Will Rajinikanth silence his political opponents with a hit film?

A lot is riding on Kaala for Rajinikanth. It is his first release after he announced his plunge into politics and comes almost two years after the release of Kabali  on July 22, 2016. The superstar, who is going through a tough time after his controversial visit to Thoothukudi, badly needs the film do all the talking at the box-office. If the film turns out to be a hit or take a fantastic opening, Rajinikanth will not only silence his political opponents in Tamil Nadu but he will also retain his hold over the box office.

However, like all recent biggies, Kaala is facing several hurdles. As of now, the Karnataka High Court has directed the State government to provide security in theatres screening the film. This comes after the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) and pro-Kannada outfits wanted a ban on the film in protest against Rajinikanth’s comments on the Cauvery row.

But the shocker was Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy saying, “We need to follow the High Court order, at the same time on a personal level, I’m not in favour of releasing the film, as it will create unnecessary controversy, and as a film producer and distributor, I feel the producers of Kaala should keep away.”

Certain Bengaluru multiplexes will follow the court order and screen the film, as Kannada activists have resolved to camp outside theatres screening the film, urging people not to watch it. There are also two writ petitions filed by private individuals in the High Court asking for a stay on the film’s release.

Home State

But all eyes are on how big Kaala’s opening will be in Tamil Nadu, Rajinikanth’s core market, which makes up almost 80% of the film market. The trade buzz is that barring one or two areas in the State, the film is being marketed on advance commission basis, which means a distributor will pay an amount as advance, which will be adjusted against collections after its run. This is risky as far as the producer is concerned, as nobody is willing to pay an upfront Minimum Guarantee (MG) amount.

As per trade sources, it is the first Rajinikanth film which has not been pre-sold before release in many areas, and is being screened on advance commission basis.

Lukewarm bookings

The usual hysteria surrounding a ‘Thalaivar’ big release is clearly missing. And what shocked the trade was how the response to advance booking was lukewarm at best, even in Tamil Nadu. As Rakesh Gowthaman of Vettri Theatre in Chromepet explained, “The advance booking has not been very encouraging. The pressure for tickets is only from hardcore fans for the opening day. Tickets for the weekend, which normally get sold within hours of advance booking, is not there for Kaala.”

However, a spokesperson of a leading Chennai multiplex said, “We have sold over 30,000 tickets of Kaala in advance in all our properties for the opening weekend.”

And with schools reopening and the monsoons affecting the release in many parts, it has dampened the enthusiasm among family audiences. Another reason given by various theatre owners is that most screens have increased their ticket rates marginally for the opening weekend on the advice of the distributors. Many multiplexes, which were charging below government rates to attract viewers, have now gone back to full rates for the Rajinikanth film. For example, the ticket rate of a normal Tamil film in a popular Chennai multiplex, which was ₹165.78, has been hiked to ₹207.25.

The film’s promotion has been low key. Rajinikanth had to face the ire of the social media after his comments on the Thoothukudi issue. The outrage online worked against the film as it was the opposite of one of his dialgoues from it where he says, “Namma udambuthaan namakku irukira orae aayudham. Koottungada makkale” (Our body is our only weapon. Organise the people).

Low key promotions

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where the dubbed Telugu version is releasing, Rajinikanth himself was present to promote the film. However, in Kerala, where the film is releasing wide, the trade is sceptical as it is the Ramzan fasting period.

In the North Indian market, where the Hindi version of the film is releasing, the buzz is low again due to the Ramzan fasting period and the onset of the monsoon in the crucial Mumbai market. And there is stiff competition from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which is releasing on the same day in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

Mumbai-based trade analyst Atul Mohan says, “The buzz on Kaala in the North India circuit is low, despite having known Hindi faces like Nana Patekar, Pankaj Tripathi and Huma Qureshi. This may be due to factors like the film being postponed quite a few times, the trailer looking like a 90s film and the film releasing in the pre-Eid week [June 7], the dullest week as far as cinema is concerned. But we hope the content works as Rajinikanth still has a huge fan following.”

It’s a film that’s as crucial to Rajinikanth the star as it is to Rajinikanth the politician.

Source: Read Full Article