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Vijay, Ajith Kumar, Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna Films to Compete in Crowded Pongal-Sankranti Festival Season

Vijay, Ajith Kumar, Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna
Sri Venkateswara Creations/PVP Cinema/Bayview Projects LLP/ Zee Studios/Mythri Movie Makers

Four massive stars from the southern Indian film industry will vie for audience eyeballs during one of the most crowded Indian festival release frames.

This upcoming week is celebrated as the Pongal and Sankranti harvest festivals in many parts of India.

Vijay stars in Vamshi Paidipally’s Tamil-language action family drama “Varisu,” due a Jan. 11 release. Its Telugu-language dubbed version “Varasudu” will release Jan. 14 in India. The heavyweight cast also includes Rashmika Mandanna, R. Sarathkumar, Prabhu and Prakash Raj.

Also due a Jan. 11 release is H. Vinoth’s Tamil-language action heist film “Thunivu,” starring Ajith Kumar, which will also release in its Telugu-dubbed version “Thegimpu” on the same day. Manju Warrier and Samuthirakani are also in the cast.

Megastar Chiranjeevi headlines K.S. Ravindra’s Telugu-language action comedy “Waltair Veerayya” that also boasts a heavyweight cast including Ravi Teja, Shruti Haasan, Rajendra Prasad and Catherine Tresa. The film and its Hindi-language dub is due a Jan. 13 release with previews on Jan. 12.

Cult star Nandamuri Balakrishna leads Gopichand Malineni’s Telugu-language action drama “Veera Simha Reddy,” alongside Shruti Haasan and Duniya Vijay, which is due a Jan. 12 release.

All the films are produced by seasoned industry players. “Varisu” is from Dil Raju’s Sri Venkateswara Creations (“Sarileru Neekevvaru”) and Prasad V. Potluri’s PVP Cinema (“Evaru”); “Thunivu” is from Zee Studios and Boney Kapoor’s Bayview Projects (“Valimai”); and both the Telugu titles are from Naveen Yerneni, Y. Ravi Shankar and Mohan Cherukuri’s hit machine Mythri Movie Makers (“Pushpa: The Rise”).

So many big-ticket titles releasing in the same time frame has led to distributors adopting different promotional strategies. In the U.K. for example, “Varisu” distributor Ahimsa Entertainment is running a digital advertising campaign at 75 locations across London. Lyca Productions, which is distributing “Thunivu” in the U.K. and Europe via Boleyn Cinemas, has a promotional van for the film doing the rounds of London landmarks including Big Ben and Tower Bridge.

In recent years, Tamil-language films have performed well at the U.K. box office, which is very much a speciality market for the industry. In 2022, Tamil-language films collected more than £4 million ($4.9 million), including hits “Vikram,” “Thiruchitrambalam” and “Ponniyin Selvan – 1,” in the U.K. Ahimsa is bullish about the U.K. market for Tamil-language films and is releasing “Varisu” in over 200 locations in the U.K., setting a new record for the widest release of a Tamil film in the country. Vijay is one of the most bankable Tamil stars in the U.K. with his films collectively grossing more than £4 million. Vijay’s 2022 release “Beast” collected some £570,000 in the territory and Ahimsa is confident that “Varisu” will breach the £1 million mark.

These four films will also gain a significant chunk of revenue from their biggest market outside of India, the U.S., where distributors are reporting robust advance ticket bookings.

Meanwhile, amidst all the southern Indian star power, there is a lone Bollywood release during the festival frame – Aasmaan Bhardwaj’s comedy crime drama “Kuttey,” starring Naseeruddin Shah, Arjun Kapoor, Tabu , Konkona Sen Sharma and Radhika Madan, due Jan. 13.