Johannesburg: Tamil actor Vijay's 60th film "Bairavaa" has set a new record in South Africa even before its release with a special premiere in three cities on Thursday night.
"Bairavaa" is the first Tamil film ever to be screened at theatres of all three major cinema groups in South Africa.
Distributor Elavarasan Varadharajan said he was delighted when Ster-Kinekor, the Avalon Group and Nu Metro cinema chains all agreed to screen "Bairavaa" at nine venues in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
"I started out six years ago, with just one screening of the Rajinikanth starrer 'Billa 2', and it has steadily grown from there, mainly with support from the expatriate Tamil community working in Johannesburg," Varadharajan told PTI.
"But their numbers vary as people's contracts expire and currently they are quite low. We need greater support from the local Tamil community as well, which is why we now have for the first time a Tamil film showing in the huge Indian township of Lenasia near Johannesburg as well."
Although almost two thirds of the 1.4. Million South Africans of Indian origin are of South Indian and mainly Tamil origin, there is a very poor cinema-going culture among them due to the rampant piracy of films.
South African Tamil Federation spokesperson Nadas Pillay said another reason for the poor support from the community in Johannesburg was that the films were being shown at venues in the city centre which were far from areas like Lenasia and were therefore inaccessible for transport and safety reasons to many people.
"This screening of 'Bairavaa' in Lenasia right in the heart of the community will be a good test for the level of support from the Tamil community," Pillay added.
"I bring in Tamil movies because of my love for the language. I also saw how local Tamils preserve their culture and language through so many different activities even more than 150 years after their forebears first came here, so I believe they can benefit from watching Tamil films as well," said Varadharajan.
"Cinema is a strong medium to learn languages. Even if youngsters pick up one or two words from a Tamil film, I am happy that this teaching tool has done its work and hopefully motivated further interest in the language."
Varadharajan admitted that 60 per cent of the movies that he has brought to South Africa have failed in terms of box office takings, while the occasional hit with big stars such as Rajinikanth help offset this.
But his company Kavin Media has not made any money from the venture, with Varadharajan subsiding his cinema passion from his Information Technology business.