With less than three weeks to go before the heavily anticipated Ajith starrer releases, we wonder what to expect when ‘Valimai’ hits the screens on February 24.

Actor Ajith in Valimai trailer screengrab
Flix Kollywood Sunday, February 06, 2022 - 17:41

There’s just 18 days to go before the much-anticipated Ajith starrer Valimai finally hits the big screens. So what will the biggest release of the year so far mean for the actor, his fans and theatre owners? This is Ajith’s first film since the pandemic began. As he teams up again with director H Vinoth, fans are no doubt eager to see how different his role will be from Nerkonda Paarvai, which was also directed by Vinoth. Nerkonda Paarvai, the remake of the Amitabh Bachchan-led Pink, was also the last time we saw the popular actor on screens.

The actor himself appears to be re-branding. On December 1 last year, Ajith surprised Tamil cinema audiences with a short statement asking that he no longer be referred to by the moniker ‘Thala’ that he’s carried ever since Dheena (2001), directed by AR Murugadoss. In the statement released through his PR person, he said that he only wishes to be addressed as “Ajith, AK or Ajith Kumar henceforth”. It appears that Thala was not the only over-the-top title Ajith has had in the past, the strangest one being ‘Lucky Star’ only in Amarkalam (1999), Film Companion notes.

Cop drama with a difference?

For a film that created a sub-culture around just asking for updates, the suspense until February 24 is simmering. The long-awaited trailer that dropped on December 30 promises a high-octane cop drama, but a dialogue that stood out makes one wonder if the overdone genre will see a difference.

When a fellow policeman tells Ajith, “We should have just killed him in an encounter,” the star retorts, “We don’t have the right to take lives.” This is a sentiment all too uncommon in police-hero films that normally tend to valourise extra-judicial measures rather than condemning them, so it leaves us hoping maybe the big star-led cop films may be considering a course correction. Of course, we’ll only know how different Valimai will be from Ajith’s previous two avatars-in-khaki, Mankatha and Yennai Arindhaal.

Relief for theatre owners

The Covid third wave induced delay of Valimai’s release, which was originally slated for January 13, came as a blow to theatre owners who were hoping for a revival in the Pongal week — a popular festive season for big releases alongside Deepavali. Last year, Vijay’s Master that finally came out, also on January 13, breathed life into ticket sales after the theatres opened their doors following the easing of first wave lockdown restrictions.

Tirupur M Subramaniam, the owner of Sri Sakthi Cinemas, agrees. “Valimai’s release will definitely bring in a change. Just like we saw when Master came out in 2021, and after Doctor or Maanadu in the wake of second wave restrictions ending. These kinds of big films are essential for drawing audiences back. Once they come, it’ll become a routine to re-visit theatres like before.”

Subramaniam also pointed out that a film’s success cannot be pinned on fans alone, when asked about the role Ajith’s fan associations are likely to play. “They’re mostly fixated on the FDFS (first day, first show) experience. Those are the tickets they want. They won’t even settle for the second show of the day. But for the film to run profitably for us, it has to resonate with regular audiences as well.”

Valimai will kickstart the season for film exhibitors in Tamil Nadu, says Nikilesh Suriya, owner of Chennai’s Rohini Theatre. “In these uncertain times, whenever there is no COVID-19 wave ongoing, it can be considered as a movie season that will override traditional movie release seasons. Though the interruption caused by the third wave was short, the impact was similar to the earlier waves because of the cascading effect of previous disruptions. Valimai and the other following releases should liven up the entire trade,” he adds.

Fan excitement building up

Regardless of what Ajith fans will contribute to long-term ticket sales, the excitement seems to be building up to fever-pitch frenzy ahead of the FDFS celebrations that will happen across the state.

And of course, the unsurprising pitting of ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay fans against Ajith’s is also happening. Amusingly, if Valimai had released on schedule, the two stars with their warring fan associations would have had big releases on the same date, though a year apart.

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