Dussehra this year seemed more like Deepavali thanks to Friday, October 7, 2016! Everyone I knew was up and out early that day to catch whatever film they could get tickets for and by early I mean the 5 am shows. People, including yours truly, were frantically driving to and from theatres between the mid-morning and evening traffic-signals. The staple diet for 48 hours was popcorn (with butter, thank you!) vegetable puff, samosas and cold coffee.
If you were rushing between shows inside a single multiplex you also knew the sequence of advertisements to time your loo breaks. Its show-time folks! A total of seven films released across South India — three Tamil, two Malayalam, one each in Kannada and Telugu respectively. Our Dasami and Navami are being spent outside of our drawing room and this hasn’t happened to Tamil cinema since Kabali or Theri.
The release-day line-up began with this pecking order: Remo, Rekka and Devi(L). By now the order reads thus: Remo, Devi(L), Rekka, Pulimurugan (Malayalam), Premam (Telugu). Remo rides on the ‘Sivakarthikeyan wave’ and his ‘market’ spread overseas with the splurging publicity which had audiences watching FDFS no matter where the film was screened. But the film, though funny in parts, is regressive in its ideology, self-referencing and sexist boy vs girl dialogues which made me wonder — is this what it takes to produce a super-hit in Tamil? Despite Sivakarthikeyan’s comic-timing, Remo just etches his desire to fill into Rajinikanth’s shoes but this time he’s chosen a film that reads like a ‘stalker’s manual’.
Vijay Sethupathi’s Rekka comes off more like a ‘Ghilli (2004)-spoof’ which is long but enjoyable and has some emotional moments too with some self-referencing (not again!). A question to both Sivakarthikeyan and Vijay Sethupathi: dudes, what’s with all the harking back to your own films? Give us some better ‘masala’ next time!
Director Vijay ensures a joy-ride in Devi(L) without much fuss! RJ Balaji’s comedy, Tamannaah’s and Prabhudeva’s chemistry in both dancing and acting take this well-edited film ahead of its competitors in Chennai. Now what works beyond Chengelpet is a discussion for another day.
The unexpected roar at the Tamil Nadu box-office came from Mohanlal’s Pulimurugan which quickly added 8.50 am shows to accommodate audience demand. Again a formulaic hero-worshipping film, but the superlative action sequences by Peter Hein and Mohanlal’s convincing portrayal have the theatres screaming for more.
The Telugu Premam with Naga Chaitanya and Shruti Haasan is a declared winner too. Where are the meme creators who were drawing comparisons earlier between Shruti Haasan’s Sitara to Sai Pallavi’s Malar teacher? Few films like Devi(L) and Pulimurugan bridge the gap between social media opinion and box-office collection. The race to update scenes/songs/ratings of a film on Twitter or FB on a minute-by-minute basis, while watching the film like it is some cricket match, does not even make a tiny dent to the cash counters that keep ringing at the box-office. We can cry hoarse but Remo is laughing his way to the bank.