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Mumbai: Family members and master and student will clash at the box office in Tamil Nadu on 1 February with the release of Mani Ratnam’s highly anticipated Kadal and Bejoy Nambiar’s David.

Kadal, which stars veteran actors Arjun and Arvind Swamy alongside newcomers Gautham Karthik and Thulasi Nair, will be released on the same day as the Hindi-Tamil bilingual David, a movie produced by Ratnam’s cousin Sharada Trilok and directed by Ratnam’s former assistant Bejoy Nambiar.

Kadal will be released a week after Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam. Kamal Haasan, who is the director, producer and lead actor of the movie, is the uncle of Ratnam’s wife, actor and filmmaker Suhasini.

Speculation over Kadal’s release date was laid to rest after advertisements for the film appeared in Chennai newspapers over the weekend. It will be difficult to move around David, whose release was announced several weeks in advance.

Nambiar, who directed the crime drama Shaitan in 2011, has made David simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil with some changes in the cast (Jiiva appears in the role played by Vinay Virmani in the Hindi version). The Tamil version has also been dubbed into Telugu. “When you do a film in two languages, you have to look at what works best in terms of a release for both languages," said Sanjeev Lamba, chief executive of Reliance Entertainment, which is one of David’s producers and its distributor. “You can’t separate the films."

Officials from Madras Talkies, Ratnam’s production company, and Gemini Circuit, which has also produced Kadal, didn’t respond to requests for information. T. Mannan, whose Mannan Films has acquired Kadal’s distribution rights for Tamil Nadu, said he was unperturbed by the clash.

“Kadal’s audience is different from David’s," said Mannan, who recently distributed Kumki, a film about a mahout and his elephant. “Kadal, being a Mani Ratnam film, is a big release." Mannan Films will place Kadal in 300 theatres in the state. “In any case, cinema is sometimes a gamble," Mannan said. “Kumki has turned out to be a jumbo hit. Kadal too will be a super-duper hit movie. The director has made a cheerful film after many years and the songs are a hit."

Despite the competition, 1 February is a good date to target filmgoers, said Sreedhar Pillai, Chennai-based critic and trade analyst. Since school examinations will be held in the state at the end of February, the 1-22 February period offers the best possible release window, he said.

Besides, there is a “huge buzz" around Kadal because of its music, casting and the reputation of its director, said Pillai.

Set in a fishing village on the Tamil Nadu coast, the movie is about a young man, Thomas, who gets embroiled in a good-versus-evil battle between Arvind Swamy’s priest and Arjun’s gangster. Thomas is played by Gautham Karthik, whose father, eighties star Karthik, made his debut opposite Thulasi Nair’s mother, Radha, in Alaigal Oivathillai in 1981.

“Mani Ratnam is doing his first real Tamil film after many years," Pillai said. “His last few films were bilinguals, neither here nor there, and subsequently fell between two stools. He wants to come back to his core audience, the Tamil audiences, who have treated him with respect."

Kadal’s release won’t be restricted to Ratnam’s home turf—the movie will be dubbed in Telugu (as Kadali) and shown with English subtitles in other cities.

Over the years, movies made in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada have followed in the footsteps of migrants from the southern states to other parts of India. Prakhar Joshi, programming head at PVR Cinemas, said films from the south get regularly screened at places like Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, and Surat.

The audiences for such films are relatively small but highly dedicated, Joshi said. “Films produced by the studios and big producers tend to have English subtitles," he added, which helps expand the film’s appeal beyond its linguistic-regional base. Individual distributors tend to pick up the films for a release, said Joshi, which explains why they are often poorly promoted outside their home markets and rely heavily on word-of-mouth publicity to stay afloat in cinemas.

Audience goodwill tremendously helped a mid-budget film like Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya get a 29-screen release outside Tamil Nadu, said a Hindi film industry professional who helped the comedy’s co-producer in his distribution strategy. Kanna... was released with subtitles in such cities as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bharuch.

“The world is a very small place and people from everywhere are working everywhere," said the professional on the condition of anonymity. “Kanna came with strong word of mouth. It was released on 13 January, a Sunday, in Tamil Nadu and everywhere else on 18 January. The movie has got its fair share of response."

Southern films used to travel in their original, non-subtitled state to cities in the north and west even in the pre-multiplex days. The movies of A-list filmmakers from Hyderabad and Chennai, such as Mani Ratnam, would be regularly screened at matinee shows in Mumbai’s single screen cinemas.

Nambi Rajan, who operates the cinema hall Aurora in Mumbai and who distributes films through his company Ganesh Films, has brought such titles as Roja, Thiruda Thiruda and May Madham to Tamil-speaking Mumbaiites over the years. “The audiences were too small to release the films in a normal way, so we used to book morning shows," Rajan said. “The moment the bookings would open, the shows would get full."

Reliance’s Lamba predicted that “more and more regional films will be shown all over as we get more and more sophisticated about our distribution methods. There are migrant pockets all over the country, which will appreciate movies in their local languages."

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