Tamil cinema trading off quality with quantity?

Chennai, June 11 (IANS) One hundred films in just five months is a number the Tamil industry could be proud of, but what dampens the filmmakers' spirit is that only five out of them were hits. The big question plaguing the industry is: Why isn't it able to generate content-rich films, let alone blockbusters?

One of the common reasons is the dependency on stars, feels Tamil filmmaker Seenu Ramaswamy.

"I agree these superstars give a Rs.100 crore business, but when their films fail at the box-office, a lot of money is going down the drain. Instead of investing so much in them, if producers choose to fund quality films made by newcomers, then the probability of success will be higher," Seenu told IANS.

While all big-budget films such as "Alex Pandian", "Kadal" and "Aadhi Bhagavan" failed to keep the cash registers ringing, the five that kept the business going at the box office included "Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya" (KLTA), "Soodhu Kavvum" and "Ethir Neechal" by debutant directors.

The other two hits were "Vishwaroopam" and "Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga" (KBKR).

KLTA, reportedly made for Rs.3 crore, collected Rs.12 crore at the box office, while "Soodhu Kavvum" and "Ethir Neechal", both made under Rs.5 crore, collected Rs.8 crore and Rs.12 crore respectively.

"If a film made on Rs.5 crore can yield the same profit as a Rs.100 crore film, then I don't see the need to always dream of making a big budget film. Big actors should also be open to working with debutant directors, who guarantee success," said Seenu.

The actors may be hesitant in working with new talent, but the industry is more receptive to newcomers, admited producer C.V. Kumar who entered filmdom last year riding on a small budget out-of-the-box successful movie, "Attakathi".

"The Tamil industry has been open to fresh stories and young talent in the last two years. Even bigger production houses are coming forward to support new stories, but what we lack is content. While a legion of young filmmakers are on the rise, industry is still toying with the idea of making commercial film for the masses," said Kumar who also delivered two more hits - "Pizza" and "Soodhu Kavvum".

Even though films such as "Samar" and "Vathikuchi" had the spark, they failed to ignite the fire because they were made for commercial purposes.

It's very important to choose different subjects, Kumar added.

"All my films to date have been with aspiring filmmakers with promising and different stories. Since I can't cough up crores of rupees, I carefully choose subjects that I want to convert into films and invest in them," he said.

The genre of a film, too, is important, said KBKR director Pandiraj, who credited the success of his film to the subtle use of comedy.

"Audiences love to be entertained and, therefore, it makes sense to pack a good amount of comedy in the script. It is very important to use comedy to drive home a thought, instead of making slapstick references," Pandiraj added.

"Ethir Neechal", "Soodhu Kavvum", "KLTA" and "KBKR" all predominantly used comedy throughout the film.

The poor content is pushing audiences towards content-rich Hollywood films, said trade analyst Trinath. "Iron Man 3" and "Life of Pi" did amazing business here.

"There is no need to compare Tamil cinema with Hollywood, but with access to so many western and foreign films, audiences find it easy to discard regional films. With films such as the 'Iron Man' series and 'Avengers' doing well, it's important to make quality films," Trinath said.

He admited Hollywood is giving stiff competition to Tamil films at the box-office.

" 'Iron Man 3' raked in over Rs.1 crore on its opening weekend in Chennai, but a week later theatre owners had to reduce the number of shows because they had to make way for Tamil releases. Competition is growing stronger between Tamil and English films at the box-office," he added.

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

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