'Manjummel Boys': How a Malayalam survival thriller revived struggling Tamil theatres

The tribute to Kamal Haasan's movie 'Gunaa' and the placement of the evergreen song 'Kanmani Anbodu...' by S Janaki contributed to the film's success outside Kerala. Photo | Imdb, Twitter

'Manjummel Boys', directed by Chidambaram S Poduval, made history by becoming the first Malayalam film to amass Rs 200 crore in the global market. The film, featuring Soubin Shahir, Ganapathi, Khalid Rahman, and Sreenath Bhasi in the lead, was an instant hit among the Malayali audience. However, the film was able to create the box-office record due to the landslide reception it received from other language audiences, prominently Tamil.

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The tribute to Kamal Haasan's movie 'Gunaa' and the placement of the evergreen song 'Kanmani Anbodu...' by S Janaki contributed to the film's success outside Kerala. But film exhibitors and trade analysts cite more reasons for the film's tremendous success in Tamil Nadu, a land that worships its film stars.

According to Ravi Kottarakkara, president of the Film Federation of India, 'Manjummel Boys' rewrote the fate of theatres in Tamil Nadu, which was going through a lean phase. “The movie celebrated friendship. What impressed the Tamil audience was the film’s clean humour,” he said.
He added that the makers brought a whole new meaning to the lyrics of the evergreen song ‘Anbodu Kanmani’, which was celebrated as a love song till then. “It became an anthem of friendship and immediately connected with the Tamil audience,” he wrote.

Manjummel Boys
Manjummel Boys poster. Photo: Instagram/Soubin Shahir

Trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said the Tamil dialogues used in the second half of the movie gave the Tamil audience enough reason to accept the movie as one of theirs. “Also, the location and ambiance were essentially Tamil Nadu,” he added.
Ravi and the rest of the film exhibitors in Tamil Nadu appreciated the content and language of the movie. “For the past few months, other language films releasing in Tamil Nadu were too loud and violent. Take ‘Animal’, for example. It was a tough film to swallow. The language was vulgar, and there was too much bloodshed,” he said.

Though 'Manjummel Boys' arrived with no expectations, soon Tamil Nadu theatres stopped screening other movies to make way for this Sreenath Bhasi-starrer. “The film had no familiar faces, so nobody expected anything from the movie. However, within a day or two, the theatres started running houseful. “Salem alone collected Rs 2 crore and we are still counting the figures. It was the same in every other centre. Soon, the film, which was exhibited only in 20 to 30 theatres in the state, was running houseful in over 450 theatres in Tamil Nadu,” he added.

Ravi thinks that the movie should be exhibited in other states with different subtitles, including Marathi and Bhojpuri. “This is a universal movie that should also go to the Cannes Film Festival,” said the film producer who is a regular visitor at the international film festival.

Meanwhile, N Venkatesh, the owner of Woodlands Cinemas, one of the prime exhibitors in the state, said the movie arrived at a time when the Tamil audience had to make do with old Tamil movies in theatres. “We were facing a lean season since ‘Leo’. There was hardly any occupancy in theatres, and we were forced to play old movies to ensure a decent turnout in theatres. People want good content and none of the films that were releasing in theatres in Tamil Nadu delivered that. 'Manjummel Boys' changed the scenario for us. It also disproved an existing myth that films with heroines and comedy only could do well in theatres. Surprisingly, there was not even a single poster or advertisement of 'Manjummel Boys' in newspapers or in public spaces,” he said.
Venkatesh said the immediate future looks bright. “We have three new promising releases this Vishu. We hope people will continue to visit theatres owing to the 'Manjummel Boys' effect,” he said.

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