Ghilli, Billa, Dheena: Boom time for theatrical re-releases in Kollywood

Thanks to the Lok Sabha Elections 2024, producers and distributors in Kollywood are clueless about when to release their films.

ByS Subhakeerthana

Published May 01, 2024 | 6:40 PM Updated May 01, 2024 | 6:49 PM

Boom time for theatrical re-releases in Tamil cinema

This is the time of year when families flock to air-conditioned movie theatres to escape the heat wave, as schools are closed. Five months into 2024, we are yet to see a solid hit in Kollywood, barring a couple of content-driven small-budget movies.

They say that the summer is the ideal time to release a movie, but it looks like a lost chance this year. Since there aren’t any big releases coming out in April or May, re-releasing films has grown in popularity.

2023 was a great year for producers and exhibitors, but the quarter of 2024 has been dull.

Film festivals usually screened Tamil re-releases. But after the Covid-induced pandemic, theatres relied on these well-known titles, to draw audiences back into theatres.

Ajith’s Billa, Dheena re-released

Ajith in Billa

Ajith in ‘Billa’. (Supplied)

Two of Ajith Kumar’s films — the 2007 hit Billa (directed by Vishnuvardhan) and the 2001 action-drama Dheena (directed by AR Murugadoss) — were re-released in Tamil Nadu theatres on Wednesday, 1 May, on the occasion of the actor’s 53rd birthday.

With music by Yuvan Shankar Raja, Billa — a remake of Rajinikanth’s 1980 blockbuster of the same name (adapted from Amitabh Bachchan’s 1978 classic Don), has cinematography by Nirav Shah and editing by Sreekar Prasad.

The Ajith Kumar-starrer was re-released by Aravind Suresh Kumar and Gnana Barathi of GB Entertainment via ATM Productions.

The announcement of Billa and Dheena re-releases coincided with the re-release of Vijay’s 2004 hit film Ghilli (directed by Dharani) on 19 April, which has been taking the box office by storm.

Unlike Billa and Dheena, Venkat Prabhu’s directorial Mankatha (2011) has only been re-released abroad.

According to reports, Billa was re-released on over 150 screens throughout Tamil Nadu, and Mankatha in Singapore, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe.

Quick money and big business are the new trends in Kollywood, and rightly so. If it is a win-win situation for producers, distributors, and exhibitors, there is nothing to complain about.

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No new releases due to elections

Ruban Mathivanan, MD of GK Cinemas in conversation with South First

Ruban Mathivanan, MD of GK Cinemas in conversation with South First.

Ruban Mathivanan, Managing Director of GK Cinemas, tells South First, “Tamil content hasn’t met expectations for a few months. Business has been drastically down. Only a big-star film can bring back the business. In the meantime, Tamil re-releases are catching on with the crowd.”

He concurs that the 1 May holiday has brought audiences back to the theatres. “In addition to Billa and Dheena, we are looking forward to having the theatres full on weekends as well,” he adds.

Ruban further notes that theatres are seeing a dip in business owing to “no substantial new releases”.

In light of the latest responses, some producers and theatre owners are considering re-releasing older films, including those before the 1990s, to appeal to an older audience.

“The re-release of retro films allows younger generations to enjoy classic Tamil films they might have otherwise missed,” Ruban smiles.

Also Read: Despite new releases, theatres remain dull and dreary! Here’s why

‘Industry will bounce back’

Theatres have opted to bring back film projectors and screen older films in their original prints because there aren’t many of them available in digital format. Ruban emphasises that digitising films is not only difficult but also rather costly.

“Fans responded incredibly well to our Aayirathil Oruvan (2010) show so much that requests for a second screening were made. Additionally, we also screened Pudhupettai (2006) after a two-year break,” recalls Ruban.

A trade analyst that South First spoke with pointed out that Tamil content, small or big, has to succeed if audiences are to be wooed back into the screens. Release dates are being reshuffled because of the elections.

“Since Red Giant Movies has nearly exclusive distribution rights, their attention was only on elections. Kollywood has lined up a long list of movies for the summer season, but nothing has been confirmed. Once the results of the elections are declared, it will be back to business. This time, it will take longer; but the industry will bounce back,” he says.

Related: Fans celebrate ‘Ghilli’ re-release, Trisha responds

Ghilli mania

Vijay and Trisha in Ghilli

Vijay and Trisha in ‘Ghilli’. (Supplied)

In recent years, though a bunch of films were re-released, including Muthu (1995), Baba (2002), Minnale (2001), Dhanush’s 3 (2012), Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010), Vaaranam Aayiram (2008), Oye (2009), Tamasha (2015), Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (2013), Jab We Met (2007), and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu (2006), no other film brought in large audiences like Vijay’s Ghilli (2004), notes Ruben.

The response to Ghilli‘s re-release seems to be a different ball game altogether. Not only is filmmaker Dharani pleased with the response to the re-release, but it seems to have taken the trade by surprise as well, especially in Chennai.

Compared to the current releases, some of the re-releases received good reception and performed better in Kollywood. Because re-releases have lower ticket prices, there is typically a larger turnout of fans.

Notably, Ghilli‘s re-release grossed around ₹25 crore in 10 days, while the domestic collection is around ₹19 crore.

“Today, you have people using the hashtag ‘FDFS’ for films on social media along with photos and videos, but I was one of those who stood in queues hopelessly long and got my ticket back in 2006,” says 51-year-old Hamsini Sathya, a Chennai-based dance teacher, who recently caught a show of Kamal Haasan’s Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu.

“Watching it again with the same level of excitement after all these years was surreal. I didn’t know that the film I was watching would become the biggest hit of Gautham Menon’s career. Right now, he’s a star on his own,” she adds.

Also Read: Second song from Vijay’s ‘GOAT’ to be released soon

Fans & the nostalgia

Kamal Haasan in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

Kamal Haasan in ‘Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’. (Supplied)

According to journalist and movie tracker Haricharan Pudipeddi, Kamala theatres had an initiative that let fans relive their movie-watching memories by screening older films.

“The idea was to screen films that viewers could have missed then. College students loved it because all they had to do was pay 80 bucks for a ticket. It is no secret that re-releases work because of the 90s nostalgia. For the fans, it’s nothing less than a carnival. Vijay and his films continue to remain fresh in the memory of his fans.”

A leading distributor in Kollywood tells South First, “At the box office, people only see movies starring their favourite heroes that have a solid track record.”

It is incredible how the re-release of Ghilli has ignited the Tamil Nadu market. It demonstrates once more that regardless of the age of the film, strong content is essential to box office success.

“Catching re-releases has a vibe. I was transported back in time. Most of these re-releases had great albums, which I grew up listening to. So, we make happy memories and put out reels on social media, capturing moments of fans dancing to songs, and cheering for the punch dialogues and mass moments. Overall, the excitement is simply unparalleled,” says Sundar, an ardent Thalapathy Vijay fan, who caught Ghilli‘s re-release last week at GK Cinemas, Porur.

All eyes on Star

So, how’s Kollywood looking at the rest of the year? “This year has been a complete washout. Currently, all eyes are on Elan’s Star, slated for release on 10 May. The first quarter results haven’t quite fired up the market. Hopefully, this one will draw in more viewers to theatres. Kavin has a huge fan base, thanks to his typical boy-next-door looks,” smiles another producer.

After a pause, he quickly adds, “Kavin is a serious actor doing serious things on the big screen and making audiences sit up and take notice. It is refreshing to see young talents like him come up.”

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