One of the worst-hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, the entertainment industry would have heaved a sigh of relief with the visuals of frenzied fans celebrating the release of Vijay’s new film, Master, right from dancing in the streets to scores of thavils to milk being poured over giant cutouts. Billed as one of the most anticipated Tamil movies of 2020, Master also had pundits across Bollywood and Hollywood closely following each development. The film was supposed to revive the cinema industry’s fortunes as it ambled its way back to what could well be defined as the new normal.
The critics weren’t as happy, and the fans not let down, at least not entirely Master collected over Rs 200 crore worldwide within 20 days; this could well be amongst the last of the single-screen star extravaganzas. For a few years, the viewing habits of the audiences had been undergoing a transition, and on top of it, the mode of exhibiting films was also changing. But the pandemic that forced a complete shut-down of film theatres across the globe somewhere expedited the beginning of the end of the masala film star. When most film producers were negotiating the sale of films that were all set to release in cinemas to OTT platforms in the second quarter of the previous year, a handful decided to wait it out.
Globally, Christopher Nolan led the charge by deferring Tenet and closer home, Akshay Kumar along with Rohit Shetty, Salman Khan and Vijay refused to release Sooryavanshi, Radhe and Master respectively anywhere other than the traditional theatres. Master was originally slated to hit the screens in April 2020, the producers refuted countless rumours that hinted at an OTT release. In a way, Salman Khan and Vijay’s decisions were crucial for both the survival and the revival of the film industry in the classical sense of the word. Nolan’s Tenet did not set the box office on fire, and his reaction to Warner Bros., his long time producers announcing that 17 of their 21 titles for 2021 would debut on the OTT platform HBO Max immediately upon their release—has hinted things aren’t the same anymore.
One of the reasons why the end of the traditional film star has been in the offing for a while seems more emotional. It might also have to do with the coronavirus pandemic. Most entertainment trends post-April 2020 show an increase in nostalgia owing to lockdown, etc that stopped production of new material. The comparatively lacklustre response to both Tenet and Master shows how the same people who wanted the old to fight the blues, now seek something new. The problem with the traditional ‘star’ is that they might not have anything new to offer.
Gautam Chintamani email@example.com
Film historian and bestselling author