Are the controversies around Draupathi, which has gone on to perform extraordinarily well at the box office, a way for the makers to broaden the film’s otherwise narrow appeal? Seems so. For instance, on Monday, March 2, director Mohan G invited director Pa. Ranjith, known for making and backing films that celebrate the subaltern, to watch Draupathi, which proudly wears its caste identity on its sleeve. He retweeted film producer and distributor JSK Gopi’s tweet-invite to Pa Ranjith, director of films such as Attakathi, Madras, Kaala and Kabali, saying he should watch it “to make true Ambedkar’s vision of equality”.
For a film made on a limited budget, and with no prominent star or a recognisable technical crew, Draupathi has performed extraordinarily well at the box office. According to sources on Twitter, the film has managed to collect close to Rs 6.5 crore in just four days, better than most other recent releases. In terms of Return on Investment, the film is already a blockbuster. But unlike other instances of such small films gaining organic growth, the buzz around Draupathi had snowballed even before its release, contributing to a big first day opening.
A reason for this, according to senior tracker Sreedhar Pillai, is “the film’s controversial trailer that went viral”. One of the shocking dialogues in the trailer was “Oruthan mann mela kaala vekkanum-na, avan ponnu mela kaiya vekkanum (to usurp someone’s land, you should first take his daughter)”. This signalled the tone of the film.
However, the replies to the tweet have quickly turned vile and personal, especially targeting Pa. Ranjith. Many are triumphant about how Draupathi is a solid response to the politics in Pa. Ranjith’s films. They argue that he is silent because he has no answers to the “compelling” ideas the film puts forth.
One of them also shared a hateful meme showing Mohan G holding Pa Ranjith by his neck. There’s also a TikTok video of a little girl who spiritedly says, among other things, “We will support any good film, but when it is our film we will give it our shoulders”, and “The unity of Thevars and Vanniyars can never be separated by anyone, even death.”
(With inputs from Vishal Menon)