The Top 10 films in the UK for the weekend of June 16/17 included two Indian films. At No 6 the Hindi film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom registered a screen average of over £5,000 from 47 screens. There is nothing unusual about this as Hindi films regularly feature in the Top 10. However, at No 9 Sivaji represents what I think is the first Tamil (i.e. ‘made in Chennai’) film to register. Not only is it in the Top 10, but from only 12 screens with a screen average of over £14,000 it was easily the best earner of the weekend, beating all the Hollywood blockbusters. I rate this the most surprising result I’ve seen in many years of logging the chart.
Sivaji stars the veteran (57 year-old) superstar Rajnikanth in a story about a software engineer who returns from America to attempt to set up a hospital for the poor. IMDB lists the film as being partly shot in all four South Indian languages: Tamil, Kannada, Telegu and Malayalam. Distributor Ayngaran is the only outlet for South Indian movies in the UK and it must be delighted by its success, which as far as I can see is based on screenings in Cineworld cinemas in London. I confess that the movie sounds like it will not necessarily be attractive to UK audiences not steeped in South Indian culture and it is possibly not subtitled. Nevertheless, this is a breakthrough in revealing to UK film pundits that actually South India produces more films and sometimes has bigger audiences than the Hindi film industry based in Mumbai (i.e. ‘Bollywood’).
Sivaji opened in 15 territories worldwide and the diaspora audiences in Malaysia and elsewhere propelled to number 15 in Screen International‘s worldwide chart.