Run-time of Vikram’s Cobra reopens debate over lengthy films in Kollywood

Though long, Pa Ranjith’s 'Natchathiram Nagargiradhu' and SS Rajamouli's films engage audiences because of their content.

ByLatha Srinivasan

Published Sep 06, 2022 | 4:10 PM Updated Sep 06, 2022 | 8:42 PM

chiyaan vikram in cobra

When Kollywood star Vikram’s latest film Cobra was set for release, the audience was excited about seeing their favourite star back on the big screen, after three long years.

However, once the movie was released, all that excitement turned to disappointment and people took to social media to tell the world why they didn’t like it.

One of the major issues they cited was the length of Cobra. With a runtime of 3:03 hours, the film was stretched beyond necessary; the audience lost interest midway.

Following all the criticism, Seven Screen Studio, the production house of this Ajay Gnanamuthu-directorial, tweeted that they had trimmed the film by 20 minutes. But even that didn’t seem enough for many viewers, who had seen the film on the first day.

But this is not the first time that a film has faced issues due to its duration. Then why such hullaballoo this time, over Chiyaan Vikram’s Cobra?

The long and short of it

Well, given the pandemic and the struggles the Indian film industry has had in the last few years, makers are now expected to be more responsible in all aspects of filmmaking — including its duration.

Wondering why? It’s because the audiences are no longer willing to sit through — for around three hours — if the movie has no content; even if it features their heartthrobs.

It’s all about collaboration

When making a movie, a filmmaker tends to shoot more than what is required (often) and the length is cut down on the editing table.

A South Indian film trade expert told South First that the issue with numerous directors is that they want every aspect of what they had in mind to be in the film, even if it doesn’t gel with the story.

“Just because you shot it, it doesn’t mean you can force-fit scenes when they are not required. By doing this, you are diluting the movie experience and increasing the length of your film unnecessarily.”

In recent years, there has been a complaint in the Tamil film industry that some young filmmakers are not willing to show their projects to the producer, before their release.

Producer G Dhananjayan tweeted about this recently. In his tweet, he pointed out that filmmakers must recognise and respect producers as co-creators of a film, take their advice, and show the film to the producer well in advance.

Releasing a movie directly in theatres to bad reviews would only incur heavy losses to the producer/financier. This non-collaborative approach by some young filmmakers has been causing issues for producers/financiers, he explained.

Story and narration matter

With new ideas coming into the industry, the approach to content and films are witnessing drastic changes. But experience in production matters, and so does content.

For example, take director Pa Ranjith’s latest hit film Natchathiram Nagargiradhu. Though it had a run time of 2 hours and 50 minutes, the strong content of the movie and direction had the audience glued to their seats, unlike Cobra.

Natchathiram Nagargiradhu poster

Despite its lengthy duration, Pa Ranjith’s Natchathiram Nagargiradhu could engage the audience due to its content and narration. (officialneelam/Twitter)

The length of a film is always based on its story and narrative; the ramifications are huge if they don’t exist.

In another instance, all of director SS Rajamouli’s films in recent years extended for three hours or more, but their story and narration have had the audience spellbound.

If a film doesn’t have an impactful story, good acting and cinematography, and is not entertaining enough, then it’s likely to tank after its theatrical release.

Not-so-forgiving audience

Gone are the days when stars alone would carry a film on their shoulders. Today, the audience looks for much more. And they are not very forgiving either.

Today’s directors need to be clear on the film’s runtime when they have the bound script in hand. Trimming the length post-release doesn’t bode well for the business.

Though this happened several times in south cinema and in Bollywood (Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay), it hasn’t had any positive effect on the film’s fortunes.

Once a film is released, the opening day’s reviews, word-of-mouth publicity and social media posts have far-reaching consequences than what perhaps any naïve filmmaker may believe.