghavan has for a while been in hibernation. Then he made a comeback with ‘NGK’ and ‘Nenjam Marappathillai’ which hit the screen after long delays.

Despite controversies, the film has steadily been attracting thousands of viewers with new-found interest among millennials in this historical sidelining other films

Bitten by these bitter experiences and exercising caution this time, he has offered  ‘Naanae Varuvaen’ made on a shoestring budget.  Coming after Dhanush’s Thiruchitrambalam set the cash registers ringing, his lead role in ‘Naanae Varuvaen’ sparked expectations of the film turning a money-spinner and of director Selavaraghavan getting a new lease of life.

The Dhanush-starrer was released one day ahead of the PS-1 and said to have raked in Rs.10 crore on the first day itself despite mixed reviews.

Asked then if Ponniyin Selvan-1 would affect ‘Naanae Varuvaen’ as both films were released almost simultaneously, producer Kalaipuli S. Thanu replied confidently that the situation would become normal after three or four days. But contrary to his expectations, his film seems to be in rough waters ten days on.  A series of holidays for Navaratri enhanced the commercial success of PS-1, witnessing a spike in special shows and advance bookings. ‘Naanae Varuvaen’, of course, ran to packed houses at a few theatres. But, by and large, neither bookings for this film nor the number of shows has increased unlike for PS-1.

Also Read: Ponniyin Selvan and the politics of Vetrimaaran

Though Thanu claimed his film earned a profit well before its release, the collection in the past one week is not quite bearing out what he said. If new films are released for Deepavali, the number of shows of his film may be further curtailed. Things may have been different for ‘Naanae Varuven’, if  PS-1 had not taken the box office by storm.

Films put on hold
PS-1’s shadow will continue to fall over upcoming releases. In the first week of October, a couple of Tamil films were waiting to be released. Of them, ‘Pistha’ and  ‘Ree’ have hit the screen with limited shows. Yogibabu-starrer ‘Repeat Shoe’, ‘Ilamai Ennum Poongaatru’, and Arun Vijay-starrer ‘Border’ are expected to release on October 14. If Ponniyin Selvan – 1 continues to run strong, those releases may be affected. 

Limited geography?
Unlike Tamil.Nadu, however, Malayalam films seem to be holding their own In neighboring Kerala, Mammooty-starrer ‘Rorschach’ and Aparna’s film ‘Ini Utharam’ were released on Oct. 7 to rave reviews. The earlier Mammooty film ‘Bheesma Bharuvam’ earned Rs.6.15 crore on the very first day in Kerala. Though ‘Rorschach’ was made on a smaller budget, it earned Rs.2.6 crore on the first day despite being shown on fewer screens. In parallel with both films ‘Rorschach’ and ‘Ini Utharam’ running to packed houses,  PS-1’s Malayalam version is running successfully in big cities such as Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi etc. in Kerala. But other films have also done well. 

But in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Chiranjeevi-Salman Khan starrer ‘Godfather’ and Nagarjuna’s ‘The Ghost’ have got lower box-office collections. The ‘Godfather’ is a remake of the Malayalam  ‘Luficer’ featuring Mohanlal and directed by Prithviraj. 

But Chiranjeevi’s version which  was set for release in cities like Chennai, has been held back. Tamil Nadu, which had given a good reception to the Malayalam ‘Godfather’,  would have welcomed the Telugu remake had it not been for the PS-1 tsunami.  Similarly, the Nagarjuna-starrer ‘The Ghost’ was released only on select screens in Chennai and the rest of Tamil Nadu and not much publicized.  But both Telugu films have been released in Kerala.

Unlike in Tamil Nadu however,  the Chozhars’ mega exploits on celluloid have not dampened the spirit of new flicks in the Chera region

The Hindi version of ‘The Godfather’ has, to some extent, fared well at the box-office, thanks to Salman Khan’s role. The Telugu version has touched the collection of Rs.100 crore. But the bitter truth is that it has missed out on the Tamil market and so forfeited revenues of crores.

In Karnataka, ‘Kantara’ directed by Rishab Shetty has got rave reviews and good reception as well. It is celebrated much more than KGF-2 . Hombale Films, which has produced both films, has emerged as a big cinema production company in South India.

Though the Kannada version of Ponniyin Selvan-1 was not given a red-carpet welcome in Karnataka, the Tamil and Hindi versions of the film are running to packed houses in that state!  At the same time, the Kannada flick ‘Totapuri Chapter -1’ released on Sept. 30 has met with only a mixed reception.

Also Read: PS-1: Mani Ratnam lost in the Chola maze

As for the Hindi tinsel town, ‘Vikram Vedha’ featuring Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan could not sustain the initial warm reception. The box-office collections of the Hindi version of PS-1 have been lower.  The Amitabh-starrer ‘Goodbye’ released last week has not turned a money-spinner. The record set by KGF-2 has not been broken by any direct Hindi film; nor by Hindi films remade from other language films.

So, it is stark that PS-1, with its astronomical collections made at the national and international levels, running to over Rs. 300 crore, has overshadowed all other films in terms of  name, fame and income.

Will Deepavali releases be affected?
Sivakarthikeyan film ‘Prince’ is set for release on Oct. 21 and Karthi’s ‘Sardar’ on Deepavali (October 24). As there is a gap of three days between these two films, they should be able to find theaters. But if  PS-1 keeps spreading its gigantic tentacles, the fate of these two films may also hang in the balance.

The notable commercial successful films in 2022 are ‘Vikram’, ‘Don,’ ‘Tiruchitrambalam,’ and ‘Rocketry: Nambi Effect.’ They ran to packed houses for over one month though the number of shows was curtailed.  Their success was made possible by repeat audience among the new-gen.

 

 


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