New wave in Tamil Cinema: Small budget films outshine biggies
Yet another year in Tamil cinema, the small budget wonders outshine their bigger counterparts at the boxoffice battle. Recent hits include Kalavani, Tamil Padam, Pasanga amongst others.
For many generations, Tamil cinema’s 3Gs had been grandeur, glitz and glamour. But that has not been the story anymore at least in the last couple of years. While glitz and glamour have stayed, the other big G is replaced by good stories made on small budgets. Films made on a grand scale with elaborate star casts and shot at foreign locales have done badly at the box-office, while some small and medium budget films have earned decent returns.
Content seems to have overtaken currency, so to say. Trade analysts feel that the lifelines of the Tamil film industry are these small budget films which are a safer bet for all parties involved - producers, distributors and theatre owners. A close look at the recent trend reveals many interesting facts. Though not all the movies made on low budgets strike a chord with the masses, most films that did wonders at the box office are from this category, feel analysts.
Says K Balakumar, a film expert, “In trade terms, films are described as small (made at Rs 2 to 2.5 crore), medium (Rs 4 to 10 crore) and big (above Rs 10 crore). They respectively constitute 40-50 per cent, 30 per cent and 10 per cent of the films released in a year. However, today with the beating that the big films took at the box office, it is safe not to call any film big or grand until it hits the screens and wins over the audience,” he says, adding, “A handful of small budget films are making big bucks at the box office have now brought a sea change and broken many a myth in the industry.”
Shedding more light on the success of small films, he feels, “Subramaniapuram and Nadodigal seem to have started a trend in Tamil cinema. They are proof that all hopes are not lost for producers and if a movie has the right content and appropriate star cast, it can still woo in the masses.” Subramaniapuram, directed by Sasikumar with lesser known actors playing pivotal roles was reportedly made at a cost of approximately Rs 2.5 crore. However, it earned a return of almost 300 per cent the investment. So was the case with Nadodigal, which was made at Rs 3 crore, and earned over Rs 10 crore, according to reports. Says Sasikumar, who essayed a similar success story with his production venture, Pasanga, “I am here to present good scripts to the audience. I consider every film to be my first and strive to excel in whatever I take up. My priority is good scripts against huge budgets.”
Queried whether the success of his movies is a nail in the coffin for commercial clichés woven around stars, Sasikumar says, “All that I can say is the audiences are now ready for good cinema. One has to keep reinventing to sustain oneself in the race.”
Success of small budgets has impressed big stars too. A classic example is veteran Kamal Haasan, who chose to tread the path with Unnaipol Oruvan (2009), a remake of the Hindi hit A Wednesday. Unnaipol Oruvan was made at an optimum budget (considering Kamal’s movies are known for their grandeur.)
“It’s now time for Tamil cinema to introspect. If we decide to march ahead with technology and render quality films, then success is here to stay,” Kamal had remarked. Interestingly, Unnaipol Oruvan did well in all centres and made the producers - Raj Kamal Films International - distributors and exhibitors happy. And Kamal, who has always been an advocate of good scripts, even conducted a screenwriting workshop recently where he stressed the need for good content.
“The length of films will change. Our films will get shorter because attention spans will get shorter. Film personalities should tap every available platform to reach out to the masses,” Kamal had said. On the future trends in films, he added, “Cinema going digital (which is cost-effective) is the biggest technical change today. It would mean more creative attempts would be made and more content would be available for the masses. We have to accept that as it is happening globally and it will happen in Tamil Nadu also.”
Though director Shankar has made a name for himself wielding the megaphone for big and elaborate films, in his other role as producer, he has always opted for good content rather than huge budget. Right from his first production venture Kaadhal (2004) to the recently released Ananthapurathu Veedu, all his films by S Pictures are rich in content and moderate in budget.
Tracing the trend, Kalaipuli G Sekaran, president, Tamil Film Distributors Association, says, “2009 was the worst year for the Tamil film industry. Only half a dozen films out of the 131 released managed a 100-day run, while the rest vanished without a trace. It is time for some serious introspection.” “Not just the producers, but also the distributors and theatre owners suffered huge losses,” Sekaran says adding, “Big budget films starring popular artistes need not always translate into success. Even small films made with conviction can do wonders.”