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Business News/ Industry / Will Kabali follow Sultan in bringing cheer to box office?
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Will Kabali follow Sultan in bringing cheer to box office?

Experts say Rajinikanth's 'Kabali' should see as big an opening as 'Sultan' and release in over 3,000-4,000 screens across the country

Rajinikanth’s ‘Kabali’, to be dubbed in Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam, will be distributed by Fox Star Studios across India except the southern markets.Premium
Rajinikanth’s ‘Kabali’, to be dubbed in Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam, will be distributed by Fox Star Studios across India except the southern markets.

New Delhi: Rajinikanth’s gangster drama Kabali is expected to open to gargantuan box office collections later this month. Salman Khan-starrer Sultan has already earned 180 crore over a five-day weekend and the Pa. Ranjith-directed film, which marks the return of the Tamil superstar to the screen after two years, too should see as big an opening and notch up 3,000-4,000 screens across the country, besides 400-500 screens overseas, say trade pundits.

“Post Robot (released in Tamil as Enthiran), Rajinikanth’s market has truly expanded beyond the south. Plus, unlike his previous films, Kabali has been promoted aggressively in the north too," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, citing the example of last year’s war epic Baahubali, whose fortunes changed when backed by a name like Karan Johar.

The Hindi version of director S.S. Rajamouli’s monster hit was presented by Johar’s Dharma Productions. The Rajinikanth film, to be dubbed in Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam, will be distributed by Fox Star Studios across India except the southern markets. Fox is said to have acquired the movie for 25-27 crore.

The one limitation for south Indian releases today remains the government cap on ticket prices. Unlike the north, where multiplex tickets may be sold at astronomical rates, films in Tamil Nadu cannot have ticket prices higher than 120.

“But of course, there are places like Bengaluru where things are more flexible. And there will be illegal ticket sales for the first couple of days for 200-300," said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai. “Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala should account for 40% of the film’s total screens and, in fact, the southern states should have more screens compared to pan-India."

The unique nature of the south Indian film industry, however, makes up for the low ticket prices.

“The collections may be low but the footfalls are always high," said film distributor Ramesh Sippy. “Firstly, there is no piracy because the fans are very loyal. Plus, the films sustain longer. Six weeks down the line, a south Indian film may do better than a Hindi blockbuster."

Pillai added that Kabali’s solo release on 22 July should help the film’s prospects; the only Hindi release around the time is soft porn comedy Great Grand Masti, which is meant for a completely different audience.

“It’s the first time that Rajinikanth is working with a new-age director like Ranjith. He’s more used to people like S. Shankar and K.S. Ravikumar with whom he shares a comfort level," said Pillai. Ranjith has earlier helmed critically and commercially successful ventures like Attakathi (2012) and Madras (2014), and Kabali, Pillai added, is being seen as his big ticket to superstardom.

“It doesn’t seem like the usual Rajinikanth film, it looks very story-driven," Pillai said. “Of course there are elements to please his fans but this one is not just about songs and dances."

To be sure, the Rajinikanth magic hasn’t always worked at the box office. The superstar’s last two outings, Lingaa (2014) and Kochadaiiyaan (2014), opened to fairly mixed reviews. The former, in fact, failed to make a profit despite grossing about 149 crore. But that, trade experts say, is unlikely to impact the superstar’s draw at the box office in any way.

“There is always speculation within the trade and the media," Sippy said. “But the audience doesn’t care. It’s the film that isn’t accepted, not the star. Unless of course, you come out with six terrible films in a row."

Plus, this is hardly something that will have a bearing on someone like Rajinikanth, the biggest superstar in the country and a phenomenon in the south, Pillai added.

“Lingaa and Kochadaiiyaan were also sold at unnecessarily high prices so the distributors couldn’t make a recovery. But with Kabali, Rajinikanth has asserted some control to make sure that doesn’t happen," Pillai said about the actor who has a record of personally compensating for the losses suffered by distributors. “Maybe that is the secret of his longevity."

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Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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Published: 12 Jul 2016, 11:54 AM IST
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