Rajinikanth‘s Kaala is set for a grand release on June 7, with the film’s Tamil, Telugu and Hindi versions hitting theatres on that day. However, compared to other Rajinikanth films, the pre-release hype around Kaala has been largely subdued. Many factors are said to account for this – the shadow of a lacklustre Kabali, the backlash against Rajini’s recent political statements and an arbitrary release date. We spoke to prominent theatre owners across Chennai to find out why the reception to the film has been lukewarm so far. Here’s what they attributed it to:
AN ARBITRARY RELEASE DATE
Subramaniam, Managing Director and Owner of Kasi Theatre, said that the film’s arbitrary release date was its main drawback. “It’s a normal Thursday release, plus the date was announced abruptly, without any momentum being built. Regardless of who the star is, a holiday release is a must if there is to be a big opening.”
He said that the reception to the film would’ve been better had it released in April or May. “Families would’ve come to theaters in full force as Rajini sir has a huge pull among them. Audiences wanted to come to theaters during the summer, but the strike meant that we did not have any good movies to show them. Now, with schools and colleges reopening, parents have other priorities for their children and films won’t figure in their immediate plans.”
Nikilesh Surya, Executive Director of Rohini Silver Screens, also cites the film’s release date as the reason for its lack of hype. “The buzz is definitely low, compared to Kabali, Mersal and even Vivegam. The release date isn’t ideal as schools are now re-opening. The general audience doesn’t even seem to be aware that Kaala is releasing, actually. This reflects in the online bookings,” he said.
“The hype around Kaala is very low; there is no comparison to Kabali. The level of buzz around Kaala is similar to that of Lingaa. The production house hasn’t hyped the film and they’ve treated it like an ordinary project. The teaser and trailer have also underplayed the hype. Kabali‘s teaser took the hype to a different level, but the film didn’t deliver. That isn’t the case with Kaala; no hype has been built up,” said Rakesh Gowthaman, Managing Director of Vettri Theatres.
Ruban Mathivanan, Managing Director of GK Cinemas, said he felt as though Kaala‘s producers were either downplaying the promotions deliberately or were ill-equipped to handle a Rajini film. “There can be no comparison to Kabali; even Kuselan had a better hype.”
He, however, was hopeful that the strategy would be successful. “It might be good in a way. If the audience has low pre-release expectations, it won’t take much for the film to make them happy.”
RAJINIKANTH’S POLITICAL VIEWS
Rakesh said Rajinikanth’s entry into the political sphere and the controversies surrounding it have caused a split in his fan base. “Earlier, his fans were united by his presence. Now, their political leanings will play a role in whether they’ll watch the film. Rajini is being trolled massively for his recent statements and visit to Thoothukudi, which wasn’t the scenario ahead of Kabali‘s release. All this has affected bookings for sure,” he said.
Subramaniam also told us that the Superstar’s recent political moves have had an impact on the film. “Earlier, he was just a cinematic icon and invariably, the response to his films was huge. Now, that has been diluted by his recent political activities.”
“People seem to be more focused on Rajini sir’s political avatar than on the film. His recent comments have also angered some. There is no frenzy surrounding ticket sales. It all depends on the content now,” said Ruban.
KABALI‘S SUB-PAR PERFORMANCE
Nikilesh attributed the low buzz around Kaala to a ‘Kabali hangover’. “Rajini sir has more or less repeated his Kabali look in Kaala. In Kabali, viewers found the prospect of a Ranjith-Rajini association novel. With Kaala, there is a sense of deja vu,” he said.
Rakesh said Rajinikanth was the film’s only draw. “There is no other attraction. There is a level of uncertainty surrounding the content, especially after Kabali‘s result. There was a very positive pre-release mood surrounding Kabali as it was Ranjith’s follow-up to the impactful Madras.”
Theatre owners, however, did manage to find a few bright spots to the situation. “On the positive side, the terms are very nominal with MGs (minimum guarantee payments) not as high as previous Rajini films. We are also getting a lot of inquiries for bulk bookings from corporate offices and fan clubs. Such bulk bookings are seen only for the Superstar’s films,” said Nikilesh.
Citing the nominal terms, Rakesh also said that there was no pressure on theatres. “It all depends on Kaala’s content now. If the film gets a ‘watchable’ verdict from the audience and if it has some memorable Rajini moments, it will go a long way and do well.”
Ruban said he wasn’t worried about the opening four days’ collections at all. “Ultimately, he is the Superstar for a reason,” he said.