As every Pongal and Diwali approaches, Thala Ajith and Thalapathy Vijay fans wait eagerly to see if their film release is announced. This Diwali it was a ‘Bigil’ Diwali while it was a ‘Viswasam’ Pongal earlier in the year. While Ajith and Vijay fans battle it out not just on social media but also at the theatres to ensure that the films of their respective heroes become blockbusters. And while there is a rumoured rivalry between these two big stars, producers are lining up and desperately waiting to sign them on. So why are Thala and Thalapathy so important to everyone?
Box Office Opening
When an Ajith or a Vijay film releases, the producer is assured of one thing – a big bang box office opening. Ajith was always known as the Box Office King and it looks like Vijay is catching up too! When ‘Viswasam’ released, it reportedly had a box office (BO) collection of Rs 26.7 crore in Tamil Nadu on day one. Meanwhile, ‘Bigil’ is said to have amassed Rs 25.2 crore on day one. Given these astounding figures, producers and distributors know that within the first three days they can recoup the investment and even go on to make a neat profit in the weeks to come. Thus, the ROI is a huge attraction when it comes to their films. Producers also believe it is a matter of prestige if these stars agree to work with them and don’t mind waiting for years for that ‘yes’. Distributors too know that even if these two stars do just one film a year each, they can recoup all their other losses by buying their films no matter what the price.
After Superstar Rajinikanth in the Tamil film industry, it is only Ajith and Vijay who have a large fan following, especially among the youth who see them as stellar role models. People from all walks of life – and even social strata – are fans of these actors. They have a ‘mass’ image thanks to their films and this has translated into lakhs of fans offscreen. Given the demand for their films in the market thanks to these fans, it would be imprudent not to cater to them and make movies that appeal to them. Fans worship both stars – literally (milk abhiskhem mandatory at their movie release) – and with Vijay’s likely entry into politics, it only adds more to his allure. And the only way these fans can be appeased is by giving them more of their films and seeing high returns at the BO. Though Ajith disbanded his fan clubs officially, his fans continue to have their own groups and engage in social activities like Vijay fans.
In recent times, nearly all of Ajith and Vijay films have come with a social message which touches upon everything from politics to women to society as a whole. The stars themselves see it important to give out a social message to their fans and the audience even if they are doing a full on commercial film. Gone are the days of having a hint of the ‘mother sentiment or ‘sister sentiment’. Now, their films talk about vital issues like the right to vote, women’s empowerment, respect for women, doing good for society, etc. This has found resonance with the audience too who want to see their idols/ role models do more than just sing and dance on screen. While other actors have tried to follow a similar route, it has not worked as well.
There many heroes in the Tamil film industry who work as hard and are as committed to Tamil cinema, as Ajith and Vijay. However, the emotional bond that these to stars have formed with the audience thanks to their diverse onscreen roles, is a difficult one to emulate. And the market share and popularity they enjoy worldwide right now are also very tough to beat. In this scenario, Thala and Thalapathy will continue to rule at the box office and the hearts of their fans for a long time to come.
Latha Srinivasan is a senior journalist and film critic based out of Chennai. She has a passion for cinema, travel and dogs.