The Tamil film industry, true to its prolific image, has churned out as many as 135 films this year. But the disappointing news: despite the spiralling numbers, box office success has been hitting rock bottom. According to trade pundits, while total investment has been about Rs 600 crore, filmmakers failed to recover even half the investment.
"Jiiva's Ko, Karthi's Siruthai, Ajith's Mankatha and Surya's 7aum Arivu have made good collections," says R. Ramanujan, editor of Tamil Nadu Entertainment Trade Magazine.
" 7aum Arivu, a science fiction thriller written and directed by A R Murugadoss, hasn't fetched profit for the distributors, while actioner Mankatha was a loss making venture for its producers despite it collecting around Rs.50 crore at the box office," he added.
Vijay's two releases - Kavalan, a remake of Malayalam hit Bodyguard, which was also screened at the Shanghai Film Festival, and masala movie Velayudham were reported to be hits, but insiders in the trade circle informed that while both movies collected more profit than the actor's recent films at the box office, they haven't seen any profit.
"So is the case with Vikram-Anushka starrer Deiva Thirumagal," added the source.
"The problem with big stars' films is that the budget shoots up, hence the ROI (return on investment) becomes difficult. Any film that features a leading star like Vijay or Surya or Ajith costs a minimum Rs.15 crore. Sometimes the budget touches even the Rs.30-crore mark. So they have to be blockbusters to get back the money back," said Ramanujam.
The advantage with these films is that they enjoy good opening, hence distributors readily cough up more money to procure the rights. It helps producers to recover the cost. However, if the films fail to click, distributors have to put up with losses. It happened with 7aum Arivu, which was reportedly made at a budget of Rs. 80 crore and sold for approximately Rs 90 crore, but when it came to box office, it failed to collect even Rs.40 crore, according to the sources. The worldwide collection of the film is said to be about Rs.82 crore and it has been a loss-making business prospect for distributors and exhibitors.
R.S. Anthanan, a senior film journalist, says that disturbing trend is over budget.
"Many directors exceed the initial budget, which is beyond the marketability of the stars involved in the films. It happens with directors like Bala and Vasantha Balan, who get critical acclaim, but their producers suffer loss because of over expenditure," he added.
This shows that the films with good content cannot recover money if the budget inflates beyond a point.
Recently, producer Ascor Ravichandran reportedly decided to drop a project starring young actor Nakul after the director spent Rs 5 crore even before completing a quarter of the film because the actor is not worth Rs 10 crore.
Sathyaraj, a senior actor, sums up by saying: "Producers should at any cost avoid accepting a budget more than the established business for the stars involved. If they stick to this rule, the losses would be very less." Sathyaraj has been saying this at public gatherings, but the influence of the big stars and directors is so telling that the producers cannot hold any control over them.