Chennai: Ajith Kumar, a human resource professional working at a major software company, couldn’t brave a 50,000-strong crowd, so he just spent Rs500 instead, a premium of more than five times, to grab an eyeful of Sivaji: The Boss.
Cinemas in Chennai, facing an unprecedented demand, have already sold out all the tickets for the entire first week of the much-hyped and anticipated Tamil movie.
For Kumar, any movie with actor Rajnikanth in the lead, a first day first show is a must. But it’s not just Kumar, and individuals like him who are willing to stretch their wallet, often braving the heat and long lines at ticket counters.
Scores of Indian companies here are blocking seats for their employees—for what is dubbed as one of the most expensive films in India.
“More than 60% of weekend tickets are booked by corporates, mostly by software” and business process outsourcing sectors, said Udeep Bogulu, chief executive officer of Mayajaal Entertainment, a multiplex in the outskirts of the city with six screens and a total seating capacity of 4,500. “This is the first time we are seeing such bulk booking from corporates for a Tamil movie”.
His claims of bulk ticket buyers include local affiliates of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Technology Services Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd.
Some companies have booked between 15 and 20 shows on three different days for the movie, he said.
Bulk booking from corporates mean extra revenue for multiplexs such as the one Mayajaal runs and others. Though movie tickets are capped at Rs120 per ticket because of the Tamil Nadu government regulations, Bogulu said they hoped to earn an average of Rs300 from every corporate employee who comes to watch the movie because of add-ons. His movie complex, for instance, has an eight-lane bowling alley with food courts.
Distributors and multiplex owners say they expect record demand for the film. Mayajaal alone hopes to earn Rs70 lakh from ticket sales in just the first two weeks. The previous hit, Chandramukhi, also starring the 57-year-old Rajnikanth, raked in the same amount, but over eight weeks.
In the case of Satyam Cinemas, a multiplex located within the city, the entire first week of the release was sold out on the day tickets went on sale. Rajnikanth fan clubs have pretty much booked all the initial days, said a Satyam Cinemas spokesperson.
An employee of HCL Technologies Ltd, who did not wish to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said the company had booked an entire show on Saturday night, the second day after the release, for its employees.
A Cognizant official said the company is not sponsoring tickets but initiatives have been taken at the various divisional levels, where large numbers of tickets are being booked for different work teams.
The Tamil film industry, rarely declares the cost of production or the payment made to artists, director and technicians. Various media reports, which could not be independently verified by Mint, said Sivaji cost between Rs70 crore and Rs80 crore, with Rajnikanth alone being paid around Rs25 crore. Neither Rajnikant, nor the director of the film could be reached for comment.
S. Shankar, who directed one of the Tamil movie industry’s other recent hits, Anniyan, is the director of the movie. He is also touted as the highest paid director, but this could not be confirmed. A.R. Rahman has composed the music. The film is produced by AVM Studios, one of the oldest production houses. Although Sankar is acclaimed as the most successful director in the industry here and Rajnikanth as the most popular Tamil hero with legions of fans, they have both had their share of flops, including Rajnikanth’s Baba, which did not do well in the box office.
GV Films, which has taken the distribution rights for Sivaji in Chennai, along with another company, has paid Rs6.5 crore, almost 2.5 times more than the previous highest paid in Chennai circle of Rs2.5 crore, said A. Venkataramani, director of GV Films.
The number of prints released to theatres in Chennai alone is 17, which is also a record, compared with six or seven. A greater number of prints implies the film can be shown in more cinemas.
“The brand ‘Rajnikanth’ has a wider appeal cutting across all sections of the audience, which is rare to find in a Tamil movie,” Venkataramani said.
Rajnikanth, a Maharashtrian, whose given name is Shivaji, was selling tickets on state transport buses before he started his movie career in 1975, starring mostly in Tamil language films.