Rajinikanth’s Kaala hasn’t had a great opening, not even on his home turf. And though the film may not be his best, it’s not terrible either. Which makes us wonder whether his recent comments on the Tuticorin incident are what have impacted on Kaala’s box office returns.
When nine people were killed in a police firing, the superstar made a comment saying that the police had only started firing because some anti-social elements had thrown stones at them. His pro-government stance has not gone down well with the people of Tamil Nadu, who are currently engaged in a battle against Sterlite. And it is believed that they have deliberately chosen not to watch his film.
The people of Karnataka are also upset with the star for his comments on the Cauvery water dispute. So much so that the film’s release has been banned in the state. “The people of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are very sensitive. If you make a comment regarding their sensibilities, it will definitely affect your career, says filmmaker Thammareddy Bharadwaj, adding, “Because of his comment, the people of Karnataka are supporting their government’s decision not to allow the film to be released.”
Rajinikanth isn’t the only actor to be ostracised for his unpopular opinions. A few years ago, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan spoke up against intolerance saying that his wife had suggested moving out of the country. Needless to say, people were not happy. Not only did they troll and hound the actor on all possible platforms, but they also took their anger out on Snapdeal, a company for which Khan was the brand ambassador. Many uninstalled the Snapdeal app and gave it poor ratings.
More recently, Ram Gopal Varma’s Officer was a box-office disaster. People say that it was doomed before it even released because of the director’s involvement in controversies and his remarks against Pawan Kalyan. But Thammareddy believes otherwise, “Because these controversies happened recently, when his film failed, people said that it failed because of his comments. Actually, the film failed because it was bad,” he says.
He says that stars’ words don’t have a long-lasting impact, it is their content that speaks for itself, and producer Suresh Babu agrees.
“After his comments, Aamir’s film Dangal released, and it was a huge success. I don’t think people hold on to these things for long,” producer Suresh Babu says, adding, “I decide whether I should watch a film or not depending on its trailer. My decision is not influenced by some comments or statements made by the actor. But if he doesn’t deliver, then I won’t watch his films.” He believes that most filmgoers, like him, are not affected by an actor’s personal opinions.
But whether or not we choose to believe that actors’ comments have an impact on their films, the actors do. In the past, some of them have tried to rig the system to win the public’s favour by saying exactly what they want to hear. Remember how actors tweeted or spoke in support of Jallikattu, hoping to win Tamil audiences over in time for the release of their films?
Producer N.V. Prasad, who has released the Telugu version of Kaala in some areas, attributes the film’s failure to its inability to appeal to the youth, and not to Rajinikanth’s statements.
“People look at films and personal comments separately. If a film is good, they will come to watch it. I think Kaala has not attracted the youth, and so it has not done well. I don’t think people have stayed away because of his statement on the Tuticorin incident,” he says.