David vs Goliath, this Diwali
Such competition at the box office brings to the fore the question: Is the clash healthy for the film industry?
Diwali in Tamil Nadu is as much about cinema as it is about crackers and festivities. This Friday, the Tamil Nadu box office will see a clash between Vijay's Bigil, directed by Atlee, and the Karthi-starrer Kaithi, which is directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj. It is to be noted that earlier this year, Pongal saw Rajinikanth's Petta releasing alongside Ajith's Viswasam, in a more evenly contested battle.
Such competition at the box office brings to the fore the question: Is the clash healthy for the film industry? "It will be good for us if there is a big-ticket release every week, in fact. It will benefit theatre owners a lot," says Udhayam Theatre owner, Shanmugasundaram.
While Bigil, a big-budget sports drama, ticks all the boxes of a typical festive release, Kaithi, directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, is a thriller that happens over a single night. Bigil is releasing in over 750 screens in Tamil Nadu (more than 4,000 screens worldwide, according to creative producer, Archana Kalpathi), while Kaithi is said to have got about 250. "Karthi is a great actor and his films have raked in good money, but when Kaithi is competing with Bigil, there are two disadvantages. One is the imbalance in the star power, and the second is the difference in the genres. Bigil will appeal to the family audience as it is about women empowerment and there seem like a lot of conventionally attractive elements in it. So, naturally, the initial buzz is for Bigil. However, if the content of Kaithi is good, then it will do good business from the second week of its release,” says Rakesh Gowthaman, owner of Vetri Theatres.
This sentiment is echoed by distributor Tirupur Subramaniam, who says, "Kaithi booking was expected to be average only, and it is so. Word of mouth is what can help its prospects. However, the first day bookings of Bigil have been overwhelming. It is too early to predict the box office results of either films though. We must wait till Deepavali to be able to evaluate collections."
Meanwhile, the State Minister of Information and Publicity Kadambur Raju's announcement that the early morning shows will be cancelled comes as a setback to the films. "We don't charge more money than what is ordered by the Government and don't have early morning shows either. We adhere to the rules, and moreover, charging exorbitant prices will deter the audience from coming to the movie in the first place. It is Deepavali, and people have other expenditures too," says Shanmugasundaram.
"The Bigil shows are getting filled rapidly, and in a way to appreciate the Vijay fans, we conducted an online contest providing vouchers for people who buy tickets," says a spokesperson of the ticketing app, Ticket New. The company had previously conducted such contests for films such as Avengers: Endgame, and 2.0.
While Subramaniam believes Deepavali falling on a Sunday might hamper collections, Shanmugasundaram feels otherwise. "The theatres are all housefull this weekend, and the Government's decision to declare Monday as a holiday has improved the box office prospects." Bigil shows have been booked out till the weekend, thanks to the star power and the consequent expectations, while Kaithi will depend a lot on word of mouth publicity. It's set to be a cracking Deepavali in theatres again.
(With inputs from Navein Darshan and Kirubhakar Purushothaman)