EDUCATIONEVENTSMUSICPRINTINGPUBLISHINGPUBLICATIONSRADIOTELEVISIONWELFARECAREER
INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
CURRENT ISSUE  
ARCHIVE  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
    CURRENT ISSUE June 20, 2005
 
   SOCIETY & THE ARTS: CINEMA
 
Return of the King

Rs 60 crore and still counting. Rajnikant's Chandramukhi revives his career and gives a fillip to Tamil cinema's fortunes.
 

A remake of a 12-year-old Mohan Lal blockbuster. A star whose equity had taken a beating. A production house whose best days were behind it. The odds seemed against it, but over a month after its release, Chandramukhi, Rajnikant's Rs 19 crore Tamil movie, has raked in Rs 60 crore-and still counting-at the box office, breaking the record set by Padayappa, another film by the superstar in 1998.

  PICTURE SPEAK
SHOT IN THE ARM: Rajnikant makes his grand comeback

For Rajnikant, whose Baba bombed in 2002, the latest thriller has netted Rs 15 crore in salary and profit share. But when the 54-year-old announced Chandramukhi on October 1 last year, the birth anniversary of actor Shivaji Ganesan, critics did not give it a chance at the box office. The superstar, famous for his punchlines and cigarette flicks, was down and almost out. Not only had he lost money on Baba-he had to return Rs 5 lakh each to the aggrieved distributors-but he had also been embarrassed politically when his call to defeat PMK candidates in the 2004 general elections fell on deaf ears. With Jaggubhai, which was to have political overtones, also being shelved, it did not seem the best of times for Rajnikant to make a remake. But he believed in the film, even calling up director P. Vasu, who remade the original Manichitrathazhu in Kannada, for the project.

So what makes Chandramukhi click? Neither director Vasu nor Rajnikant can claim any novelty in terms of story telling or techniques. The film is a rehash of several before. A couple move into a house supposedly haunted by a dancer who was killed a hundred years ago. Attempts are made on the husband's life and an unmarried girl in the family becomes the suspect. In a bizarre yet convincing manner, it is established that the wife is possessed by the dancer's ghost. The exorcism forms the gripping climax.

STAR TREK

1975: Rajnikant makes his debut in Apoorva Raagangal.

1992: Acts in superhits Basha and Annamalai, the first Rajnikant movie to have politically laden dialogues.

1995: Muthu earns Rajnikant a fan following in Japan.

1996: DMK's victory in the assembly polls is attributed partly to Rajnikant.

1998: Toys with the idea of joining a party. The BJP tries to woo him.

1999: Padayappa becomes a superhit.

2002: Baba, a movie with political allusions, flops and Rajnikant shelves his political ambitions.

Perhaps what worked in Chandramukhi's favour was the utter lack of hype. Rajnikant completed the shoot quietly and kept political themes out of the equation. Says Vasu: "Rajni took a very mature approach right from the beginning. He agreed not to have typical Rajni dialogues." Then there was the magic of special effects- Rajnikant freezes mid-air in-between landing heavy kicks; he dives, nay flies, across a room to snatch a cup of poisoned tea to save his friend's life. He is not just muscle (which the full-sleeved attire never reveals), but he also reads minds.

A bit of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring also helped. The big-budget Anniyan was to be released around the same time, but the makers of Chandramukhi prevailed upon its producers to postpone the release till the Rajnikant-starrer completed 50 days. Now Chandramukhi's Telugu version is doing well and the movie is a hit in Malaysia.

Film critics may find many things in Chandramukhi laughable, but everyone involved in the movie is laughing all the way to the bank. For Shivaji Productions, for which Chandramukhi is the 50th film, it is a new lease of life. "Our joy knew no bounds when Rajnikant proposed the venture to us last year," says Ganesan's son Prabhu, who plays a supporting role in the film. "The distributors have made more than 20 per cent profit over the Rs 2.5 crore for which they bought the zonal rights," says an industry source.

"Chandramukhi is sure to cross the 100-day mark," says Swaroop Reddy, managing director of Chennai's landmark Sathyam Cinema. "Any theatre would love to play a Rajnikant movie and Chandramukhi is the highest grosser we have had." It helped that theatre owners were allowed to fix the ticket rates for the first few days-and the prices went up from Rs 70 to Rs 200.

  PICTURE SPEAK
LARGER THAN LIFE: Crowds throng a cinema; (above) still from Chandramukhi

"The movie has given a major boost to the industry. Producers are lining up for the next Rajni movie," says producer A.V.M. Saravanan. But Rajnikant, who made a pilgrimage to Rudraprayag before Chandramukhi's release, is now keeping everyone guessing about his next move. Sources close to the star say he is considering a play, details of which are secret. Says a film producer: "The star decides everything. Gone are the days when producers and directors controlled the industry." Does that augur well for Tamil cinema? Film writer Theodore Bhaskaran doesn't think so. "When star value overshadows everything else, the quality of cinema declines." Memories of 2003 are still fresh: five big-ticket star vehicles bombed in quick succession. Leading the pack of flops was Kamal Haasan's Anbe Sivam which could not recover even half of the Rs 12 crore spent on it. While the Vijaykant-starrer Sokkathangam recovered Rs 6 crore of the Rs 7.5 crore production cost, the

Ajit-starrer Red failed to gross even one-fourth of its budget of Rs 5 crore. Adding to the trouble was the rampant spread of pirated CDs.

The past two years have seen an upswing in Tamil cinema's fortunes thanks to younger actors like Vijay and Vikram. But there's nothing like a big hit from the thoroughbred. Especially for the 38,000-odd Rajnikant fan associations.

 RELATED STORIES
Return of the Prodigal Star  

INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.
CURRENT ISSUE
JUNE 20, 2005
 IN THIS ISSUE
COVER STORY

THE A BOMB

OTHER STORIES
 

Parivar At Odds

Congress' Wake-Up Call

Screeching Halt

Will BHEL Power The Way?

Tata Buy in NYC

Mayday, Mayday Calling All Pilots

Ending The War

Tiger on the Run

A Portrait Of The Evil

Death on the Waterfront

Return of the King

Sweep Stake

 

The UPA Government is planning to hike fuel prices. Do you think an increase in prices is justified?
 
South Asia's most influential and most read newsweekly presents the fourth Conclave India Tomorrow 2005 : Perception vs Reality



CONTACTUS SYNDICATIONSSUBSCRIPTIONFAQsPRIVACYPOLICY