The last solo Mammootty blockbuster, ‘Annan Thampi’, happened in 2008. The other Mighty M, Mohanlal’s last single-hero success is even older—‘Hallo’ released in 2007. It is easy for Suresh Gopi to forget his last big solo hit. ‘Bharatchandran IPS’ happened in 2005.
In between, the supernovas did feature in blockbusters, but in the company of others.
Mammootty’s ‘Pokkiri Raja’ was the biggest success of 2010. But he had emerging star Prithviraj to share the burden. Mammootty’s solo attempts, except for ‘Pranchiyettan and the Saint’, which turned out to be a sleeper hit, did not enthuse the box office.
Mohanlal, for whom success befitting his stature was as elusive as a good script during the last four years, has two major hits this year —‘Christian Brothers’ and ‘China Town’. But in both the films he was only part of a constellation. In the first, he had Suresh, Dileep and Sarat Kumar for company. In the other, named after a Roman Polanski classic and clumsily pilfered from Todd Philip’s comedy ‘Hangover’, he was ganged up with Dileep and Jayaram.
Multi-starrers have emerged as a sure-fire formula for survival. While it allows the Mighty Ms (Mammootty and Mohanlal) to sustain their superstardom, it helps the lesser stars to stay afloat.
Suresh, who had long lost his star power, has just about managed to stay buoyant through multi-starrers like ‘Twenty-Twenty’ and ‘Christian Brothers’. Jayaram, whose string of hits dried up at least five years ago, is now setting the box office on fire with a series of ‘get-together’ hits. ‘Happy Husbands’, ‘China Town’ and ‘Seniors’ are examples.
Such cosmic spectacles are economically sound too. “A multi-starrer definitely commands more initial. The revenue in terms of satellite rights, overseas and out-of-state collections also will be higher,’’ says scriptwriter Udayakrishna of the Udayakrishna-Sibi K Thomas duo, the men behind superhits like ‘Twenty-Twenty’, ‘Pokkiri Raja’ and ‘Christian Brothers’.
‘Christian Brothers’, for instance, was made for Rs 9 crore. The producers made nearly Rs 5 crore by way of satellite, overseas and outside Kerala rights alone. Mecartin, of the Rafi-Mecartin team, who wrote and directed ‘China Town’ and a number of other winsome comedies, also feels that the initial would be considerably higher for a multi-starrer.
Mecartin admits that ‘China Town’ is not the best of their works but says it was the one that commanded the biggest initial. The film had 500 shows per day and funnelled in the production cost of over Rs 7 crore in just two weeks. An overwhelming initial is a must for the success of a film, Udayakrishna says. “Fake CDs are eating into our business and the cost of production shows no sign of coming down. A good initial is the only way to beat these factors,” he says.
Even producer Ranjith, who is not that keen on them, feels that multi-starrers are a smart way to bring the crowds back to the theatre. Still, a proliferation of multi-starrers could be harmful. “Such films are a treat if they happen once in a blue moon. Too much will be suicidal,” Mecartin says.
In the early 1980s, a period when fatigue for reigning stars like Nazir and Sukumaran had set in, there was a spate of multi-starrers featuring the big names and rising ones like Mammootty and Mohanlal. Is the latest swarm of multi-starrers, like the arrival of locusts before a storm, a sign of the fall of the Mighty Ms?