Dec 29, 2008

Business - India;Flops mar film industry in South; only 10% films recover money

Call it 'no-show', box office 'jinx' or 'bombed'—all three adjectives, in true filmy style, sum up the script for southern film industry in 2008. As only about 10% of the films released in all the four languages managed to recover the money invested, or in a few cases made profits, the year will be remembered only for flop shows.

The Tamil film industry released 115 films (the last one on 26 December) and only ten films shined on the box office. Except for five films - Rajnikant's Kuselan , Kamal Haasan's Dasavathram , Vijay's Kuruvi, Vaaranam Ayiram starring Suriya, Silambattam of Silmbarasan and Agean of Ajit - all others were medium-budget films made at a cost of Rs 2-3 crore. Among the medium-budget films that accounted for the 10% of the total production were Subramaniapuram, Anjathey, Saroja , Kathalil Vizunthean, Poi Solla poarom and Poo. All others sank even without a trace. Although box office collections dipped and biggies such Rajnikant, Vijay and Ajit starrers bombed, there were a record number of debutants entering the filmdom. Around 35 male actors and an equal number of actresses debuted. New directors also made their mark.

Corporates such as Pyramid Saimira Ltd and Ayngaran International took a beating at the box office while Moserbear with Poo and UTV with Poi Solla Poroam managed to deliver hits. However, TV channels provided producers with some good news as telecast rights rates went up. Two major players Sun TV and Kalaignar TV were the main buyers of films' satellite rights. Sun TV launched their production, distribution and music company and created waves when they took over the Rajnikant-Aishwarya starrer Enthiran from Ayangaran International for a whopping Rs 150 crore. Cloud Nine, a banner floated by Dayanidhi Alagiri (grandson of Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi), distributed Vaaranam Ayiram, which went on to become a hit. The well-known actors in the industry were a happy lot since corporate production houses doubled their salaries in their race to get the dates. The year also saw a steep drop in overseas business of Tamil films whose income from abroad accounts for 26%.

In Karnataka the situation was slightly better. A total of 110 films were released and 20 films delivered hits. Newcomers could not click and old warhorses like Shivraj Kumar, Upendra, Darshan and Sudeep were the favourites of the viewers. Only two films Taj Mahal and Nanda Nandhitha starring newcomers did well. The producers, however, did not lose heavily since 50% of the cost came from satellite and DVD rights. The expenses too were kept in control and star prices did not shoot up since there were no corporate offering fancy prices.

In Andhra, the scene was different. Old timers took a backseat. Chiranjeevi moved to politics. Except for Venkatesh with Chintakalya Ravi who did average business and junior NTR with Kantri and Prabhas with Bujjigadu, no other big name had a release. The number of releases neared 90 and those which clicked were with young heroes and new faces. New directors with fresh themes were flavour of the season. Overseas business of Telugu films also took a beating because most of the hyped films bombed in 2007 resulting in steep fall in prices during 2008.

Kerala filmdom saw no visible change. Around 70 films were released and hardly 10 films could be termed hits. The two superstars Mammooty and Mohanlal along with Dilip and Suresh Gopi continued to rule the box office. Young heroes like Prithiviraj and Jaisurya, despite doing films with fresh themes, could not get public support. T20 a film in which all the superstars acted turned out to be the biggest grosser creating box office history. It was a film to raise funds for the Actor's Association. Malayalam film industry was plagued with battles between exhibitors, producers and technicians associations. Most of the issues had nothing to do with the industry but based on ego clashes. The theatre collections have been badly hit since the Left government is not much bothered about curbing DVD piracy.

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