Festival of darkness
Sujatha Narayanan writes about how Diwali has changed over the years in Kollywood
We are about 48 hours away from Deepavali and Tamil cinema is still grappling with the soaring ticket prices. There’s also the looming uncertainty over the release of Mersal, which is reeling from the lack of a permission letter from the Animal Welfare Board of India, which in turn, delays the Censor Certificate from being issued. Adding to the Deepavali woes is some of the smaller releases cancelling their release. All of these developments make me a tad sad, and I wish again for the sort of Deepavali when films of Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan would get released and you’d try to catch them right after the other.
This idea of a box office clash of icons makes release days a festival of sorts. In the late 90s, films of Vijay and Ajith would get released on the same day and cause ripples across the State. The laments over the unavailability of tickets would emanate at least a week before their release. Word of mouth back then was the main benchmark to base movies on, and reviews from critics would usually come only a week after the film released by when the films would've seen a good run of a week in theatres across the State. Now, of course, times have changed and every Facebook update or tweet is a ‘review’, which, if found to be trolling a rival actor, gets shared all over social media
Forty-eight hours to go for Deepavali, and I still haven’t booked tickets for the big release of the week. 1. I don't know if the film will get released on time 2. The crowd for such early shows almost always comprise raucous fans and the roar inside the theatre often takes away from the film 3. With the rising ticket prices, it’s important to ask if the film will be a dud and if I’ll end up wasting my hard-earned Rs 200? Earlier, TV channels would spoil us for choice with glitzy star interviews, game shows, films of rival actors etc. This time, I’m not even interested to find out what films are playing on TV. Blame it on my must-watch content on Netflix and Amazon, and blame it also on Tamil cinema not having a proper release strategy these days.
Sometimes, you have a dozen films trying to cash in on a single weekend; sometimes, it's just one big release on a festival day for which I’ll likely not get tickets for the first three days anyway. What film must I see then? Big Boss and Kamal Haasan have also upped expectations on what television entertainment should be, and everything else on TV falls really short unless it's an interview of somebody like Ajith or Nayanthara which can truly be termed ‘exclusive’, or a recently released comedy that the whole family can watch together. Given how the comedy genre in Tamil cinema has come to be equated with horror, an Ajith/Nayanthara interview seems more probable than a recent comedy entertaining the whole family.
Deepavali, this year, is not spoiling me for choice and I'm unhappy. Filmmakers must pull up their socks and work better on quality content and their release strategies. They must figure out how to maximise the expectations of an audience who is starved for content during festival holidays.