It’s Kabali season, da!

Superstar Rajinikanth’s Kabali, directed by Pa. Ranjith and produced by Kalaipuli Thanu of V Creations, is the hottest film now in Indian film trade. The film has touched nearly 20 million views on YouTube and the its audio rights have been picked up by Think Music India. All areas of the film have already been sold and its Karnataka theatrical rights (sold to Lingaa’s producer Rockline Venkatesh) has fetched a record price.

The Telugu dubbing rights of the film has also been finalised for a phenomenal amount and two Bollywood distributors have been camping in Chennai over the Hindi theatrical dubbing rights. In the overseas market, the film’s France distribution rights alone have sold for more than double of what other star films command in the entire European market. Such is the craze among distributors that a Hong Kong-based company has offered a huge amount for the Chinese dubbing rights and a simultaneous release in China. Negotiations are at an advanced stage as Indian films (read Bollywood) find it difficult to get a China release, and even if it releases, it’s months after its India release.

Will Rajinikanth be able to break the monopoly of Hollywood films in China, which has a release quota and a cap on the number of foreign language movies?

Back home in India, leading national and international brands have sent feelers that they’d like to be associated with the Kabali brand. A Chennai-based client manager says, “A lot of national brands have shown interest in being associated with Kabali. We are trying to work out a deal which will be mutually beneficial. But it won’t be easy, as Rajinikanth has normally shied away from endorsing any brands and will not be available for joint promotional activities. There may be some announcements once the producer announces a release date.” Thanu prefers an outright and MG (Minimum Guarantee) sale of Kabali to distributors outside of Tamil Nadu. A Rajinikanth film today generates almost 40 per cent of its theatrical revenue outside of the star’s core area. No other star in South India has such a high theatrical viewership outside his home state. In Tamil Nadu, Thanu, who started his career as a distributor, is likely to distribute the film himself. A Mumbai-based distributor has offered a whopping Rs. 16 crore, for the Chengalpet area alone.

Thanu’s office is always flooded with people, armed with recommendation letters from VIPs, to procure an area’s distribution rights. As per industry sources, Kabali is likely to do pre-release business of over Rs. 200 crore from the sale of theatrical, endorsement deals and merchandise. Now, the big question is: When will Kabali release? The film is in the last stages of post-production work and is awaiting censor board certification. As per the rules of CBFC, the producer cannot announce the release date of his film before it is issued a censor certificate.

The film was first announced to release in May or June, following the Tamil Nadu elections. Then there was a rumour that it would be a Ramzan release, coinciding with the release of Salman Khan’s Sultan. Now, the latest trade buzz is that Kabali’s release has been advanced by a week for a worldwide release on July 1 in four languages: Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, and Malay. The producers of the film say it will be the biggest-ever worldwide release for an Indian film, with the numbers expected to touch 5000 screens. However, there are the sceptics in the trade who say it is not a good date, as it’s during the last days of Ramzan. Traditionally, big films avoid a release during the fasting days. But those in favour of July 1 say that it does not matter, as a Rajinikanth film will always have a good opening, irrespective of its release date. They also point out that Baahubali released a week before Eid and it still went on to become a blockbuster.

Says an overseas distributor of Kabali: “We are all keen on a July 1 solo release, as Sultan is releasing on Eid, and it makes business sense to avoid a clash. Thalaivar doing a film with a new-generation director like Ranjith and the way the teaser went viral, will give Kabali a humongous opening.”

Meanwhile, the buzz is that Rajinikanth, who is holidaying in the U.S., will take the final call on the release date. Producer Kalaipuli Thanu says, “I will announce the release date of Kabali only after the film is censored. As of now, all that I can say is that we are gearing up for a July release. The audio launch of the film will take place in a grand manner on or before June 10.”