Though Deepavali is all about new clothes, sweets and crackers, the festival is incomplete without catching the latest release in theaters. Deepavali falls on a Tuesday this year and Thalapathy Vijay fans have started celebrating already as the most-awaited Sarkar is here. The film marks the third collaboration between Sarkar director AR Murugadoss and Vijay after Thuppakki (2012) and Kaththi (2014).
In the late eighties or early nineties, you’d see a dozen ‘big films’ compete with each other, and no release would be postponed due to ‘competition’. Now there are hardly multiple festival releases, and the industry is quite happy with the same, leading to an undivided business as top actors monopolise the festival dates. 2015 Deepavali saw the release of Kamal Haasan’s Thoongavanam and Ajith Kumar’s Vedalam. While in 2016, there was a clash between Dhanush’s Kodi and Karthi’s Kaashmora. During last year’s Deepavali, we had Mersal, Meyaadha Maan and Chennayil Oru Naal 2.
Earlier, it was announced that Suriya-Selvaraghavan’s NGK would also be released this Deepavali. Eventually, the producers announced on social media that the film will be released later. The makers of Thimiru Pudichavan also decided to back out of the festival race due to the lack of good theaters. This has paved the way for the release of two small budget films — Kalavaani Maapillai and Billa Pandi.
However, Sarkar remains the clear winner because of the incredible popularity of the ‘mass hero’ Vijay. In Tamil Nadu, the advance booking opened on November 2 and Sarkar will get screened in more than 3000 theaters all over India (including a dubbed version in Telugu).
On the condition of anonymity, a Tamil producer said, “It’s good when a film has a wide release. This prevents pirated copies from reaching Tamil Nadu after the immediate overseas premiere. After Rajinikanth, it’s Vijay at the box office. The theatrical rights of Sarkar have been sold for more than Rs 100 crore. Sarkar is a recent example of a big star getting a mid-week release. It doesn’t have to be a Thursday or a Friday. An actor of Vijay’s stature who has a loyal fan base and an opening would easily fill up theaters. Theri was also released on a non-Friday. The industry understands the importance of a festival release as so much time and money goes into the making and finalising the release date, besides sticking to it.”
Why are festival releases a big draw? “No big film will miss out on an opportunity to hit the screens that day because of the maximum occupancy in theaters. Whatever a film used to collect in a week’s time before makes up for a staggering 70 per cent business today. Only for a ‘big-star’ project, the audience mostly go to theaters as the rest can be watched on alternate digital platforms like Netflix legally. The success of any film depends on strong producers, distributors and a firm release date that guarantees a terrific opening. Sarkar will stay for a while at the box-office, and it’s not going to be easy for other films scheduled for release in upcoming weeks,” said a trade analyst.
Starting from the MGR-Sivaji Ganesan days till today, directors strive to release their films on Deepavali as it brings in the moolah and the recognition. For instance, MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar’s Haridas was released on Deepavali (October 16, 1944). It ran for 114 weeks in Broadway Cinema, Madras, and set an unprecedented record of being the first regional language film to do so. Another Deepavali release, Rajinikanth’s Muthu became the highest-grossing Tamil film at that time as it ran for 175 days.
Vijay has had eleven Deepavali releases so far — Chandralekha (1995), Priyamaanavale (2000), Shahjahan (2001), Bagavathi (2002), Thirumalai (2003), Sivakasi (2005), Azhagiya Tamil Magan (2007), Velayutham (2009), Thuppakki (2012), Kaththi (2014), Mersal (2017) besides this year’s Sarkar. It’s intriguing how his non-Deepavali releases like Kaavalan (2011), Thalaivaa (2013), Jilla (2014) and Bairavaa (2017) didn’t do considerably well. Theri (2016), which was released on Tamil New Year, is the only exception. If everything materialises as per the plan, Vijay will once again team up with Atlee (after Theri and Mersal), and one can expect the new project to release for 2019 Deepavali.
Sarkar will be an important film in Vijay’s career. During the audio launch of the film, the actor had said he would fight corruption if he becomes the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. He further added, “If I become the CM, I will not ‘act’ as the Chief Minister.” His statement raised many eyebrows and made everyone speculate if he’s hinting at political ambitions (after Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth). While his previous Deepavali release Mersal had a little bit of politics, Sarkar is expected to have lots of it. One may recall how the BJP sought a ban on Mersal for politically-charged dialogues on the GST and demonetisation. Several BJP leaders including Tamilisai Soundararajan had condemned the “misconceptions about the Government’s schemes” and in fact called for a removal of similar representations. Facing flak from the ruling party, the team had deleted the controversial scenes.
Vijay’s father and filmmaker SA Chandrasekhar has been vocal about the actor’s entry into politics. Even in October, he had said as a Tamilian, Vijay wants to do good for his people, and there’s nothing wrong if he takes the plunge.
The AR Murugadoss directorial has generated tremendous interest among moviegoers despite its run-in with plagiarism controversy. Chennai-based sports trainer Shyam Sundar, an ardent fan of Vijay, said, “I’ll be watching FDFS with my family at Rohini Cinemas, Koyambedu. Though K Bhagyaraj had told the story of Sarkar in one of his interviews, I’m still eager to watch the film like many other ‘anna’ (Vijay) fans out there. None of these controversies would really affect it. There’s no stopping Thalapathy.” But Shyam is disappointed about the lack of early morning shows. “The Tamil Nadu Government has not given permission yet. If this is not politics, what else is?”