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Social media is abuzz with the battle cries of fans of actors Vijay and Ajith, as films of the Kollywood ‘rivals’ have been announced for Pongal releases. Almost nine years since Vijay and Ajith last fielded their horses in the festival release race, Ajith’s Thunivu and Vijay’s Varisu are set to have a face off starting on the day of Pongal in 2023.

Vijay-starrer Varisu directed by Vamshi Paidipally with Thaman’s music is already grabbing the limelight, with the Ranjithamae song sung by Vijay himself having already crossed five crore views on YouTube.

Not far behind, a song from Ajith’s film Thunivu is also set for release.

So, a no-holds-barred campaign has already started on Twitter between fans of the two leading actors.

This kind of face-off between the diametrically opposite groups of fans has been in vogue since the times of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, the two Moghuls of Tamil cinema. After MGR gave up on glamour to plunge into the rough and tumble of politics, Sivaji was left alone without a rival in cinema. Though at the beginning of Rajinikanth’s career, he seemed to score brownie points over Sivaji in a few films such as Naan Vaazha Vaippaen, neither took the contest seriously.

In the 1980s, the real contest was between the then-young leading actors, Rajinikanth vs Kamal Haasan.

After MGR gave up on glamour to plunge into the rough and tumble of politics, Sivaji was left alone without a rival in cinema

While their two top predecessors had acted together in only film – Koondukili – that proved a dud at the box office, Kamal and Rajini created a healthy trend of acting together in several films such as Aadu Puli Aatam, Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu, Ninaithaalae Inikkum and so on. Yet at one point of time, they decided to tread their own separate paths.

So, two large groups of fans emerged over the years, competing with each other in celebrating the new releases of their heroes and getting euphoric or depressed, depending on the films’ success or failure, and fuelling the famed Rajini vs Kamal ‘rivalry’.

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Way back in 1982, Kamal’s masala film Sakalakala Vallavan and Rajini’s Engeyo Kaetta Kural were released at the same time. Yet both films, directed by the same director SP Muthuraman, became hits. But nowadays such a situation is unlikely to be created.

Rajini and Kamal films have faced off as many as 12 times in the past. The last time was April 14, 2005 when Rajini’s Chandramukhi and Kamal’s Mumbai Express released simultaneously. Mumbai Express bombed at the box office, but Chandramukhi saw Rajini bouncing back from the failure of his earlier film Baba.

No Rajini-Kamal films have faced off with each other since. But both actors don’t seem to have run out of steam yet. While Vikram has proved that Kamal is still a force to be reckoned with, Annaathe, though not a blockbuster, was reasonably successful for Rajini, proving the commercial value of the Superstar for the umpteenth time. So, we may yet see another epic battle between the two.

When Rajini and Kamal began on their growth trajectory, the dominance of MGR and Sivaji had almost shrunk, leaving lots of scope for the young pair. But unlike the situation in the 1980s, now at a time when the two comparatively young top stars – Ajith and Vijay – are competing with each other, their seniors at the top rung of the ladder are surprisingly still standing their ground.

It is almost nine years since Vijay and Ajith last fielded their horses in the race. Now, Ajith’s Thunivu and Vijay’s Varisu are set for simultaneous release on the day of Pongal in 2023

In the 1990s when both Ajith and Vijay began their cinema journeys, they acted together in the film Rajavin Paarvaiyilae, in which Vijay played the hero and Ajith made a cameo appearance. Their films began releasing simultaneously only after the advent of the millennium. In the year 2000 Vijay-starrer Kushi and Ajith-starrer Unnaikodu Ennaith Tharuvaen came out at the same time, marking the start of the rivalry. But while the Vijay film garnered success, Ajith’s fell by the wayside. A string of simultaneous releases of the two stars soon hit the screens, with Friends vs Dheena (2001), Villain vs Bhagavathy (2002), and Tirumalai vs Anjaneya (2003). Then there was a gap of three years, after which came Aadhi vs Paramasivan, but neither film tasted success.

In 2007, both Pokkiri and Aazhvar hit the screens together. This time, while Vijay basked in Pokkiri’s success, Ajith was down in the dumps with his Aazhvar. After seven years, again their films plunged into a race in 2014: Veeram vs Jilla. Audiences loved both films but Ajith’s Veeram scored a notch above Vijay’s Jilla.

Now, almost nine years since the two stars’ last clash, Ajith’s Thunivu and Vijay’s Varisu are set for simultaneous release on the day of Pongal next year.

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In the era marked by Rajini-Kamal competitiveness, there was only one option for the audience to watch films, unlike today, theatres. Tamil Nadu had nearly 3,000 cinemas at the time. So, while there was a sufficient number of theatres available for the leading actors’ films, a film would release only at select theatres in cities such as Chennai, while suburban theatres ran old films in their second or third round.

During the Rajini vs Kamal era, their films used to be released with a lot of fanfare, whereas those of second-rung actors such as Vijayakanth, Sathyaraj, Karthik, Prabhu and so on would also run alongside, winning the audience’s applause and adulation. For instance, while Kamal’s Thevar Magan and Rajini’s Pandian tasted runaway success, Satyaraj’s Thirumathi Pazhanisamy too was a hit.

While the tension and excitement of the old timers’ film releases have become a thing of the nostalgic past, the trend nowadays is one of complaining that the simultaneous release of the leading actors’ films would make a dent in box office collections.

So, it turns out that the number of fans who watched Thiruchitrambalam and Love Today in theatres, and the revenue collections of the films increased in the second and third weeks of their release. Usually, a film’s initial three days’ collection at the box office decides its fate, as the flow of viewers dwindles in subsequent days.

Nowadays, a film running for 100 days is a rarity. As OTT release, satellite TV rights, and overseas rights have opened up more avenues of revenue for filmmakers, a film need not run in theatres for 50 days, let alone 100 days

Tirupur Subramaniam, president, Theatre Owners’ Association, said in an interview, “Forty per cent of a film’s revenue comes from theatres only.” Nowadays, a film running for 100 days is a rarity. As OTT release, satellite TV rights, and overseas rights have opened up more avenues of revenue for filmmakers, a film need not run in theatres for 50 days, let alone 100 days.

According to information available at the moment, both Varisu and Thunivu will hit the screens on the same day. Or their release may come just one day apart as did Aadhi and Paramasivan.

However, as if reconstructing the spirit of the old-time rivalry and revelry, fans of both Vijay and Ajith have started launching fireworks on social media well ahead of the release of their beloved actors’ films.


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