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By Arun

Two personalities, from varied backgrounds, varied bodies of works and varied styles, said the same thing about Tamil cinema but at different circumstances. Both director Ameer and producer Sashikanth (Y Not Studios of Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi. Thamizh Padam and Va-quarter cutting fame) said that Tamil cinema was lying. Lying about its own success. Ameer and Sashikanth said that Tamil cinema was providing bloated and exaggerated figures of its box office earnings. They said that only a fraction of the films actually make the money they claim to have made. All the others are blowing a trumpet that does not even exist. Well, this might not be the exact words they used, but they definitely implied this.

Of course, we hear such things on and off. But, the seriousness of such claims is much more than regular because of them coming in a short span of time from two men who have absolutely nothing in common but for their association with Tamil cinema. Ameer and Sashikanth are as different as chalk and cheese. They come from different schools of thought, make films that have no semblance of similarity in style and seem to have completely different ideologies; yet, they said the same thing under two very different circumstances.

Ameer’s claim came at the strike called by all film unions to protest against the 10.3% tax proposed by the Union government. He said that the government is being misled into thinking that the film industry is hale and hearty because of the collection figures posted by producers. Almost all of them were only numbers meant to create hype and publicity for the movie concerned. When this comment first came out, it seemed more like a desperate attempt to persuade the government to rollback the tax.

But, hardly two weeks later, in a casual interview to mark the success of Kaadhalil Sodhaappuvadhu Yeppadi, Sashikanth too said the same thing.  He said that collection figures are bogus and a maximum of 4 big movies make profits in any given year. According to him the others are loss making ventures for the producers. After this comment, the first one made by Ameer doesn’t seem like a desperate plea anymore. Sashikanth’s comment is important because it comes from a producer who has delivered a genuine goldmine at the box office. KSY has made huge profits and if the film’s producer says that most big budget films are only feigning success, it is definitely not the whinge or envy of someone who has not been able to strike it rich at the box office.

We always knew that all this ‘Maaperum Vettri’ stuff coming from every movie was nothing but smoke without fire. But, these latest revelations show us that the rot is much deeper than we thought it was. The big surprise is that no producer as yet has come forward and refuted any of these comments. There seems to be a silent acceptance of the truth.

The question we have to ask after putting together all these pieces is; does Tamil cinema really have a market of 80-100 crores on a consistent basis? Has Tamil cinema been living in a state of self-denial about its market limitations for a few years now? When is the bubble going to burst? If you evaluate, an industry that has such a huge market should not have many problems in sanctioning a major wage hike for its technicians. But, the squabble that ensued after the demands were raised by the technicians has created doubts about the wellness quotient of Tamil cinema.

If these allegations about the collections being bloated and exaggerated are true, then one question arises; who is Tamil cinema trying to deceive? Is it the audience? If it is the audience, then the industry must understand that wooing the audience to theatres with artificially bloated collection figures and box office ratings is not going to help. Once a film hits theatres, it is only the trailers, songs, reviews and above all, word of mouth, that bring in more audiences. A viewer is not really interested in knowing as to how many crores a film has made at the box office because he is not going to see any of that money; he/she only cares about whether the film is worth the money that he/she is going to pay. And hence, deceiving the audience with bloated collection figures is a wasteful exercise.

Or, are the producers trying to fuel their own egos with such enviable numbers? Well, the only thing they will end up doing is creating a flame around which other moths (producers who do not understand the actual picture) will gather and ultimately perish.

If what Ameer and Sashikanth said is true, then the Tamil film industry is deceiving only one entity; itself. On the other hand, if Tamil cinema is real hunky dory and worth 80-100 crores for every big movie, then the producers behind these films need to come out and strongly refute the claims made by these two men. Until and unless they refute, we will have to believe that Tamil cinema is deceiving itself into thinking that it can be Bollywood and touch 100 crores five times a year.

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