Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha starrer 96, which hit screens on October 4, has premiered on Sun TV for Deepavali. It’s quite unusual for a successful film, still running in theaters, to be screened on a popular television channel. Trisha took to Twitter to express her disappointment on the same. She wrote, “It’s our 5th week and we’ve about 80 percent occupancy in all theatres. We, as a team, feel it’s unfair to be premiering 96 this early. It’s our request to push it to a Pongal viewing please, Sun TV. Will be grateful.” Despite similar requests from the crew and fans all over, Sun TV chose to go ahead with airing of the film.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, writer-director Prem Kumar said the situation is unfortunate. “I don’t have a say on anything once the rights of the film are sold. Despite Sarkar’s huge opening, there are takers for 96. I’m extremely grateful to the audience for that.” He further added, “Though senior filmmakers, technicians and actors had a lot of good things to say about 96, I feel it didn’t get its due. Had the film belonged to any other industry — like Telugu or Malayalam cinema, they would have celebrated it!”
Prem is also equally disappointed by the plagiarism allegations. “I had brought a bound script (the handwritten copy of the story) to the press meet to clear the air. Further, a copy of my script was also registered with the South Indian Film Writers’ Association. First, I had narrated the story to Balaji Tharaneetharan, Vijay Sethupathi and producer Nandagopal followed by my good friend, Kumararaja Thiagarajan. The story discussions were pretty much attended by my friends,” he elaborated.
The director rues how until the time of the release, nobody claimed rights over the film. “Only after it was declared a success, we see one by one say the story is theirs,” he added. Prem Kumar admitted 96 does have a couple of similarities with Alex Lehmann’s Blue Jay. “I watched the trailer, but I had registered the film in April, and that film was released in September,” he told us.
What’s his say on the recent releases like U-Turn streaming on Netflix? “I wonder how many people in Tamil Nadu have access to Netflix and Amazon, whereas half the population do subscribe to traditional cable TV.”
However, Prem said, “96 is a hit film. That’s all matters. If one wants to experience the film in theaters, he’ll come to cinema halls no matter what.”
What about recent films like Viswaroopam 2, Kaala, Mersal, Irumbu Thirai and Padmaavat that are telecast on television? Does it hold any significance in the age of YT and other alternate digital platforms? “Of course, it does — for many who don’t visit theaters and the crowd that aren’t tech-savvy. Mostly, our target is the average-middle class-family audience,” said a content producer of a Tamil television channel.
But how does this satellite business work? “Say a star announces a project, the same day the satellite rights are sold which fetches up to 40 percent of the film’s budget. There are recent films whose satellite rights are not sold yet, because the makers feel the skyrocketing price of satellite rights no longer is profitable to the return on investment. In multiple cases, you see channels repeat the telecast of old films than the new ones for better TRP ratings,” added the content producer.