|The explosive team of Shankar and Rajnikanth recreates box office magic with a little help from age-defying computer graphics wand.|
Baba rules 'Sivaji' mania only gets stronger with the blockbuster attracting diverse audiences.
Rewind to 2005. Three films dubbed from Tamil swept through the box office with a combined gross collection of over Rs. 40 crore. And none of the straight Telugu films could reach the individual collections of those dubbed films that year made some i ndustrywallahs demand a ban on the dubbed films like in Karnataka or impose more tax like in Tamil Nadu. We will come to that later. Of the three dubbed hits of 2005 two films- Rajnikanth starrer, Chandramukhi and Shankar directed Aparichit hudu between them shared revenue of a little over Rs. 27 crore.
When the two men with Midas touch joined hands and released their film, Sivaji, it is time for fireworks, festivity, palabhishekams and even beerabhishekam to the icon's cut-outs as witnessed in some parts of Tamil Nadu and An dhra Pradesh. Of course behind the screen, there were more wireworks and computer graphics to show an aging super star agile and young. Tech savvy Shankar succeeded in this mammoth effort and Rajnikanth as Sivaji proved that he is still the boss of box office.
The Telugu version presented by Bellamkonda Suresh was released simultaneously in 325 screens across Andhra Pradesh on June 15 with a record 44 theatres in the twin cities and also as the opening film at Shiva Shankar a new theatre coming up in Saidabad. Has it not affected the release of so many Telugu films lined up for release for want of theatres?
"If anyone says so it is rubbish. Every film is releasing as per schedule. No film was stopped because of Sivaji and no film failed to get theatres because of Sivaji. If at all some films were delayed or cou ld not be released it is due to their financial or other problems," counters Bellamkonda Suresh. Industry leader and successful producer of blockbusters Daggubati Suresh Babu shares similar views. "If a film of a top star, say a Chiranjeevi film releases, others hold back for at least a week or two. It is a general practice in the industry. Anyway not many Telugu films are ready for release. This being the school admission season, people will be busy with that so there will be a slack in releases till the end of the month. Barring a couple of small budget films, not many films are releasing now. Even Gopichand's Lakshyam is postponed from June 28 to July 4 not because of lack of theatres but it is not yet ready. The next big release, Chiranjeevi's Shankar Dada Zindabad will only be towards end-July."
There is a talk in the trade with Sivaji's release, some Telugu films collections dipped to a low. "That is not true," dismisses Srinu Vytla whose Dubai Seenu is the one said to have been affecte d. "You must ask our distributors. They will give you the figures. In fact, Dubai Seenu's collections grew stronger as the film entered into its second week. So there is absolutely no impact (of Sivaji) a t all," he claims.
Bellamkonda Suresh reportedly bought the rights for a record amount much higher than what is said to be the price at which it was sold. Though AVM Productions, the original version's producers in a press release earlier stated that they sold the Telugu dubbing rights of Sivaji for around Rs.8 crore, Suresh is reluctant to disclose the actual figures. "It is between me and the AVM people. What matters is that the distributors and the exhibitors are happy and all are goin g to get back their investment within four weeks. On its fourth day today (June 18) all shows are houseful at all theatres. Some trade circles and those who couldn't exhibit the film in their theatres may talk adversely but the audience is absolutely feeling thrilled at the visual treat. The main point of the story on how black money is ruining our economy and the nation's progress has reached all sections."
Talking to a cross section of the audience revealed that they were indeed thrilled to watch the technical brilliance with which the film was made but most of them opined it lacked substance. Jay Pattabhi (23) a software engineer from Hyderabad who watched his favourite star's film first day first show says that he went to watch the punch lines and the stylish mannerisms of the Tamil super star.
"Gorgeous sets, the music and the spoof Rajni had done on N.T.R and Chiranjeevi and the comedy part are extremely good." His friend and fellow software professional Rajesh however is disappointed that Rajnikanth has not many punch dialogues and also felt that the climax is extended.
Aparna (18) a first year B.Com (Hons.) student says she is not a die hard fan of Rajnikanth yet saw the film out of curiosity after all the hype unleashed by the media.
"The publicity is like a Tsunami, you have no other choice you are force to watch the film," she laughs and continues, "I liked A.R. Rahman's music and the beautiful sets more so the glass set designed so delicately. The first half is enjoyable and the second half looks unrealistic." When asked whether he watched the movie, Suresh Babu nodded in the affirmative and said, "It is an old fashioned commercial film made on a very very lavish scale. Not many people make Rs.50 crore or Rs. 100 crore budget films. Rajnikanth surely is the most saleable star in India. The combination with Shankar created such hype and euphoria. Media helped the film to a great extent. Not many films will get that kind of free publicity from the media, especially the television. Even national news channels turned entertainment channels dishing out stories on Sivaji. And business channels too competed by reeling out business statistics. It is amazing."
Bellamkonda Suresh is surely cashing in on the publicity, and himself a marketing strategist, he says the film's expected long run is due to its appeal to all sections of audience and all age groups. "It is a universal subject and can be taken to any place and any country. A well made entertainer with a strong message." Does the success of Sivaji signals the return of dubbed films? How is the industry going to react to this as a couple of years ago there is a cry to ban the dubbed films. "Not a ban on dubbed films, some producers demanded the tax should be increased," corrects Daggubati Suresh Babu. "In fact, there is little variance in entertainment tax between Telugu and dubbed films in Andhra Pradesh. So some producers wanted a tax system like in Tamil Nadu, where the dubbed films are taxed more and straight Tamil films with Tamil titles enjoy tax free status. While the producers want more tax to be imposed on dubbed films, the exhibitors need more films to feed the theatres. So I don't see it happening."
Right now, even after a week of its release, the Sivaji mania is sweeping across many centres in Andhra Pradesh too. To quote the presenter, the flow of revenue is expected to flood the coffers for the next three or four weeks in as many centres as it is released
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