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Slump? Rs 165 crore for a film
- No cost cuts for Enthiran

Chennai, Dec. 18: Big is getting bigger in Tamil tinsel town, even when the economy slips.

Sun TV’s Kalanidhi Maran has agreed to produce director Shankar’s Enthiran, which at Rs 165 crore will be the most expensive Indian film ever.

The sci-fi thriller stars Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Shankar, the maker of mega-budget hits like Jeans and Sivaji: The Boss, was asked to cut costs by the original producer, the London-based Aynkaran Films.

The director, who has already shot three songs in Peru at a cost of Rs 12 crore, was forced to shoot a crucial sequence in an upscale gym as he was not allowed to construct a new one. “If we had stuck to the original plan, the bill would have been far higher than the Rs 1 lakh we paid for gym charges and the backdrop,” an insider said.

Shankar was asked to trim his budget from Rs 120 crore to Rs 100 crore. He decided to cut off the producer instead.

Sun Pictures, a newly formed film production company owned by Maran, the TV tycoon with deep pockets, was handed the production rights yesterday.

Enthiran, meaning robot, was to have originally starred Shah Rukh Khan and is being made in three languages: Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.

Not all filmmakers are so lucky as to get a budget hike in these times. Even Mani Ratnam, considered the holy cow of the box office, has not been spared.

Reliance Big Pictures is reported to have asked him to halve costs for his multilingual Raavan, starring Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya, Vikram and Govinda, from Rs 120 crore to Rs 60 crore.

“Since producers and production houses have realised that movies cannot sell at high costs in a market hit by the downturn, they are choosing the more sensible option of keeping production costs low,” said P.K. Prabhakar, a chartered accountant connected with the film industry.

Enthiran is slated for release only in early 2010, and the producers are confident the markets would have recovered enough by then to support the movie.

“While operating in such a market, our production costs will also be low as we can derive bargain prices for all services,” argued an executive of Sun Pictures.

The failure of Rajinikanth’s Kuselan, when the star and the producer were forced to compensate distributors and exhibitors for losses, and the poor returns of the other two box office heroes — Vijay and Ajith — has prompted the Tamil film industry to look for medium budget movies strong on content.

“Five of the six big hits of Tamil cinema in 2008 were films made for less than Rs 10 crore,” a distributor said.

The slump in the US has also hit the industry. “Dasavatharam grossed $750,000 across the US. But other movies have bombed, including Kuselan. Recession-hit techies do not want to drive down and pay $12 each to watch a Tamil movie in such hard times,” said Jayavel Murugan, distributor of Tamil movies in the US.

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