Dilani Rabindran



Distribute the Wealth, Please ... A column on the distribution of Tamil films in the overseas market


I’m normally not one to complain, but I am one to question. 

I was recently told in non-exact words that my writing is my greatest ‘weapon’. So coupling that with my personalization & humor as a shield, I’d like to think that I can therefore diplomatically question a topic that has been irking me of late. So here goes…

What is going on with the international distribution of Tamil films?

Last weekend my family & I set out against the weather channels’ warnings in the midst of a heavy snowstorm to trek about 70 kilometers to see Yennai Arindhaal. We went to one of the only 2 (South Asian specific) theatres in the entire Greater Toronto Area (GTA) that was playing the film. To give you some context Tamils are one of the largest visible minority population groups within the GTA, so 2 theatres, both located on the east end of the city, is hardly enough. Being the diehard Tamil Cinema fans my parents & I are, the dangerous drive across slippery roads wasn’t something to deter us from going – but not everyone is as obsessed as us; and so it’s a shame when low accessibility to quality cinema deters the ‘non-obsessed but still avid’ cinema fans from enjoying quality films. So we complained about the inconvenience but incurred it nonetheless, only to watch the film in a half-filled theatre. Considering the movie had only released 2 days earlier and the overwhelming number of Ajithians in Toronto, this was upsetting, but not a huge surprise to me. The theatres playing the film are not widely accessible by public transit, and are extremely far from where many other Tamil cinema fans reside on the opposite ends of Toronto. This has been the situation for the past approximately 2.5 years, before which bigger releases would always play in mainstream theatres that are plentifully spread out.

Counter that YA theatre occupancy with 'I', Tamil cinema’s other biggest film of 2015 so far which is still playing to decent crowds (in Tamil & Hindi) in several mainstream theatres (Cineplex) all over the GTASure, 'I' was a direct release by producer A. Ravichandran, but why should this matter? Are the biggest producers/distribution companies Tamil cinema has to rely on, not looking closely at the geographic delivery of their films overseas?

Both Yennai Arindhaal and 'I' are prime examples of films with tremendous international appeal that deserve wide releases. Gautham Menon’s modern urban action & romance saga and Shankar’s topically & technically progressive magnum opus both easily speak to the environments of NRIs, and are certainly the types of commercial Indian cinema more likely to be enjoyed by non-Tamil audiences too. When Hindi films like PK are still running strong in mainstream theatres here in North America to all sorts of multicultural audiences we can clearly see there is an interest in contemporary Indian cinema.  We should be encouraging such audiences to tune in to Tamil cinema as well, especially through films like YA that contain more relatable characters to those viewers living in the western world, and, more importantly, because YA is a fantastic film that showcases some of the best in performances and execution that South India has to offer. And, let’s face it, we Tamil people are everywhere – all over the world, no longer clustered in select neighborhoods, so when the screenings of Tamil movies remain clustered the entire international distribution scheme seems truly antiquated.

I use Toronto as an example because I suspect it’s not an isolated case. Just recently we reported that YA seems to have faired less than Ajith’s past couple of movies in the UK, which is surprising given the overwhelming amount of social media awareness there was for the film, and, again, Menon’s tendency to appeal more to NRI crowds. Could it be the dispersal of Tamil films in all major overseas markets need better looking into? With this week’s announcement of Eros International taking over the distribution rights of Kamal Haasan’s upcoming Uttama Villain, yet another major film that should be appreciated by people all over the world and not just those of Tamil heritage, it becomes ever more pressing that we ask if the current scheme is working.

As a Torontonian I am not against the 2 jointly run South Asian focused theatres we do have that are currently our main source for Tamil movies; I deeply appreciate them & enjoy them for the fine, well-run establishments they are… I just think they are a great option for those close by, and not so great for those who want to see all the latest releases without a 70 km drive, and especially for those who may not have the luxury of even sucking up & dealing with that inconvenience. Why are they the only options in Toronto right now? What do distributors have to gain from a monopoly in international markets like this? Wouldn’t a wider release to mainstream, non-solely South Asian cinemas that are more widely accessible to audiences be beneficial for all, especially as a means to battle piracy a bit more? Maybe I am not understanding the economics, or perhaps there are more middle-men I’m overlooking, so I’m simply asking – who is winning in this set up? 


Ayngaran, Eros, other major distributors – are you sure your international distribution plans/those helping you with them, are making the films you provide, adequately accessible to Tamil communities? What about non-Tamil audiences that would like to partake?

And NRI Behindwoods readers – I’m curious, do you have easy access to the latest in both ‘big budget’ and smaller Tamil films alike when they release in theatres in your country? 

I strive hard not to complain, but like the effervescent PK I will question…in the hopes that someone will answer – or, better yet, help me spark change.


Dilani Rabindran


Respond to
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.



This page hosts the views of the authors of the column. The views are generally about films, movie reviews, movie news, songs, music, film actors and actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors, and all others that contribute for the success or failure of a film. People looking for movies online, movie reviews, movie analysis, public response for a movie, will find this page useful.