Chennai: Rajinikanth latest screen venture "Kaala" garnered lukewarm response in terms of initial bookings, unlike the actor's previous films but trade analysts are hopeful that the film will do good business over the weekend.
As early reviews poured in, critics too seemed unimpressed with the Pa Ranjith's much-awaited film, whose screen counts is less than their previous collaboration, "Kabali".
City-based trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai expects a good opening for the film which, according to him, will milk the age-old adage of "any publicity is good publicity". He, however, predicted that the numbers will be no match to 2016's "Kabali".
"I think it will open good in Tamil Nadu because of the controversies surrounding the film. But I can't pinpoint numbers at the moment. Although the advance booking was not very good, the state government's special permission to conduct morning shows have helped. It is expected to do well since it is a Rajinikanth movie but it will not take a massive opening," Pillai told PTI.
Till noon, some of the online portals showed availability of tickets, an anomaly for a Thalaivar's film as they are usually sold-out for the first two weeks in advance.
The actor, who has announced his plan to enter active politics, has found himself in a tough spot with his comments on Cauvery water, leading to a demand for a ban of the film in the state by pro-Karnataka bodies and the state's film federation.
Chennai-based trade expert Kaushik LM said "Kaala" will outshine "Kabali" over time.
"Currently, the tracking suggests that the film may slightly fall behind the opening record of Vijay's 'Mersal' here since 'Kaala' has released on a non-festival day. But in the long run, I'm expecting 'Kaala' to beat this film's numbers in Tamil Nadu.
"Salman Khan-fronted 'Race 3' will not have a big impact in the state next week, and 'Kaala' is expected to hold a good number of screens until next week for sure," he told PTI.
Kaushik says breaching the Rs 100 crore-mark in Tamil Nadu will be a challenging feat but the state's distributors feel secure as major areas have scored a decent advance booking.
"The Tamil Nadu rights for the film are valued at around Rs 62 crores... Except for a few territories which are distributed on MG (Minimum-Guarantee) basis, all the other areas in Tamil Nadu have been sold an advance commission basis, which is a safe bet for exhibitors.
According to Deepak, a trade analyst who tracks box office in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the future of "Kaala" appears dark as the story, which centres around the Tamil revolution in the slums of Dharavi, is bound to have a jarring effect on the Telugu-speaking audiences.
"The audience response in the Telugu states is quite average, and the box-office opening is very dull. The makers are releasing the film through producer NV Prasad on a commission basis, which means they will recover whatever they receive from exhibitors. "The film's rights were not sold to anyone even when the makers received an offer for Rs 33 crores here. The low-key promos are one of the reasons for the flat response here. The plot of the movie revolves around the uprising of Tamils, and there is a definite disconnect among Telugu audiences," he said.
The film, however, is nothing less than an event for Rajinikanth's devoted fan following, who were in theatres whether they agree with their star's politics or not.
In another feat for the film, "Kaala" became the first Indian film to release in Saudi Arabia, after the country lifted the ban on cinema viewing in public.
Distributor Home Screen Entertainment took to Twitter to confirm the news.
"Proud to share that we at HomeScreenEntertainment and @GCinama, in association with @voxcinemas, have just made history! We've released the FIRST ever Indian film in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - None other than our very own Thalaivar's #Kaala @LycaProductions @wunderbarfilms," the tweet from their account read.