New Delhi: More than three decades after Mani Ratnam first took to the director’s chair, trade experts say his charm still works for the audience, even as the demographics of his fan base may have changed. His latest outing, Tamil romantic thriller Kaatru Veliyidai has made close to Rs8 crore over its first weekend, according to independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai. The film opened to solid advance booking particularly in Chennai, Chengalpet and Coimbatore, which make up more than 99% of Tamil Nadu’s multiplexes. It earned $271,628 (Rs1.75 crore) in the US.
“Unlike his earlier films like Thalapathi (1991) and Bombay (1995) that were loved by the masses, Mani Ratnam’s films appeal more to niche and targeted audiences now,” said Rakesh Gowthaman, managing director of Vettri Theatres in Chennai. “Kaatru Veliyidai has received a limited release in ‘A’ centres and has opened extremely well in cities and suburbs.”
The film, a complex love story revolving around a prisoner of -war with a dysfunctional past, has not exactly been lapped up by the masses. Like Ratnam’s last film O Kadhal Kanmani (2015), which dealt with the modern issue of live-in relationships, it remains a favourite more with city and multiplex audiences. Gowthaman added that the gradual disconnect with universal audiences may be why Ratnam is increasingly looking at pan-Indian movie fans—his last few Tamil films like Aaytha Ezhuthu (2004) and Raavanan (2010) were multilingual projects, simultaneously shot and released in Hindi as Yuva and Raavan, respectively. Even O Kadhal Kanmani, though shot in Tamil language, was based in Mumbai city and featured Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen, primarily Malayalam cinema stars, in lead roles.
Kaatru Veliyidai was promoted aggressively on the social media with Ratnam doing more video interviews than he has done during all his career. It rode on the director’s brand name and the Ratnam-A.R. Rahman combination that completes 25 years of association. The film, starring Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari, also had to contend with Vijay Sethupathi’s massy action thriller Kavan that released on 31 March and has earned Rs10 crore by the end of its first week. While the shows have been divided between Kavan and Kaatru Veliyidai for now, the real acid test has begun after Monday. Besides, for the festive Tamil New Year/Easter weekend this Friday, three new films will be vying for theatre space—Dhanush’s directorial debut Power Paandi, Arya’s jungle adventure Kadamban and Lawrence’s horror comedy Sivalinga.
“The film has got a good opening in the multiplexes but what’s worrying is the release of Fast & Furious 8 this week,” Pillai said.
The previous instalment of the Vin Diesel action film franchise was the first Hollywood movie to cross the Rs100 crore mark in India when released in 2015 and the new film will see a wide release in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, besides English.
“The seventh instalment had done extraordinarily well and the eighth one is expected to do even better. The market for dubbed Hollywood content is very strong in Tamil Nadu and the film should get more screens than any Tamil movie at the moment,” Pillai said.