My Thoughts

Pan-India struggles for Tamizh Cinema & lack of promotions

Posted on: July 23, 2022

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so I have seen both the Doordarshan times as well as the satellite television boom in the mid-90’s. Before Satellite television came to India in the early 90’s movie stars were extremely elusive to the fans. They were like this larger than life hero figures in the mind of the fans who only appeared in films. In those times this actually helped a lot with success of films for these stars. This is how the star culture was formed. Fans who do not see their heroes other than on movie screen or posters rushed to theatres to watch them on the big screen.

In a way Tamizh cinema still has that star value. The elusive nature of the Tamizh stars has always worked in their favour. You would normally not see Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith or any major superstar making too many public appearances. This surely has helped them to maintain that culture which we see in some of the next generation actors as well. This means that most of the movies in Tamizh cinema comes with little or zero promotions, especially the big star films. For example Vijay’s interview for Beast earlier this year was his first in years but again you can say that he at least appears for audio release functions.

This lacklustre promotions from the stars has trickled down to the female leads and the supporting cast as well in Tamizh cinema. In recent times we have seen majority of the cast not being present for any promotions of a film. For example “Vikram”, the industries biggest hit this year had no promotions from any of the cast except for Kamal Hassan, Naren and Gayathrie. Recently Aatharva’s “Kuruthi Aatam” released after lots of struggle but again except for the hero and the director, none of the others were involved in any promotions for the film.

The biggest issue though hampering Tamizh film industry is that the release of a film is unknown to anyone at most of the times. The director of “Kuruthi Aatam” said in an interview that he just knew a week before that his film is going to release. We see a trailer released for a film and hope it will release in the near future but we end up seeing the movie a year or two later in theatres. This also causes issues for the cast to make themselves available for promotions. I understand that getting screens and taking the movies to the audience has become a huge problem in the industry but again the makers are making it difficult for their movies to succeed if there isn’t enough time to market their films. You might have a great product but if the audience don’t know about it, they are not going to come and see it. This is the era of OTT and you need to reach the audience big time if you want them to leave their home to watch a film. The big star films are fine as the fans will come in huge numbers just by watching a good trailer, but again that is not true for smaller films.

The other elephant in the room for Tamizh cinema is the Pan-Indian films. If we look in the past, Tamizh film industry was kind of the pioneers for Pan-India success. Manirathnam had Roja and Bombay and then we had Shankar’s Indian, Robot & 2.0 all being successful ventures all through the country. The biggest thing Tamizh movie makers need to learn now is that not all films are going to be successful when released through the country. The recent success of Telugu & Kannada cinema has taught us that there are certain type of films which appeals to the Hindi speaking public.

The Tamizh actors are extremely lucky as they have formed a great market in Southern states especially in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana but that’s not the case with Hindi audience. Yeah some percentage of the population knows some of the Tamizh actors through their dubbed films on TV but again that is not going to help sell the films there. The first thing is the content. It is very important as to what movies we are dubbing in Hindi language. The kind of cinema which would mostly work is Big mass masala films like Bahubali 1 & 2, Pushpa & KGF or Movies about our Indian culture like Karthikeya 2 or Nationalistic films well made like RRR. The second most important factor is promotions. People might say that Nikhil did not promote Karthikeya 2 nor did Dulqar for Sita Ramam but again these films did great in the Hindi market.

The reason for the same is that Telugu cinema has created a lot of goodwill with the Hindi audience. They have released the right kind of films with the right kind of promotions which has made the audience there to take notice of any film which comes from that industry. This is what Tamizh cinema has failed to do in the last few years. We are thinking like in the 90’s when Roja, Bombay, Indian succeeded we can just dub a film and release a trailer 10 days before the release and that will bring the audience to the theatre. It does not work that way now. In the 90’s before Satellite channels, just movie posters were enough to sell a film to the audience and if released at the right time people used to come to theatres. They did not have the alternatives they have now in terms of OTT or TV which meant that they had to look at cinemas for entertainment.

Now in this era where marketing and promotions are crucial just dubbing a film and releasing it in any language isn’t going to work. Tamizh cinema also has this very poor trend of releasing movie trailers just a week or 2 before the actual movie release giving the actors just about 6-7 days to do the promotions. That may work in Tamil Nadu but will not work in rest of the country. For example “Naane Varuven” movie touted to release on the 29th of September just saw a teaser release on the 15th of the same month. That is ridiculous but again Dhanush’s popularity means that the audience will make it to the theatres despite no promotions.

In the past 2 years we just dubbed Master, Valimai, Beast etc in Hindi and released them in theatres without any promotions. Most of the Hindi audience don’t even know what these films are, so you cannot expect them to come to theatres. For Vikram, Kamal tried his best but again the time for promotions was very less and he was the only one doing the same. If Tamizh cinema are really serious about going Pan-India with their films, they need to take a leaf out of Telugu and Kannada industry. They need to see how they promoted their films over the past few years and how they have made a market for themselves all over the country. I think the problem lies with the producers who want the film to go Pan-India but again cannot convince the actors to actually promote the films

Tamizh cinema needs to wake up and realise that the method which has been working for them for decades in the state isn’t going to help them sell films to different audience across the country. The producers should stop advertising a film as Pan-India if the actors aren’t game to aggressively promote their films all over the country. If the actors are happy to just have their films release in southern states, so be it, the producers to make the films for just that audience. The next big film which is going Pan-India is Ponniyin Selvan (PS1). The director is Manirathnam who has had huge success across the country with his films. The film is just 2 weeks away from coming in theatres but we haven’t seen any promotional activities. The movie is clashing with one of the biggest Hindi films of this year, Vikram Vedha and the crew is still not taking this seriously it seems.

PS1 is a film which has a possibility of succeeding all over India. It has a theme of Indian history which Hindi audience like and with right amount of promotions this might become Tamizh cinema’s biggest hit of the year. The only good thing about the cast of PS1 is that everyone is game to promote the films. Vikram, Jeyam Ravi and Karthi always promote their films well which works in favour of the makers. The film will take a huge opening in Tamil Nadu as it is our history and we will for sure flock the theatres to watch the film but again the film needs to be promoted aggressively in other states for it to succeed. Manirathnam has done this in the past with his Hindi films so I am hoping that he understands what needs to be done to take his film to the nook and corner of the country.

To be frank if PS1 fails in Hindi, I don’t think we have any chance of getting a successful Pan-Indian film in the future from our industry. The film has the right content and the right actors to go all out to take the film to the audience, so if this fails that means it will be on the makers to not give enough time for marketing. The good thing is that the movie stars Aishwarya Rai in an important role which means that there will be promotions at least in Mumbai but I don’t think that will be enough. If PS1 succeeds it might give a template to other makers from Tamizh cinema as to how to promote films which they seem to not aware of due to the no-marketing culture in the industry. The stars need to wake up and smell the coffee. They get paid ridiculous amount of money to act in a film and I feel they need to make an effort to help out the producers if they want to go Pan-India with the content.

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