For a generation that grew up in the 80s and 90s, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan have been synonymous with films from south India. Later Mohanlal and Mammooty too got noticed. But that was it. And that was then.Cut to 2011. When Tamil superstar Dhanush's Kolaveri Di was uploaded on YouTube, the response it got was staggering. Suddenly, a not-so-good-looking guy, singing in a mix of Tamil and English, was everywhere. And as if out of the blue, a Tamil song was on everybody's lips. The song was rehashed and sung in Indian languages - it even has a Pakistani version!
Yes, AR Rahman's music and Mani Ratman's Roja had made sensitive Tamil cinema acceptable far beyond the boundaries of Tamil Nadu. But what about the more mass-based popular cinema?
All that changed to a large extent in 2014. We'll tell you how.
1. YouTube, the leveler - film trailers that blazed their way
Rajinikanth has been the poster boy of Tamil cinema world over, not for nothing. His epic drama Kochadaiiyaan has been in public memory ever since the project was announced by his daughter, Soundarya. So when its trailer was launched in March 2014, it wouldn't have come as a surprise that it skyrocketed itself to big numbers on YouTube - over 48 lakhs.
Next up was superstar Suriya's Anjaan. It is funny how Hindi audience knows of Singham yet wouldn't know that the original starred Suriya. With Anjaan, the original Singam star was across everywhere - Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Creating some kind of a storm was Shankar's I trailer starring Vikram in September with 92 lakhs views while end-of-the-year Rajinikanth release Lingaa's trailer garnered 48 lakhs views on YouTube.
The only Indian film in 2014 to go beyond the rest was Salman Khan-starrer Kick with over 18 million views (18,268,525).
A comparison of how trailers of top Hindi and Tamil films fared on YouTube
2. When Bollywood A-listers went down South
For much too long, we have seen the trend of starlets who couldn't make it big in Bollywood, moving to greener pastures down south and becoming stars in their own right. But 2014 saw many big stars from Bollywood working in major Tamil projects - we had Deepika Padukone starring opposite Rajinikanth in Kochadaiiyaan at the start of 2014 and ended with Sonakshi Sinha working with Rajinikanth again in Lingaa.
Through the year we saw a steady trickle of actors from Bollywood getting meaty roles - Neil Nitin Mukesh appeared in Kaththi opposite superstar Vijay while Vidyut Jamwal (of Commando fame) worked alongside Suriya in Anjaan with Manoj Bajpai and Dilip Tahil giving him company. Chitrangada Singh sizzled in a sensational item number in Anjaan.
Infact, one of the biggest endorsements, came not from Bollywood but all the way from Hollywood when Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Chennai for the music release of Shankar's upcoming film, I.
All agree that big budgets don't always mean better films, but it is a fact that some dreams do come at a cost. In cinematic language, it invariably translates to exotic locations and computer generated imagery. Take for instance Vikram's I. It has been widely reported that his make-up has been done by New Zealand-based Weta Digital, the group responsible for look of Rise of the Planet of Apes and the Dawn of the Planet of Apes.
Rajinikanth starrer Kochadaiiyaan's use of motion capture technology (used in Hollywood films like Tin Tin) was possibly India's first (though it was much below international standards, many said).We know Pandora, that magical planet in the movie Avatar, was shot in parts in China. We also know that some sections of Shankar's I too have been shot in China. And it couldn't have come cheap!
The box below gives is a comparison of budgets of major Hindi and Tamil films
|I||Rs 180 crore|
|Kick||Rs 150 crore|
|Happy New Year||Rs 125 crore|
|Kochadaaiiyaan||Rs 125 crore|
|Lingaa||Rs 100 crore|
|Anjaan||Rs 60 crore|
4) Big guns getting Tamil film business
The Tamil industry and its business prospects have been lure enough for big guns of Indian entertainment for a while. Sony Music officially began its south cinema music arm in 2010 but Eros International went big with distribution in 2014. Till as late as 2012, Eros distributed only one Tamil film - Maatran. Come 2014, the number had gone up several notches with a total of five big-budget Tamil and Telugu films (1: Nenokkadine, Kochadaiiyaan, Kaththi, Aagadu and Lingaa) under its care.
5) Resurgence of Rajinikanth
In the last couple of years Rajinikanth has been during few than his normal count of films per year. Through 2002 till 2013, viewers would get to see one Rajini film. Of course, all of them charmed the box office barring may be Kuselan. But 2014 changed all that - it began with a highly anticipated Kochadaiiyaan and ended with a bumper harvest called Lingaa.