22 Jul 2016 18:21 IST

Rajinikanth and Arshad Warsi. Two ends of the film industry

Movies are not about just good actors, they need to be marketing successes too

This weekend is all about Kabali, the latest and much looked-forward-to pot-boiler from Rajinikanth. The hype created by the fans of this Tamil superstar with demigod-status, is unparalleled.

As much as one would be interested to know if the movie matches the hype, it will be equally interesting to watch the cash registers in the box office. Will Rajinikanth manage to shrug off the ‘failure’ of his last release Lingaa (not including his animation movie Kochadaiiyaan)? Failure here is in quotes because technically, the movie was not a flop. And it had more than managed to cover its expenditure.

But when it’s Thalaivar’s movie, the profits have to match his stature. A legal dispute involving some of Lingaa’s distributors, alleging losses and unpaid dues, still continues in the courts.

Pre-release business

Kabali, reports say, has already earned ₹200 crore in pre-release business. This means that even before the movie’s first show, it has managed to cover its ₹100-crore budget by a fair distance. But these reports’ sources are undisclosed, and there is no math to show how that number was arrived at.

At the same time, it is very possible that producers of the movie have made up for their expenditure — a report said ‘product placement’ alone has raked in about ₹40 crore! Along with music and television rights, it won’t be wrong to say that the movie’s revenues crossed the ₹100-crore mark even before it hit the theatres.

The other side

If you were able to cut through the jungle of Kabali stories this week, the movie industry had another interesting piece of news — this time from Bollywood. This is was about actor Arshad Warsi.

He is no Rajinikanth and his stardom might short-circuit if one even attempts to compare it with the southern Superstar’s. Nevertheless, Warsi has achieved a respectable level of success and has a credible body of work to boast of. Many, including this writer, would rate him a fine actor, especially because of his impeccable comic timing.

But for producers looking to make super-duper profits, acting ability is not enough. Which is why Warsi was dropped from the sequel of Jolly LLB, a 2013-release that won critical acclaim, including two national awards, and moderate commercial success.

To set the cash registers ringing, though, the producers got Akshay Kumar to play the lead in the sequel instead. Akshay Kumar surely ranks many notches higher than Warsi when it comes to commercial viability.

Warsi, unlike his peers, didn’t shy away from calling a spade a spade. He was forthright about the issue and said:

“I was supposed to do  Jolly LLB 2, but Fox Star Studios needed a bigger star, so they chose Akshay. It makes it easier for marketing, it makes it easier to have a hit. With me, you (the filmmakers) have to make a good film, so that is the problem. You can make money with me only if it’s a very good film.

“If you have a bigger star, then even if the film is not that good, you still manage to cover the money so the risk factor from the producer’s point of view is less.”

There is a bit of sarcasm in the actor’s comment, but it is all very real.

In conclusion

The two stories — one of a superstar and another of a super actor but a lesser star — sum up the movie industry. Even as a Salman Khan can now produce a string of movies (most of them forgettable) that averaged revenues of over ₹300 crore, it is equally difficult for an Arshad Warsi to break into the big league.

A movie’s success is not just about good actors.