Anxiety. If you had to encapsulate what the average Vijay fan went through on Thursday, it would be sheer, unyielding anxiety. By the end of the day it became painfully obvious that the film would not release on August 9 as theatres announced that people could receive their ticket refunds at the counters.
If legal wrangles and bomb threats on Wednesday caused doubts about whether Vijay’s Eid release Thalaivaa would open, the twists and turns caused by distributors and theatre owners made things a whole lot worse on Thursday. Till 10 pm, both groups remained locked inside the Producers Council conference room debating whether the film could possibly be released. “The meeting is still going on and whether Thalaiva will release is still a suspense,” said a spokesperson for the production house, Sri Mishri Productions. The suspense had a sad climax as the movie’s release was put off without so much as an official announcement from the makers.
All theatres across the State had sold out tickets for Friday and Saturday, when advance booking opened for an hour on Wednesday night, but quickly closed booking at the first hint of trouble. Fans who had planned to do their usual ‘Vijay-dharshana’ by having the film’s print brought to a theatre on a horse-driven carriage, were shattered as they waited outside Udhayam theatre hoping that there would be good news. Sadly, it never came.
Things started positively on Thursday when the film was shown to officials from the Commercial Taxes Department who wished to see the film before issuing the tax waiver certification. After the show, that began at 11 am ended, representatives of the actor said that “all is well” and announced that all hurdles had been cleared for the film’s release. Trouble, however, cropped up when the distributors and theatre owners met for a final meeting a little after 6 pm.
Vijay’s film was set to have a massive 500 screen release and things were coasting along until bomb threats were made to multiplexes in Chennai by a group called the TN Oppressed Students Revolutionary Force. Almost simultaneously, concerns were raised that the film portrayed Vijay as a political saviour - something that the actor was quick to deny in a statement. “Theatre owners are worried that their property might be vandalised. There is also a sensitive angle here because there is a hint of politics involved,” said a distributor from the Salem region, speaking to ‘Express’ on condition of anonymity. Thalaivaa is a coming-of-age tale, where Vijay becomes the leader of the Tamils living in the Mumbai slums.
This is the second time this year that a film has had its release cancelled at the last minute. Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam was delayed after protests from Muslim groups and had to go through several legal tussles and censor cuts before releasing two weeks later. Sources close to the producer have indicated that the release date may be decided post August 12.
The good news for the producers is that the film opened in theatres across Singapore, Malaysia and is set to open in the UK and US as well.