How Big is Sivaji:The Boss?
Sivaji:The Boss, starred by Rajnikanth, is slated for release on 15th June. The film comes in two versions, Tamil and Telugu. It is seen by the trade pundits and the mainstream media as not yet another film. For the past several months, since the film project was launched, tamil newspapers and magazines had displayed unprecedented eagerness to write about the making of Sivaji, even as the readers were told ad nauseum that the project was meant to be secret and every care was being taken by the producer and the director to ensure that the details of the story and the pictures of the shooting did not reach the media and public. Despite the strictly enforced veil of secrecy, how these newspapers and magazines carried the still images and speculations about the story lines is anybody’s guess. These leaks in the media made many bloggers to wonder why the pictures and stories could not get official.
One dominant notion of the film concerns its economics. Here are some figures quoted widely on the economics of Sivaji. These are not accurate and legal figures, given the poor levels of transparency in the Indian film industry. According to The Economic Times, the total production cost of the film is near Rs. 80 crores (In Indian monetary value one crore equals 10 million and one lakh equals 100 thousands. Given the current US$/Rs. exchange rate of 40, this translates to US$ 20 million). The producer, AVM, the oldest south Indian studio based in Chennai, is believed to be closing in on a total sale figure of Rs.100 crores (US$ 25 million).
Tamil Nadu distribution rights are traditionally sold in terms of the territories such as Chennai, NSC (the northern districts), Coimbatore etc., It is reported that Mr Ramanathan of the Abirami Group of Theatres and Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association bought the rights for Chennai at a whopping 6.5 crores (US$ 1.62 million). This deal was supposedly inked, believe it not, with the buyer seeing only the album of still pictures of Sivaji and not the film. Says Ramanathan in an interview:”I have not even seen a single shot from the film. I saw the Sivaji album, in which there are about 1000 odd stills from the film. Iï¿½m (sic) amazed, as they are simply mind-boggling, They are colourful and our superstar looks awesome. Seeing the album my mind was made to purchase the film”.
Rajnikanth is reported to be richer by 20+ crores, at the minimum, plus a share in profits. This reportedly makes him the highest paid Indian actor. Compare this to the gender inequality marker, Rs.30 lakhs (US$ 75000), his heroine, Shreya, was reportedly paid.
Sivaji‘s release date has also been a matter of speculation in the Tamil press for several months. One reason cited for the delay is the decision of the producer to evade chances of pirates swooping on the film before its release. That decision entailed the making of the prints only at the Prasad Labs, Chennai, and not in many labs at a time. It is said that nearly 600 prints are in the pipeline but the lab can churn out only 30-40 prints a day. 75% of the earnings are projected to come from Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Kerala territories and the remaining from sale of overseas, audio and satellite rights. The release date of 15th June has been decided keeping this in view.
Incidently, Spiderman 3, which is doing the rounds in the Indian circuit has a print order of 580, the first for a Hollywood production in India.
There are also misgivings about the earning potential of Sivaji because of the likely impact of the Tamil Nadu government’s recent order restricting the price of tickets in theatres to Rs.50. According to them, Rajnikant’s last film, Chandramukhi, could not earn on a big scale despite the advantage of unrestricted ticket prices. Despite such guesses, the winner or losser is likely to be only Sivaji, the film and its real world personae, Rajnikanth. The trailers of Sivaji are now available on YouTube.
This post is meant to be a backgrounder for what my next post on Sivaji aims to connect. I would like to deal with the politics of the making of Sivaji and Adorno’s conception of the deceitful role of culture industry.