Rocket Launches: Before ‘The Legend’, A Brief History Of Tamil Cinema’s Grandest Debuts

A star cast, best-in-class technicians, a huge budget, powered marketing, 2500 theatres, and a pan-Indian tag - That’s how one can simply sum up the debut film of Legend Saravanan. But this kind of mega launch is not a one-off instance in the Tamil industry
Rocket Launches: Before ‘The Legend’, A Brief History Of Tamil Cinema’s Grandest Debuts

The Legend's first show is set to be screened at 4 AM tomorrow. Early morning shows are usually reserved for big films and star vehicles. But thanks to its big budget and marketing, the debut film of businessman-turned actor 'Legend' Saravanan's itself starts with a privilege reserved for superstars. 

The Legend traces the trials and tribulations of a scientist. When the film's trailer was released, it amassed over 1 crore views within a span of 48 hours. Releasing in close to 2500 theatres worldwide, what kickstarted this grand arrival of Saravanan was the film's audio launch which saw 10 leading actresses from across different industries promoting the film. These are a few numbers that made The Legend bigger than any other launch film in the recent past. 

The Legend

The film's popularity among the Tamil cinema audience, however, is largely because of the leading actor. Saravanan Arul aka Legend Saravanan owns a famous retail chain called The Legend Saravana Stores across the State. Though The Legend is his debut, he became a household face when he appeared in advertisements for his store alongside actresses like Hansika Motwani and Tamannaah Bhatia. These promotional videos resulted in him becoming a muse for online trolls and memes, but that brought more fame and business. 

However, the world knows Saravanan and his film through a different lens. His efforts in marketing the film as pan-Indian and the big crew behind the film caught the eyes of other industries. "There will be a big reach for the film because Harris Jayaraj has scored the music and top actresses like Tamannaah Bhatia had attended the audio launch," says Sreedhar Pillai, a film industry tracker, and writer. 

Directed by the duo J. D.–Jerry, the film's ensemble cast is a major talking point. While Urvashi Rautela and Geethika Tiwari play the female leads, Yogi Babu, Nasser, Prabhu, and late actor Vivek form a star-studded supporting cast. Two songs and a few sequences have been shot in Ukraine. Reportedly, a budget of Rs 30 crores was spent to build the sets for a song. Asuran and Vada Chennai fame R Velraj has shot it and the film has been edited by Ruben, who edited Pushpa: The Rise

A star cast, best-in-class technicians, a huge budget, powered marketing, 2500 theatres, and a pan-Indian tag—that's how one can sum up the debut film of Legend Saravanan. But this kind of mega launch is not a one-off instance in the Tamil industry.   

A Well-Established Crew

The launch films of several artists have seen a similar pattern of popular directors, banners, technicians, and actors coming together. For Udhayanidhi Stalin's debut Oru Kal Oru Kannadi (OKOK) in 2012, we saw big names like Hansika Motwani and Santhanam, who were at the peak of their careers at that time, whilst also featuring Harris Jayaraj's music. It was directed by M Rajesh, fresh off two hits and the film's success helped build his image as an actor.

Adithya Varma (2019), the debut film of Vikram's son Dhruv Vikram, was one of the biggest launches Kollywood has witnessed in recent times. It was the remake of Vijay Deverakonda's Arjun Reddy. Strangely, the film was made twice. The first version, titled Varma, was directed by Bala, one of the best directors in the Tamil industry. However, the project was dropped post the shoot as producers E4 Entertainment decided to not release the version due to the creative differences with the director. But the fact that the entire film is being made again is also what hyped the film and helped Dhruv's launch. While Dhruv Vikram was retained, a new version with a new cast and crew was made. Mukesh Mehta of E4 entertainment lists down three reasons why Dhruv Vikram's launch was one of its kind and what attracted the audience. "First, Dhruv Vikram is actor Vikram's son. Second, the film was a remake of Arjun Reddy which was a big hit. Third, there was already an awareness about the film's making as it was made twice and people knew about the film," he says, adding that besides these reasons, the way Dhruv carried himself in the teaser also attracted the audience. Dhruv Vikram won Best Debut awards from Zee Cine Awards and Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards for Adithya Varma. 

The Role Of Music In Launch Films

Mukesh Mehta opines that music and trailers are instrumental for launch films. When we take a look at some of the big launchpads, the films do reflect a pattern of roping in popular music composers and have had a few hit songs. Shanthanu Bhagyaraj's Sakkarakatti which featured AR Rahman's music was known for its successful soundtrack and the song 'Taxi Taxi' from this film has ever since become a friendship anthem. The Oscar-winning music composer also scored for Soundarya Rajinikanth's Kochadaiiyaan. The songs 'Sollitaley Ava Kaadhala' and 'Soi Soi', composed by D Imman, were one of the major attractions of Vikram Prabhu's debut Kumki. Karthi's Paruthiveeran is a Yuvan Shankar Raja musical that starred Priyamani as the female lead.

The Logic Behind Launch Films

The big-budget debut films with a good marketing strategy and impressive content can launch a career for the debutant.

"The goal of a launch film is to become a big star and they all want to be successful actors. The success of Saravanan's launch in The Legend will depend on the box office because he has put a lot of money into the film. It has to do a really big number," says film producer G. Dhananjayan, who further opines that Paruthiveeran, directed by Ameer, is by far the best launch film because it made Karthi a star in his very first outing. Not every actor wins a State award for their debut film, Karthi and Vikram Prabhu (Kumki) won Tamil Nadu State Film Award Special Prize for their debut films in 2007 and 2012 respectively.

Soundarya Rajinikanth's directorial debut Kochadaiiyaan was produced with a massive budget of Rs 125 crores. It was India's first photorealistic motion capture film and featured stars like Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone. Directors seldom get the chance to make a star vehicle on such a large-scale budget in their debut film. However, the animation and rendering were a big letdown, and the film massively failed at the box office. Shantanu Bhagyaraj made his debut with Sakkarakatti, also starring Ishita Sharma and Vedhika. While the songs by AR Rahman were a huge hit, the film did not do well at the box office. But Shanthanu's performance was well received and he went on to win Best Debut Awards at Filmfare (South) and Vijay Awards. "The launch of a hero depends very much on the box office success and audience acceptance as a hero. Maybe Udhayanidhi Stalin has been accepted as a media brand today, but even after the 2012 release of OKOK, it has taken him 10 years to establish himself as an actor," says Sreedhar Pillai. 

What's the expectation for The Legend?

With a kind of marketing strategy that has got the Internet talking, the promotions of The Legend have piqued the interest of the audience. A well-established businessman makes his acting and production debut in his 50s. From songs and fights to emotional sequences, the trailer promises to have all elements of a mass entertainer. 

The marketing gimmicks have left people wondering what exactly the film will offer, and the makers have built on this much-needed buzz. Once the film releases, the internet might be flooded with memes, but such memes are what helped Saravanan sustain his fame. "Whether it is trolls or admiration, Legend Saravanan has created a certain hype and expectation about the film. He is a committed person and has put a lot of hard work into making this film. The marketing for The Legend stirs curiosity and what it has managed to achieve so far, especially as a debut film, is no ordinary feat," says Natrajan Ramji, the location coordinator of The Legend.

Dhananjayan asserts the expectation for the film is good, with the aggressive marketing paying off. He says, "A debut film is being promoted as a pan-Indian film for the first time. It makes me happy to see that kind of confidence. It is all about the content, if it is good, everything will work in favour of the film." A launch is made and whether it will take off remains to be seen tomorrow.

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