Tamil Features

Silverscreen Editorial: How A PR Handout Led To A War Of Words Over Viswasam and Bigil’s Box Office Performance

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The Tamil movie business operates under a cloud of opaque numbers. No official figures are ever forthcoming, especially box office numbers. And yet, fans — usually armies of twitter accounts of various stars fight each other — using choice abuses that would make even political trolls squirm, troll so-called trackers (who too operate in a non-transparent manner), and anyone who dares wade into the debate. They spare no one, not news sites that mindlessly carry these numbers, and certainly not “influencers” masquerading as reviewers and journalists in the murky underbelly of Tamil cinema’s not-so-sophisticated public relations universe.

Due to this paucity of official numbers, everyone relies on hearsay, sources, guesstimates, and even “success meet” speeches to see if a film is a hit or a flop. Stars are under immense pressure from fan groups to outperform each other in this box office game. It is still not clear why fan groups must care about the box office performances of any star. And care enough to have co-ordinated tweets and trends, unless the entire thing is (also) a PR exercise.

In this needlessly super-charged space, making any assertions about films being the “biggest hit of the year” in the box office is a pointless endeavour, that only leads to really bad trolling and nothing much else. Who can prove the numbers when none wants to release the official data?

Three days ago, a press statement on behalf of the makers of Bigil, claimed that “Thalapathy Vijay’s Bigil movie smashes all records in TN to become the top-grossing Tamil film in the state. After Baahubali 2, Bigil is the highest-grossing film in Tamil Nadu; Bigil is the highest Tamil Nadu grosser of 2019, all-time highest grosser in Kerala. Week 1 – 102.45 cr; Week 2 – 26.15 cr; Week 3 – 11.35 cr; 4th weekend – 2.8 cr. Total – 142.75 cr; Share – 83 cr ( excluding GST).”

These numbers came as a PR handout from the makers. However, within minutes, the press received a clarification that the information and the collection numbers handed out were “unofficial”.

But the damage was done. Many news outlets carried the news without the rider that these were unofficial numbers. They also carried headlines that insinuated what the press release left unsaid. Had Bigil beaten Visawasam in the box office?

Soon enough influencers and trackers got involved and suffice to say, it’s bloodbath out there on Twitter, over these numbers. It’s my word vs yours. And we are here to say, we would really appreciate it, if like other film industries, the Tamil industry too released official, accounted for numbers, and put an end to this drama at least from 2020.

It’s deja vu for those of us who remember the last time such a fight broke out on the Internet, over Viswasam and Petta numbers a week after the films released. The makers then released ‘official’ numbers. Those too are being called into question by some of the ‘trackers’ now.

– From The Editor’s Desk

Read our piece on this ‘fight’ here.

Also read Petta and Viswasam Official Box Office Collections Announced

 

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