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Thalapathy Vijay, Tamil cinema's best hope for Rs 1000 crore box office success

While Vijay's popularity knows no bounds in the southern states, the industry wonders if he can captivate audiences in the Hindi heartland as effectively.

Thalapathy Vijay, Tamil cinema's best hope for Rs 1000 crore box office success
Vijay in Leo.

Last Updated: 12.49 PM, Jun 22, 2023


Tamil superstar Thalapathy Vijay is celebrating his 49th birthday today. As Vijay continues to reign over the Tamil film industry, his stardom remains a unique phenomenon in a rapidly evolving cinematic landscape. While his movies may conform to established patterns, his unwavering popularity and ability to draw massive crowds showcase his enduring status as a true superstar.

While Vijay's popularity knows no bounds in the southern states, the industry wonders if he can captivate audiences in the Hindi heartland as effectively. With the film industry undergoing significant changes due to the pandemic, the boundaries separating South Indian and North Indian cinema have blurred, leading to a surge in demand for original South Indian content.

Despite this growing demand, the Tamil film industry has yet to make a mark in the Hindi market, which raises the question: when will Tamil cinema produce a movie that crosses the monumental Rs 1000 crore mark at the box office? The industry's peers in the Telugu and Kannada industries have successfully expanded their footprints across the Hindi belt, making it imperative for Tamil filmmakers to follow suit.

The industry veterans had pinned their hopes on director Mani Ratnam's ambitious magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan 2 to accomplish the task . But, it didn't come to pass. Given Tamil cinema's reputation for crafting mainstream blockbusters, the industry's struggle to unable to cash in on the growing demand for South Indian movies in the Hindi belt is a pressing concern. When will Tamil cinema make its significant claim at the pan-India box office, and who will lead the industry to triumph?

For example, Baahubali and KGF didn't achieve success solely based on the stardom of actors like Prabhas and Yash. Baahubali 1 and KGF 1 caught the imagination of the audiences and paved the way for their sequels to score massive successes. By that logic, Ponniyin Selvan 2 must have joined the elite club. But, shockingly, the sequel fell short of overtaking its predecessor's commercial success. The box office formal that worked for the Baahubali and the KGF franchises didn't yield the same results for the Ponniyin Selvan series. 

The one thing is clear: the superstardom of the leading man alone cannot guarantee a film's pan-India success. Take, for example, Telugu superstar Prabhas. He, who enjoys a solid fan following across the country, hasn't been able to replicate the success of Baahubali in his subsequent projects. Despite taking an earth-shattering opening, his latest movie Adipurush is struggling to sustain itself at the box office .

While stardom can ensure a massive opening, only good storytelling can provide longevity in theatres. And it's well demonstrated by the continued success of director SS Rajamouli. While Baahubali 2 put him on the global map, RRR cemented Rajamouli's position among international filmmakers who have perfected the art of making blockbusters with global appeal. He's the first and so far the only filmmaker to deliver two films in a row with over Rs 1000 crore in global receipts. 


For Tamil filmmakers, the only proven course is to go the Baahubali and the KGF route. Split a movie into two parts: the first part establishes a captivating premise, and the second part delivers a knockout experience. Or they should make something epic that subverts all the trade calculations and expectations and clicks with audiences across the country. If any known upcoming movies in Tamil could do that, it's Leo. 

Thalapathy Vijay's stardom and Lokesh Kanagaraj's growing reputation across the Indian film industry make a very potent combination at the box office. Lokesh's previous film Vikram took the box office by storm by taking in over Rs 500 crore in ticket sales. The Kamal Haasan-starrer is the closest any Tamil film came to overtaking Superstar Rajinikanth's 2.0 (over Rs 600 crore). 

Even though the filmmakers have not confirmed whether or not Leo is the continuation of the cinematic universe that Lokesh is building, we can safely assume that it's part of the LCU (Lokesh Cinematic Universe). And that gives Leo a unique edge akin to Baahubali 2 and KGF 2. 

Given that Vikram has already wormed its way into new territories across India and has stoked up the audience about the LCU, the market is ripe for Leo to take over. If the movie, similar to Vikram, is primarily a visceral experience, soaked in adrenaline and served in a shape and form that transcends the regional, cultural and language barriers, and its themes resonate with non-Tamil audiences, then Leo could be the movie that could bring Tamil cinema its first Rs 1000 crore box office success.

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