Age cannot wither! Nor Custom stale!
One cannot be sure how far Cleopatra had fitted the bill for this Shakespearean exclamation but put it against our legend, it fits the Thespian answering to the name of Sivaji Ganesan to a T.
The more you see the more you like! Each time something new strikes you and the nuances are aplenty to talk about. A decade had elapsed after his physical separation from us but the fascination for his films and his acting seems to grow day by day!
Well if someone is left wondering where I am coming to, let me make it clear that all the above preludes point to one emerging fact - the warmth and reception that are being seen for the films of Sivaji Ganesan across the state of Tamilnadu. The digitalized version of Karnan has proved beyond doubt [if at all proof was needed] the undiminished Box office power of Nadigar Thilagam. The success story of Karnan is a fascinating tale to read about.
Before that a small flash back. Much before Satellite Television entered our households which happened precisely some 19 years back [Sun TV started off in April 1993] there was this trend of re-releasing of old Tamil movies in theatres all over Tamilnadu. While there had been theatres which exclusively screened the re-releases, even the theatres which were normally screening new movies also used to be a host for re-releases once in a while. The advent of satellite channels slowly killed the re-release concept as the old movies were getting screen time on TVs. Then came a stage where it almost became next to nothing. Add to this the video revolution that happened 4-5 years ago. All classics in DVD/VCD format in crystal clear print were put on sale and that too at a throwaway price staring with Rs 30/- and this virtually killed the re-release market.
Sivaji movies were the one that were affected most and as it has always been the case, it was badmouthed that his movies will not bring crowds. Except for a few films here and there it was total drought. Came 2010 and people deciding enough is enough arranged for the release of Puthiya Paravai at Shanthi in July and the resounding reception it got was an eye opener for many.
People started looking out for more Sivaji movies but it was not an easy task. Reasons were manifold. As said earlier Satellite TV and cheap priced videos had extinguished the re-release flame and many distributors did not even renew their rights after the statutory period of 5 years and producers believing that there is no re-sale market did not bother to sell the rights and nor did they think about preserving the negatives. So film prints were too hard to find. But a few distributors dug deep to find out and one could see the likes of Thiruvarutselvar, Rajapart Rangadurai and Gowravam in theatres. Out of this Gowravam really struck gold and now the distributor circles were sitting up and watching.
Meanwhile a distributor answering to the name of Chokkalingam running a distribution company called Divya Films had one dream to pursue and that was digitalizing the epic called Karnan and releasing it across Tamilnadu. It was easier said than done. The trials and tribulations that he had to undergo to realize his dream would itself be an epic tale to tell but that can wait for some other day. To cut a long story short, the movie was released on 16th March 2012 across 72 screens in Tamilnadu.
What a reception the people of Tamilnadu gave ! The annual exams didn't matter ! The IPL matches didn't matter ! The new releases didn't matter ! All it mattered was families young and old flocked to the theatres screening Karnan and it was heartening to see the younger Software generations coming on their own and enjoying the movie to the hilt ! What attracted them? Is it Sivaji's majestic performance or the screen presence of the ensemble of star cast headed by NTR as Lord Krishna or the honey filled songs from the immortal duo of Viswanathan Ramamurthy or the grandeur of sets erected or the enjoyable dialogues by Sakthi Krishnaswamy or all these things put together splendidly by the producer Director B.R.Panthulu? While one cannot pinpoint one single reason it is fairly evident that the lion's share of making this film click goes to Sivaji.
For the record, the film crossed 25 days in 24 screens, 50 days in 11 screens, 75 days in 3 screens and 100 days in 2 screens. Never in the history of 100 years of Indian cinema or 81 years of Tamil Cinema has any film done this. A movie released 48 years ago, having been re-released for God knows how many times, telecast in TV for n number of times and freely available in the video market, running to packed houses in multiplexes where the ticket price is anything upward from Rs 120/- is nothing but a Himalayan achievement that has stunned the cine world.
As it always happens this has opened the floodgates and there are announcements galore that talk about many classics of Sivaji like Uthama Puthiran, Kattabomman, Puthiya Paravai, Thiruvilayadal, Thillana Mohananbal, to name a few, hitting the digital button. While one could not take all such announcements at face value, the very thought of seeing this in digital version gives one goosebumps.
While we savor the nostalgic taste of Karnan's sweet victory let us get ready to welcome the other goldies!
PS: Contrary to media induced belief that Karnan did not do well in its first release, it indeed was a successful film completing 100 days in 3 theatres in Chennai and most importantly at Madurai -Thangam, the biggest of South East Asia.