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While there have been big-ticket films that have turned mega grossers, at the other end of the spectrum there are films that have also set the cash registers ringing though produced on a shoe-string budget. Both phenomena are common to Tamil cinema.
Films such as Dada, Good Night, Porthozhil released this year belong to the latter category, reconfirming the commercial value and potential of budget films.
At the time when the era of the trio – MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan – dominating the Tamil cinema was drawing to a close, Rajinikanth breezed in. His dark skin and unkempt hair evocative of slummy neighborhood were off-putting. Yet he broke the established grammar of a hero being fair-complexioned and romantically charming. The 1970s and the 1980s saw a breed of heroes who took the cue from Rajini. Vijayakanth, Ramarajan and Saravanan daringly donned the mantle of hero. They represented the lowest strata of society.
Distancing themselves from the stereotype, directors such as K.S. Gopalakrishnan and K. Balachandar delineated the angst and agonies of the middle-class. In the 1980s Devaraj-Mohan, Durai, R.C.Sakthi, M.A. Kaja, Ramanarayanan and others wove interesting screen stories out of the lives of the marginalized. They made ordinary humans their protagonists. Such films deviated from the typical cinema narratives, yet were successful.
But this trend turned upside down soon. Commercial films full of masala and typical Kollywood tropes were soon hugely successful despite realistic parallel cinema surfacing now and then.
At the time when the era of the trio – MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan – dominating the Tamil cinema was drawing to a close, Rajinikanth breezed in. He broke the established grammar of a film hero being fair-complexioned and romantically charming
While mega films featuring top stars in the lead have become the order of the day, though lacking in substance, the movie aficionados’ craving for budget films remains unfulfilled.
Films transporting the viewers to another world at lesser cost have been made. For instance, Pizza, Kaaka Muttai, Intru Nettru Naalai, Pariyerum Perumal, Demonte Colony, Peranbu, Aram, and Etirneechal can be cited. Last year the big grosser Tiruchitrambalam was a feel-good film made at a low budget. It is only these films which keep alive the hopes of small budget filmmakers.
Among the films released since January this year, Ponniyin Selvan-2, Vaarisu, Thunivu and Vaathi have raked in crores of rupees above 100. They are, after all, big budget films. But the small film Dada has earned above Rs.20 crore, five times its investment of just Rs. four crore. The film Good Night made at a similar budget has also made a profit four times the investment. The film Porthozhil released on June 9 last is said to have grossed over Rs.20 crore up till now.
These three films released this year have revived hopes for budget films.
Generally festival times give a good opening to mega budget films, some pan-India, released at hundreds of theatres across the country. In a short time, they reach out to a wide audience and break even initially, often making a profit. Whether they will rake in several crores of rupees in profits depends on the substance of the film.
Be it big or budget films, a film’s ultimate success hinges on its appeal to a wide audience. In that respect, the three films mentioned above have met the benchmarks of success, having an easy connect with the viewers
Film-making is, by and large, a gamble as risky and dangerous as war. The makers of the film ‘Porthozhil’ had probably thought on these lines initially. The best part is that big corporates are connected with this venture. Yet the film’s release got delayed. Similarly, several budget films are mired in delays; the absence of OTT and satellite rights is attributed to this stagnation.
The common factor binding these successful budget films is that they are delicious cocktails of the dramatic and the cinematic, keeping the audience focused on the common-folk characters and their problems
Dada revolves around how a single father raises his child and Good Night around how a person suffers from an inferiority complex owing to his snoring habit. Porthozhil chronicles a hero with bookish knowledge joining with a man diametrically opposite in character and nabbing a psycho killer.
The common factor binding these successful budget films is that they are delicious cocktails of the dramatic and the cinematic, keeping the audience focused on the common-folk characters and their problems. When the heroes are tossed about by the turns and twists of the story, the viewers are able to identify with them. That’s how these budget films hit the bull’s eye. But given the film industry’s record, we may soon badly made films riding this genre, just because Porthozhil, Good Night and Dada were successful.
This week, Thalainagaram 2, Paayum Oli Nee Enakku, Thandatti, Regina, Azhakiya Kannae and Naayaadi have hit the screens. Fahad Fazil’s Kannada-Malayalam bilingual film Dhoomam has also released. Coming out as they did in the last week of the month, they have raised doubts of success. Yet if they have content worth watching, they will surely hit the spot.
The success of the budget films is a good omen for the Tamil cinema. They have demonstrated that all said and done, content is king.
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