On Wednesday, the box office was a toss-up, with two major Tamil language releases competing for screen time amid Pongal celebrations. Varisu, Thalapathy Vijay’s family entertainer, narrowly beat out Thala Ajith’s Thunivu, but both films performed exceptionally well, indicating a victory for Indian cinema as a whole. Thunivu, directed by H Vinoth, is estimated to have grossed Rs 26 crore in India on day one, trailing Varisu by only Rs 50 lakh.
Thunivu, on the other hand, made more in the Tamil Nadu region, according to industry data tracker Sacnilk. Thunivu reportedly earned Rs 18 crore while Varisu earned around Rs 17 crore. It added another Rs 3.5 crore in Karnataka, Rs 2.5-Rs 3 crore in the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana region, Rs 1.5 crore in Kerala, but just Rs 50 lakh in the rest of India (read, the north).
South Indian films, particularly those in Telugu, have become national successes in recent years. Last year, two Kannada language films, KGF: Chapter 2 and Kantara, became runaway hits. Tamil cinema, which once boasted some of the country’s biggest stars, appears to have faded alongside Bollywood. Both Vijay and Ajith have had critical and commercial failures with Beast and Valimai, respectively.
And, if Thunivu’s opening day box office figures are any indication, every major South Indian film has a long way to go before making a name for itself in the north. On day one, for example, the film received only 30% occupancy in the National Capital Region.
Local fans, on the other hand, appear to have enjoyed it. The average occupancy for the Tamil version increased from 61% in the morning to 82% at night. On day one, Chennai had an average occupancy of 98.25%, while Pondicherry had 99.5% occupancy. Thunivu, which also stars Manju Warrier and Samuthirakani, has received mixed reviews from critics.