South Indian films trump note-ban woes with robust box-office pickings

Leading the pack is Telugu cinema, that has seen as many as four blockbusters since PM Modi’s demonetisation move


The figures of collections of south Indian films seem especially impressive considering the south is a cash-driven market and lacks an organized ticketing system in many places. Photo: AFP
The figures of collections of south Indian films seem especially impressive considering the south is a cash-driven market and lacks an organized ticketing system in many places. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in November on demonetisation of high-value currency notes, may have spelt doom for Bollywood but some regional films, industry experts claim, managed to trump the cash crunch following the note ban.

Leading the pack is Telugu cinema that has seen as many as four blockbusters in these two months. Most of these were star-driven vehicles.

For instance, Ram Charan-starrer Dhruva, an action thriller directed by Surendar Reddy has made more than Rs70 crore since its release in early December.

“That makes a distributor share of Rs50-55 crore alone. Besides being driven by Ram Charan’s star power, the film also carried good reports,” said Tarun Tandon, managing director at distribution company Indra Films.

The other money-spinners, Tandon said, were the Pongal releases including a low-budget family entertainer Shatamanam Bhavati, which featured Sharwanand and Prakash Raj in the lead roles.

Made at a cost of Rs3-4 crore, the film should cross Rs20 crore in total box-office collections. Other films that cashed in on the festive weekend were epic historical action film Gautamiputra Satakarni that earned Rs 60-70 crore and Chiranjeevi-starrer Khaidi No.150 that has made more than Rs100 crore in collections. All these figures refer to the films’ earnings in Andhra Pradesh alone.

“Box-office collections can depend much on the star. Bigger the star, higher are the expectations. In this case, Chiranjeevi has broken his own previous records of Rs 40 crore,” Tandon said. The action drama marks the megastar’s comeback to acting after 10 years in his 150th film.

Shatamanam Bhavati, Khaidi No.150 and Gautamiputra Satakarni have also impressed audiences overseas, netting Rs 4.45 crore, Rs16.08 crore and Rs10.70 crore, respectively, in the United States.

Meanwhile, in the last two-and-a-half months, several Hindi films have garnered underwhelming collections—offerings like Rock On!! 2, Tum Bin 2, Kahaani 2, and Ok Jaanu only made Rs10.47 crore, Rs4.42 crore, Rs32.92 crore and Rs19 crore, respectively.

The non-Telugu films to make a mark within this period include Tamil romantic comedy Kavalai Vendam and director Gautham Menon’s Tamil romantic actioner Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada that grossed Rs8.65 crore and Rs. 26.50 crore, respectively, in their opening weeks, Tamil thriller Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru that made about Rs 4-5 crore overall and Kannada film Kirik Party that earned Rs6 crore in its opening weekend alone.

Unlike the Telugu offerings, these movies boasted of no stars and relied entirely on critical appreciation and word-of-mouth praise.

“These are all offbeat films and can be classified as multiplex hits,” said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai. “They had something different to offer and good content always works.”

The numbers seem especially impressive considering the south is a cash-driven market and lacks an organized ticketing system in many places.

“Profits for a film depend on its cost. While a regular south Indian film made under Rs 10 crore succeeds if it earns anywhere between Rs10-15 crore, big starrers are expected to notch up at least Rs 30 crore,” said film trade and business expert Girish Johar.

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