The Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, one of India’s premier technology institutes, featured prominently in the release plan of the latest Telugu film, Magadheera (Great Warrior). While the film released in all major towns and cities of Andhra Pradesh and Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, it was interesting to note that three prints of the film were also earmarked for simultaneous screening in the Pilani, Goa and Hyderabad campuses of BITS Pilani.
This perhaps best indicates the magnitude and hype of the film, which released last week across the world.
In India, films on the theme of reincarnation are a safe formula for success. Magadheera belongs to the same genre. It has an interesting plot which begins in 1609 with a love story between a warrior and a princess who are killed and are reborn 400 years later to take the film to its logical conclusion. The film has been extensively and stylishly shot in Rajasthan and Gujarat and treated more like a Hollywood movie.
The films stars Ram Charan Teja, son of Telugu cinestar Chiranjeevi, in only his second film. However, that is not the film’s only claim to fame. The film has been produced by Allu Aravind, who last produced the Hindi blockbuster Ghajini. It is directed by S.S. Rajamouli, who is considered to be the director with the Midas touch, having learnt the ropes under legendary director K. Raghvendra Rao. Kajal Aggarwal plays the female lead.
The film was released with 500 prints and in 1,250 screens across the world. In the overseas circuit, the film was picked up by Supreme Movies for a minimum guarantee (MG) of Rs2 crore and was released as far and wide as in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the Gulf countries with 25 prints and in about 45 screens.
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The film cost Rs41 crore including print and advertising (P&A). This makes Magadheera one of the costliest and most widely released Telugu films. But to give credit where it is due, it was a classic case of a team working together to not leave any stone unturned and make a genuinely successful film without depending just on star power it had at its disposal.
The music of the film is by M.M. Keeravani and was designed to complement the film, traversing from the period setting to the modern one. While Daler Mehendi, interestingly, joins in for a fast-paced song Jorsey, there was also a bit of a sentimentality thrown in by remixing the song, Bangaru Kodipetta from Chiranjeevi’s earlier film, Gharana Mogudu, and added to the film. It was a widespread rumour that the short appearance made by Chiranjeevi during this song would be his last appearance on screen. We are sure that this piece of news would have added to the hype around the film.
To curb piracy, a whopping 500,000 units of audio cassettes were flooded into the market within hours of the music launch. Also, in one of the firsts, the MP3 version of the music was also simultaneously released to cater to the youth. The way the entire music release was handled, it definitely helped the film gain the initial hype.
Apparently, Gemini TV, the rival of Maa TV in Andhra Pradesh, offered a price in excess of Rs5 crore for the satellite broadcasting rights of the film to the producer. But it’s a complicated scenario because the film’s producer, Allu Aravind, is a director in Maa TV. Let us wait and watch how high the satellite prices will go and how the situation will be resolved.
UFO Movies, the satellite-based digital cinema network, converted 55 screens into digital screens in just 10 days to catch the deadline of the film’s release. To add to this, the film garnered a lot of MGs and got huge showcasing at the cinemas.
There was a case of INOX Cinema in Vijaywada playing the film in all shows and in all auditoriums in the first week and all shows were house full in the first three days. It was a case of sheer hysteria.
Behind closed doors, it is said that the calibre of a film’s success is measured by the price at which its tickets are sold in black at the cinemas. It’s almost unbelievable that in the times when films struggle to do full houses due to wide releases, the tickets for Magadheera were selling in the range of Rs600-800 per ticket during the weekend.
Can there be a bigger indicator of a more successful film in recent times to have released in India?
In its opening week, the film has done a distributor share of Rs20 crore in India, including the MGs received, and is expected to reach the share of almost Rs38-40 crore as the film continues to run on full houses everywhere. This will probably end up being the most successful Telugu film, beating the record of Pokhiri starring Mahesh Babu.
But what is truly exciting for a cinema connoisseur is the fact that here is a film which is on the verge of doing better business than any other recent Hindi film in sight.
In fact, Magadheera could well be on its way to becoming one of the most successful films of 2009. This is the power of regional cinema that we so often ignore.
Ashish Saksena is an executive with extensive experience in India’s entertainment sector and was previously CEO of PVR Pictures. His column looks at the business side of Bollywood releases. Respond to his columns at email@example.com