November 2, 2002 
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No big Tamil film release this Diwali
Ajith and Vijay contend for top spot

Shobha Warrier in Chennai

There was a time in Tamil Nadu when more than 20 films were released during Diwali. But, with every passing year, the number is falling and it has reached an abysmal low this year. Only ten films were censored for Diwali.

There was also a time when people would look forward to the new releases as watching films was the only mode of entertainment during the holidays. They did not mind spending a Diwali evening inside some dingy cinema hall for they had no other choice.

With the advent of television, people preferred to confine themselves to their homes, munching sweets and murukku and sitting in front of the television set. And this has become quite popular, more so due to the wide variety of fare that the channels dole out every festival season. Diwali programs are dominated by films and film stars. And when films and film stars come to your homes free of cost, why would you stand in a queue, spend money, buy tickets and sit in a dark room for more than three hours? This attitude of movie-goers has affected the film industry rather badly.

And this trend does not stand for the Diwali festival alone. In the past year, how many major hits did the Tamil film industry have? Only Saran's Gemini (starring Vikram, Kiran) can be described as a huge hit. Okay, there were films like Azhaki, Nanda, Rojakkoottam, Shahjahan, Thullatha Ilamai and Samudram which completed 100 days.

Madhavan’s Run is doing well but it is not a BIG hit. The most awaited film, which was expected to lift the sagging fortunes of Tamil film industry --- Rajnikant’s Baba --- damaged the fortunes of the Tamil film industry more than it damaged Rajnikant.

Diwali was always looked at as incomplete if there was no big releases from the super stars; if it was MGR and Sivaji once, it was Rajnikant and Kamal Hasan in the last couple of decades. It was in the battle field of Diwali releases, depending on the box-office reception of the films, that the supreme star was decided. But in the absence of this, films starring actors like Ajith and Vijay have taken over.

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Ajith [right] in Villain As both Rajnikant and Kamal Haasan have taken a bow this time, the competition is between Ajith and Vijay. Neither of them have reached the heights that the formers had once conquered and both need a hit very badly. The situation is pretty precarious for Ajith as three of his latest films bombed at the box office. The much hyped Citizen, with Ajith’s pronouncements that he was working to get a National Award, was disappointing. The film proved that different make ups do not make anyone a great actor. And even on the second day of the releases of Red and Raja, the ticket counters were empty.

After these disasters, Ajith’s stakes are high in the forthcoming Villain. For the first time, he is directed by a well known director, K S Ravi Kumar. Ajith, who had preferred to work only with newcomers and was criticised for interfering with the script and direction, perhaps had to stick to acting in Villain, as Ravi Kumar is the man who has given major hits to Rajnikant and Kamal Haasan. The film sees Ajith in a double role (two brothers), just like in his most successful film Vaalee. The film costars Kiran and Meena. One of the brothers is mentally challenged. Everyone hopes that Villain can do another Vaalee to Ajith’s career.

So far, most of Vijay’s films have done reasonably well commercially, and his last film Youth has done more than average business all over Tamil Nadu. But that one big hit has been eluding him. His Diwali release Bhagavathy (costarring Reema Sen) is an important film for him.

So the competition will be between Villain and Bhagavathy and the fate of the films will decide the new superstar.

Vijay [left] in Bhagavathy T Rajendran, the man who has been producing, directing, acting, editing and giving music to all his films, is not acting in his latest film Kathal Azhuvathillai. Instead, he is launching his son Silambarasan as a hero. Silambarasan had acted with his father as a child star and was appreciated then. We will soon know whether this talented young man will make it or not as an adult. In all probability, he will.

Vijayakanth, who was once described as the “poor man’s Rajnikat” is the most loved hero in the interiors of Tamil Nadu. Naturally, his Diwali release Ramana with Simran as the costar is expected to do well.

But the film that many who love “good cinema” are looking forward to is Thankar Bachan’s Solla Marantha Kathai. Thankar Bachan, the cinematographer turned director amazed everyone with his first film, the sensitively made Azhaki. The film not only ran 100 days, surprising many, but also won the National Award for the best Tamil film. Solla Marantha Kathai starring noted director Cheran as the hero will be the surprise package of Diwali.


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