After months of conjecture and debate, the release date of Vijay’s Master (certified U/A), directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj (Kaithi, Vikram), has finally been announced. As predicted, the action-drama will release exclusively in theatres on January 13, coinciding with the big Pongal festival date. Vijay Sethupathi plays the film’s antagonist.
Even though release dates have always been subject to last-minute changes in the Tamil film industry, this is perhaps the first time where even the type of release (direct-to-OTT or otherwise) became a major point of contention.
In the past few months, especially after the success of Suriya’s Sudha Kongara film Soorarai Pottru, which released directly on Amazon Prime Video, a section of the media speculated the long-delayed Vijay film too would follow suit, with Netflix picking up the film’s rights. However, this proved to be incorrect when it was announced last week that the film’s digital rights were acquired by Amazon Prime Video.
According to a report in The Hindu, actor Vijay is said to have met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy on Sunday to discuss the relaxation of the present upper limit of just 50 per cent capacity per screen. Theatres were allowed to open in the state in early November but with several protocols and restrictions in place due to COVID-19, with one of the major rules being a capacity not exceeding 50 per cent of the total number of seats, in order to maintain social distancing.
Vijay’s meeting with the CM was reportedly to request that this cap be removed so that 100 per cent of the seats were available for the film’s screening. “While there has been no assurance on the request made, officials stated that the government will take a decision after consultation with public health experts. An increase in capacity, if not complete removal of the cap on occupancy, could be expected,” the same report says.
With its release in January, Master will become the first big-star Tamil film to hit screens since the pandemic, even though smaller film like Santhanam’s Biskoth and Kaaval Thurai Ungal Nanban released in theatres before this.
But what does this release mean to the industry? Will we go back to normal or should we look at this as just the first step towards normalcy? Here are five possible implications of this move.
The Health Factor
One of the biggest factors to be considered is how this will impact the health aspect if the norms are relaxed. With even the city’s biggest multiplexes struggling to maintain social distancing in whichever way they can, it is easy to assume that it will be difficult for smaller theatres in towns and villages to maintain any kind of safety protocol during the release of this star vehicle. And in case it is proved that this release, in some way, led to a spike in the total number of cases, it will not just prove detrimental to Vijay and his film, but also to the film industry in general.
A Quick Release on OTT
Among the many points being discussed at the moment is whether Master will have a quick release on OTT, just a week or two after the theatrical release. This will help mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic, but will theatres allow a release on OTT after a record short theatrical screening window?
No. 1 Hero?
With this move, Vijay has taken a gamble no other major star in the South has taken, proving that he’s easily among the biggest in the country. A lot is at stake for the star and his fans and the film’s success will surely elevate the star to an even higher level if it manages to bring cheer back to the business.
Most Scrutinised Film Ever!
The release of this film is surely going to be among the most carefully watched and studied cinematic event in decades, that too across the country. Like Tenet, every release, filmmaking, marketing and budgeting strategy will henceforth be calculated based on the final outcome of Master. With many other biggies waiting, Master will prove to be their Masterplan.
The Overseas Boom
Among the biggest factors of Vijay’s films collecting such huge figures in recent years was that it was allowed to release simultaneously across the world. But with COVID, many countries will opt out of a release for the Vijay film. This will prove to be a loss of several crores for the producer, but given the situation, is this collateral damage the makers have to opt for? If so, will all new films have to say goodbye to this lucrative financial pie?
Apart from Master, TR Silambarasan’s Eeswaran is also eyeing a Pongal release, suggesting a return to norm for what has traditionally been the biggest release date in the annual Tamil film calendar. Rajinikanth’s Darbar was the big release for Pongal in 2020, and his Petta and Ajith’s Viswasam hit the screens for the festival the year before.
Master, co-starring Malavika Mohanan, was originally slotted for a summer 2020 release. A month ago, the film’s teaser too had dropped and it has already amassed over 50 million views on YouTube.
In the 1 minute-30 second teaser, we see little in terms of a story or plotline. Apart from the fact that it’s about a professor fighting for his students in a college setting, there’s not a lot of new information. But what we get is loads of style, and an early indication of the look and feel of the film, which includes a lot of kickass fight scenes. The most exciting of these looks like one set in a Metro, hinting that the film too is placed somewhere in or near Chennai.
Other actors in the film include Andrea Jeremiah, Shanthnu Bhagyaraj and Arjun Das. The action drama with a college backdrop has Anirudh Ravichander as composer and the film is produced by Xavier Brutto’s XB Film Creators. Some of the film’s songs have already become blockbusters, with Anirudh’s composition ‘Vaathi Coming’ nearing 92 million views on YouTube.