After a long time, a small film has made big waves with the audience and industry members alike. Vijay Kumar, the director of Uriyadi says, “The messages filling up in my inbox this past week sound like replies to a hard-hitting recruitment video for a revolutionary organisation; messages like Edhachu pannanum thala! Summa vida koodadhu (We must do something, boss. We shouldn’t take this lightly!)” The film talks boldly and realistically about caste politics, and has garnered appreciation from all quarters. From celebrity tweets to felicitation ceremonies at film institutes, Uriyadi’s team has been basking in the film’s success with critics.
Dhananjayan, producer and founder of the Blue Ocean Film & Television Academy (BOFTA), which recently felicitated the Uriyadi team, said, “Despite being small-scale, the way the story was told on screen was very effective. Caste wars are something that bothers me so much, [that they happen] at this day and age. For an independent filmmaker, to have taken this subject and gone through so many hardships with distribution is a huge task. He deserves all the appreciation [he gets].”
Sameer Bharat Ram, one of Uriyadi’s producers, says that though a critical success, the film still hasn’t reached everyone, “We have only been getting good reviews and we are elated. But when it comes to commercial success, there is still a long way to go. We did get a low number of screens initially, but we are happy with the way it has held the screens over the week.”
For smaller films, finding a release date is a miserable affair. Most rely on the (often fluctuating) release dates of bigger films; if released on the same day, the smaller film is sure to go invisible. Every time a big film changes its release date, smaller films have to alter their dates, resulting in more money spent on promotions – money that producers often don’t have. Sometimes, this means the film’s release goes unnoticed.
The makers of Uriyadi were able to get actors and other celebrities to promote the film on their social media handles. Arvind Swami recited the Barathiyaar poem ‘Agni Kunjondru kanden‘ for the film. Actor Siddharth sang another song for the film. PC Sreeram and Madhavan released the promotional material. The film’s music struck all the right chords and topped FM charts. All this was successful in getting the film noticed in Chennai and its suburbs.
Dhananjayan says smaller films need good pre-release publicity to get noticed, because big films with big stars will be releasing at the same time, “Too many films are releasing every week, so the audience is a little prejudiced about a set of films. ‘Ellam mokka padam da (all films are boring),’ people say. When spoilt for choice, the films with better marketing are more visible to audiences. Uriyadi could have had more pre-release activities to get a better response. Apart from social media marketing, the team could have arranged early press shows and shows to people from the industry to generate positive talk around the film. Post-release marketing is a challenge. The audience already has another movie to move on to in 7 days.”
Sameer Bharat agrees that the film could have been promoted in two or three other ways, “We could’ve sent the film to festivals. That would have helped the film gain some popularity the way Kaakka Muttai did. And we could have risked a press show 4-5 days before the release, to get some word-of-mouth mileage. But none of this would’ve resulted in the increase in screen count. That is quite rigid. If you are a small film, you are a small film; and that’s that.”
Both Vijay Kumar and Sameer Bharat understand the importance of making this concept reach rural areas. Attempts are being made to release the film in cities like Bangalore and also certain districts in Tamil Nadu where the film did not see an initial release.
In an interview with Silverscreen.in, Vijay Kumar had said that finding a distributor for the film had been his toughest task. Though several distributors liked the film, none came forward to release the film, as they thought that it wouldn’t work with the audiences.
As Dhananjayan pointed out, there is a certain prejudice over small films, both from the audiences as well as the film fraternity. Among the clutter of small films that are poor on content, releasing almost every week, films like Uriyadi cannot hope for much visibility. Promotions need to be prioritised, moreover; distributors agree to fund promos comparable to big films only if they feel the need for it. And only when distributors have faith in the script and take a chance with the concept, can many more Uriyadis see the light of day.