Wednesday, April 10, 2019


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Padayappa - The BoxOffice Storm

One of Rajinikanth’s most celebrated films Padayappa (Narasimha in telugu) released exactly 20 years ago today. The film released at the pinnacle of Rajinikanth’s popularity in the late 1990s amidst lot of  hype, and the film lived up to all the expectations and turned out to be one of his biggest hits. The film went on to create box office records that remained unbeaten for quite a few years. Let’s take a look at some of the interesting records the film created and some trivia about the film.
Pre-Release buzz & Business:
Rajinikanth produced Padayappa on his home banner Arunachala cine creations. Rajinikanth tried a new method of distribution in Tamil Nadu by releasing the film all over the state directly to theaters through exhibitors without involving distributors.  The film turned out to be very profitable for both the exhibitors and the producer. The film’s worldwide theatrical rights alone fetched around 19cr, at a time when collecting a distributor share of 10cr was being considered as a benchmark in the south indian cinema. The film’s overseas rights alone fetched 3.1cr ($700K approximately, not including print & publicity).  The music rights fetched a whopping 1.25cr.  as the music was composed by the Mozart of Madras A.R.Rahman.
This kind of revenue even for an epic (grandeur, event) films would be considered a herculean task, leave alone for a regular commercial film like Padayappa made on 4cr production budget (i.e not including remuneration of Rajinikanth and few main technicians).  Epic films (event films) made on huge canvas, with grandiose production values generally have wider appeal than regular movies, which is the reason why majority of the biggest grossing films in Hollywood or else tend to be the epic, event films.
What makes Padayappa box office all the more interesting is, the film generated good profits to everyone associated with the film after it’s release, despite such steep bets placed on it.

Release & Revenue:
Padayappa was released amidst lot of hype so much so that it generated lot of interest not just among the souther film fraternity but also buzz from the national media. Looking back, there wasn’t any social media as we call it today and the media was mostly limited to print media which had limited coverage on movies, much less on south indian cinema (regional cinema, as they call it). It was the huge buzz and the revenue the film generated that attracted the attention of the media.
            Padayappa released with over 250 prints worldwide (tamil & dubbed telugu version Narasimha simultaneously) on 10th April 1999 (a day before, 9th April in few overseas markets), with more than 200 prints for the tamil version alone, (almost double the number than regular films) The film opened to great reports and acclaim from the audience right from it’s first screening. The telugu dubbing rights was aquired by seasoned producer A.M.Ratnam and ensured a great release in Andhra pradesh.
Worldwide Box Office:
Padayappa collected 35cr from it’s tamil version domestic markets (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka & ROI markets) and distributor share of close to 18cr. The Tamil Nadu distributor share alone was about 15cr, a huge number. The film grossed another 10cr ($2.2M) from the overseas markets. The film had a blockbuster run in Karnataka, a Rajinikanth bastion earning a distributor share of over 1cr from the state. The film was a massive hit in Kerala as well, emerging the second highest grossing tamil film in the state next only to the epic grandeur, Indian, directed by Shankar starring Kamal Hasan .
The Telugu dubbed version was a huge success in Andhra Pradeshs, earning approximately 6.5 to 7cr (share) and a gross of approximately 13 crore.

The telugu dubbed version Narasimha had 100-day run in 34 centres, a huge feat for dubbed film. Padayappa(tamil) ran for 100-days in 86 centres in Tamil Nadu alone, 2 centres in kerala, 1 in Karnataka (Bangalore) and one in Mumbai.
Overseas box-office:
Padayappa released with 54 prints in more than 15 overseas markets across US, Canada, Europe, The Middle East (GCC), Australia besides the traditional markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, Srilanka.
Padayappa was a rage in the Overseas markets as well grossing over $2.2mn (over 10cr) with traditional markets such as Malaysia, Singapore leading the pack.
Padayappa created quite storm at the Malaysian Box office in the year 1999 that it the Malaysian media took special not of the Tamil film that emerged as the 4th highest grossing movie of the year by grossing RM 3 million (US$900K ) even beating few Hollywood blockbusters, which enjoy biggest market share, such as The Mummy, The Matrix etc.
Padayappa debuted to spectacular response in the tiny island nation of Singapore in 6 screens. Despite such a wide release in the tiny island nation, the film had a long run, with one of the screens Plaza theatre showing the film for 65 days (11 weeks) and emerged as the highest grossing Indian film in Singapore at the time.         
Padayappa had equally terrific run in the other overseas markets as well.Padayappa is one of the tamil films that was shown for over 50 days consecutively with daily shows in places like Toronto (Canada) and London (UK).  The film’s Europe distributor Ayngaran Karuna, in an interview claimed at the time, that the film attracted unprecedented crowds for a tamil film when the screenedd the film even in small markets such Norway, Italy.
Padayappa run in the USA was even more impressive. USA is one of booming overseas markets for telugu movies today, back then just had namesake release of telugu films despite a sizeable telugu diaspora. However, few tamil films, especially Rajinikanth films drew big crowds showing a big potential market.

Padayappa opened with 2 prints in the US, with premiere shows (a day before it’s release in India) held in San Fransisco bay area and New Jersey. The film was celebrated by hardcore Rajinikanth fans as much as it was done in Tamil Nadu by erecting cutout of the Superstar, garlanding etc, with many fans driving for hours to catch the first premiere show.  With the two prints, the film was screened in over 60 cities across the US over the next two months drawing huge crowds of tamil movie fans wherever it was screened. It is no surprise that Rajinikanth still enjoys a huge market among the tamil diaspora in the US.
Padayappa was released in Japan, a year later, in 2000, following the huge success of Muthu there in 1998. Although, the film couldn’t recreate the magic of Muthu, the film was decent success among a glut of Indian films being released there to cash in on the newfound success of some indian movies.
Padayappa, as expected, rewrote the box office records in the south indian box office. The film grossed around 59cr-60cr worldwide (tamil & telugu dubbed versions) with distributor share of nearly 30cr and became only the second film from South India after  the epic, grandeur film Indhiyan (from tamil, telugu & hindi dub versions) to gross over 50cr, a huge benchmark at the time. The Tamil version of the film alone grossed 46cr (35cr-36cr domestic & $2.2M overseas), the remaing from it’s dubbed telugu version Narasimha
Putting 1999-numbers into perspective NOW:
20 years later, now, these numbers might seem smaller. To get a sense of persepctive, look at the below numbers, as of 1999 at the end of Padayappa’s run.
1.                  Samarasimha Reddy, a Balakrishna-starrer, the biggest hit in telugu cinema at the time, which released just few months prior, grossed 25cr (distributor share of 15cr apprx).
2.               There were only 7 south indian films (including all versions) that grossed 25cr – and 4 of them were Rajinikanth-starrers:  Baasha, Muthu, Indian, Arunachalam, Jeans, Samarasimha Reddy, Padayappa
3.               The film’s Tamil Nadu total gross and share was only broken 5 years later by the Vijay-blockbuster Ghilli
4.               Padayappa’s tamil version worldwide gross (46cr) was only broken 6 years later by the Rajinikanth-comeback blockbuster Chandramukhi.
5.                It took 6 years for another south film to touch this 50cr mark,  Chandramukhi (2005: 87cr worldwide – tamil & telugu dub), While Indra(2002) grossed (46cr gross & 29cr-30cr share from telugu, tamil & hindi dub version).

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