Irumbu Thirai is Vishal’s first release after the strike. Will it bring the actor back to the fore?

After the phenomenal collection of Avengers: Infinity War, the trade was still on the lookout for a hit from Kollywood after the strike was withdrawn. But last week’s release, the Gautham Karthik adult comedy Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuththu seems to have done the trick. The controversial film, which was panned by the critics, took a good opening and has been declared a hit.

The search continues for that film that will attract the family audiences who form the bulk of the summer holiday season viewers. This Friday, three straight Tamil films — Vishal’s cyber thriller Irumbu Thirai, Arvind Swamy’s Bhaskar Oru Rascal and Arulnithi’s thriller Iravukku Aayiram Kangal — along with the Tamil dubbed version of the Savitri biopic, Nadigaiyar Thilagam, are releasing in Tamil Nadu.

Among the May 11 releases, the focus is clearly on the long-delayed Irumbu Thirai, as the film is about something topical on vulnerability of data theft due to cyber criminals. The trailer of the film went viral and it built a lot of curiosity around the film. Vishal plays a farmer-turned-army man who is pitted against Arjun the antagonist, who manipulates cyber technology, with Samantha playing a psychologist.

With ‘Irumbu Thirai’, it’s make it or break it for Vishal

The pre-release buzz surrounding Irumbu Thirai had made it hot in the trade. The Tamil Nadu distributor of the film, Sridharan Mariadasan of Krikes Cine Creations, says, “It has shaped out well and is an edge of the seat thriller. We have been able to sell all areas in Tamil Nadu on attractive terms.”

In fact, Vishal had shown the film to a select audience and also did a “footage screening” for the media, and the feedback has been positive. The producers feel that the film will attract the family audiences and has potential to be a hit.

President versus star

Irumbu Thirai is one of the most important films in Vishal’s career. After a series of flops, Vishal’s last release, the Mysskin-directed Thupparivaalan, was an above-average grosser, which turned out to be profitable after sale of all rights.

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Now, Vishal needs a big hit to cement his place as a saleable hero and all eyes are on the box-office performance of Irumbu Thirai.

As president of Tamil Film Producers Council and Nadigar Sangam secretary, Vishal tops the Kollywood power list, which has created a lot of envy and enemies within the industry. And after the 48-day industry shutdown, where he took a tough line against Digital Service Providers (DSP), the knives are out.

Up in arms

Sridharan, the distributor who purchased the Tamil Nadu theatrical rights of Irumbu Thirai, made a serious allegation that a section within the trade was trying to sabotage the release of the film. Sridharan alleged that a powerful head of distributors association was calling up theatres and telling them not to screen the film.

A top distributor and exhibitor explained, “Vishal has upset a lot of people in the trade by his attitude in blaming distributors and exhibitors on all issues concerning film industry, from piracy to the lack of transparency in ticket sales. How can we forget the way he prolonged the strike, causing huge financial strain on the industry to a tune of nearly ₹150 crore. Now if the content of Irumbu Thirai works, everything will be forgiven and forgotten but if it fails, it will put a question mark on his box-office might.”

Meanwhile, a case has come up in the court alleging that the film is against the Central Government and its Aadhar policy, and its release should be stopped. Vishal is clearly fighting a fierce battle within Kollywood to get his Irumbu Thirai to the theatres.

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