From superstar Rajinikanth’s Tamil gangster drama Kabali to Mohanlal’s Malayalam action-drama Puli Murugan, southern cinema thrived on the business made by these biggies and at the same time also witnessed the surprise hits of low-budget, content-driven films such as Pellichoopulu and U-Turn.
The Tamil film industry saw over 200 releases this year, producing hits such as Rajini Murugan, Irudhi Suttru, Pichaikkaran, Theri, Irumugan and Achcham Yenbathu Madamaiyadaa.
“Nearly all star-studded Tamil outings this year turned out to be successful with Suriya’s 24 being an exception. Both Kabali and Vijay’s Theri managed to mint over Rs 100 crore worldwide and had an extended run in cinemas. This year also gave Tamil filmdom a new star to celebrate,” said trade analyst Trinath.
With two blockbusters in his kitty in 2016, Sivakarthikeyan emerged as star material with Rajini Murugan and Remo.
A leading producer, who requested anonymity said: “For Rajinikanth, Vijay and Ajith, it took over 15 years to rise to the top but what Sivakarthikeyan has achieved in just four years is exceptional. With back-to-back hits, he has not only become the darling of the masses but has turned out to be a safe bet for distributors too.”
This year was also special for Vijay Sethupathi, who had six Tamil releases and tasted commercial success with Dharmadurai, Sethupathi and Aaandavan Kattalai.
Low-budget Tamil movies such as Uriyadi, Ammani and Metro stood out for not treading the usual path.
Telugu film stars such as Allu Arjun and Jr NTR ruled the roost in 2016 but it was films such as Kshanam and Pellichoopulu that proved commercial success is beyond star value.
According to distributor Krishnam Raju, the success of Pellichoopulu can make for a great “case study”.
“A lot of producers throw away money on star-centric films and the returns are usually minimal, thanks to the high production cost. Pellichoopulu was made on a shoe-string budget and it was marketed aggressively with over a dozen pre-release screenings which helped in generating buzz organically, and it worked in the film’s favour,” said Raju.
In North America alone, Tharun Bhascker-directed Pellichoopulu raked in over Rs 6 crore, much to the surprise of the entire industry.
Kshanam, another low-budget outing, from first-time director Ravikanth Perepu, clicked at the box office, impressing audiences and critics alike.
Allu Arjun’s Sarrainodu, rumoured to be made on a budget of Rs 45 crore, grossed over Rs 100 crore and ended up as a very successful venture.
Jr NTR delivered two hits - Nannaku Prematho and Janatha Garage - both proving his box-office mettle.
Other Telugu hits include Soggade Chinni Nayana, Supreme, Express Raja and Nenu Sailaja. Telugu-dubbed film Bichagadu (Pichaikkaran in Tamil) surprised the trade by earning over 15 times its investment, said trade sources.
Striking a perfect balance between content-driven and star-centric cinema, Malayalam industry yet again gained an upper hand over other southern industries.
Superstar Mohanlal delivered two back-to-back blockbusters. Interestingly, his Oppam worked due to its content, whereas Puli Murugan was lapped up for its overall commercial treatment.
“Mohanlal bounced back strongly with three Rs 100 crore grossing films (including Janatha Garage). With Puli Murugan continuing to run in select cinemas, distributors made a fortune on the film with its high returns,” said distributor Arvind Nambiar.
Other hits include Nivin Pauly’s heartwarming drama Jacobinte Swargarajyam, which was made on a budget of Rs 7 crore and earned around Rs 22 crore in returns.
Dileep’s King Liar earned Rs 20.5 crore on a budget of Rs 10 crore. Mahesinte Prathikaram helped actor Fahadh Faasil register a hit after a long time with earnings over Rs 17 crore.
Other notable Malayalam films of 2016 are Kammatipaadam, Oru Muthassi Gadha, Kali, Kismath and Action Hero Biju.
The Kannada industry drew attention with refreshingly good, story-driven films such as U-Turn and Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu.
“Usually known to play safe by betting on successful remakes, Kannada filmdom won over new audience from different quarters with U-Turn and Godhi Bannaa which were successful at the box-office too. These films turned over a new leaf, assuring the industry hasn’t lost its mojo yet,” said distributor Sudharshan Hegde.
Among the stars, Sudeep delivered a hit with Kotigobba 2, which raked in over Rs 50 crore. Shivrajkumar’s horror-thriller Shivalingaa, with over 100 days of extended run in cinemas, ended up as a successful venture.
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