PS-1 pips Rajini’s 2.0 to become highest grossing Tamil film overseas

PS-1 pips Rajini’s 2.0 to become highest grossing Tamil film overseas

In Tamil Nadu market, PS-1 is expected to surpass the record of all-time highest-grosser, Kamal Hassan's Vikram, by the end of this week

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Superstar Rajinikanth has for long had a cult following overseas, where he has been a torchbearer of Tamil films — his every release sends fans into a  frenzy. However, with his films not doing too well in the last couple of years, Tamil cinema was beginning to lose fizz in foreign territories. 

Mani Ratnam’s period drama Ponniyin Selvan 1 (PS-1), with an exceptional theatrical run in the international market, has once again brought laurels to Tamil cinema.

Over the past four years, the box-office debate around Tamil films by trade pundits outside Tamil Nadu relegated Kollywood well behind Tollywood and Bollywood. Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus changed the equation. 

Also read: Ponniyin Selvan – Lyrics are ho-hum, say critics; what kept Vairamuthu out?

Having crossed ₹230 crore at the box-office worldwide in just three days after its September 30 release, PS-1 subsequently shattered several box-office records abroad.

Non-Rajini film sets new benchmark

A globally saleable star, Rajinikanth is among the top seven actors/directors who have left a mark at the overseas box-office market. The six others are Vijay, Suriya, Kamal Haasan, Ajith, Shankar and Mani Ratnam. While his films with grandeur director Shankar yielded record numbers, his standalone films also stirred things up in the overseas territories. The Rajinikanth-Shankar combo delivered three massive blockbuster films: Sivaji The Boss (2007), Enthiran (2010) and 2.0 (2019).

Also read: Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan: How nature’s five elements act as characters

However, in recent years, particularly after 2.0, Rajinikanth’s films have not done well abroad. Although Vijay’s films draw massive crowds in foreign countries — the star stands next to Rajini in terms of box-office collections — his appeal remains limited because he has not teamed up with A-lister directors like Shankar. 

“Over the years, Rajini sir’s films helped Tamil cinema expand its overseas market,” Dhananjayan, a film historian, producer and trade analyst, told The Federal. “But, with Ponniyin Selvan 1, it’s for the first time that a non-Rajinikanth film is setting a new benchmark for the industry in overseas territories. Just like (Kamal Hassan starrer) Vikram expanded Tamil Nadu’s theatrical business, Ponniyin Selvan is expanding the overseas business of other Tamil films starring big stars like Vijay and Ajith.” 

Record-breaking revenue

For Tollywood films, the US is the primary overseas market. However, for Malayalam films, the major overseas revenue generators include the UAE and other Gulf countries. Kannada films need the support of other language-speaking audiences to attract the overseas market, but things are slowly changing with KGF and Kantara

However, the Tamil diaspora is vast and if the Kollywood filmmakers deliver the right content and market their product, they could be  tapping into a treasure chest. 

Also read: Ponniyin Sylvan: Tamil Nadu divided over mighty Chola king’s religious identity

In the first 10 days, Ponniyin Selvan 1 had grossed around ₹160 crore in Tamil Nadu, and the overall revenue from overseas is nearing the ₹150-crore mark, which is humongous by any yardstick. Such record-breaking overseas revenue is possible only for Indian films that draw all the NRIs. 

To attract audiences in foreign countries, regional cinema needs to tap the Hindi market. For example, the Baahubali series, RRR and KGF: Chapter 2 scored big in the overseas markets because these films worked well with the Hindi audiences.

Tamil version reigns supreme 

In the case of PS-1, it’s the Tamil version that has brought in massive offshore revenue; only a meagre percentage of revenue comes from the dubbed versions released outside India. Nevertheless, one shouldn’t forget the ₹100 crore revenue that PS-1 has yielded in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and parts of North India.

Generally, Tamil films have excellent overseas revenue, but PS-1 has shattered records in territories like the US, the UK, Malaysia, Australia, and Singapore, where it has become the numero uno Tamil movie. In Malaysia, it grossed 16 million Malaysian Ringgit (₹28.31 crore) in 10 days whereas in Singapore, the film grossed around S$1.92 million (₹10.9 crore). In the US, the film grossed more than $5.7 million (₹47.53 crore) and in the UK, it grossed ₹8.91 crore.

Another major chunk of overseas revenue for PS-I comes from the Middle East countries (UAE and the GCC). In this territory, the film grossed around $3.55 million (₹29.2 crore). In Australia, the film yielded A$1,640,704 (₹8.46 crore) and in New Zealand, NZ$154,025 (₹70 lakh). 

Ponniyin Selvan review: Gripping first half, rushed second, more to come

Besides these territories, Tamil films also hold a very good market in Sri Lanka (almost on par with Chennai-Chengalpattu territory), Canada, France and other European countries. Altogether, the film has grossed more than ₹150 crore in foreign countries.

The biggest grosser

Ponniyin Selvan is Tamil film’s biggest overseas grosser surpassing 2.0 and all other Tamil films released so far. Sri Lankan Tamils turned out in large numbers for the film both in Tamil Nadu and in the overseas markets,” said Ramesh Bala, a leading trade analyst.

In Tamil Nadu, the film is expected to surpass the record of all-time highest-grosser Vikram by the end of this week, as per sources close to Lyca Production. Some trade pundits say that PS-1 will be the first Tamil film to get a ₹100 crore distributor share/ ₹200 crore gross in Tamil Nadu. 

Watch: Royal welcome for PS-1

However, the film fell short of this target in Hindi-speaking states (even though it did better than other Tamil films). So, in the worldwide gross, PS-1 will end up as the second-highest Kollywood grosser after 2.0. If all goes well, the film has a bright chance to touch the majestic ₹500-crore mark, but we have to wait and watch how it fares in the weeks leading to Diwali.

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