Mersal (film)

Mersal (transl. Zapped) is a 2017 Indian Tamil-language action thriller film[6] directed by Atlee who co-wrote the film with K. V. Vijayendra Prasad and S. Ramana Girivasan. Produced by Thenandal Studio Limited in their 100th production, the film stars Vijay in a triple role with S. J. Surya, Kajal Aggarwal, Samantha Akkineni, Nithya Menen and Vadivelu.

Mersal
Mersal film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAtlee
Screenplay byK. V. Vijayendra Prasad
S. Ramana Girivasan
Story byAtlee
Produced byN. Ramasamy
Hema Rukmani
H. Murali
Starring
CinematographyG. K. Vishnu
Edited byRuben
Music bySongs:
A. R. Rahman
Score:
A. R. Rahman
Qutub-E-Kripa
Production
company
Distributed bySri Thenandal Films
Release date
  • 18 October 2017 (2017-10-18) (Worldwide)[1]
Running time
172 minutes[2]
CountryIndia
LanguageTamil
Budget120 crore[3]
Box officeest.250 crore–260 crore[4][5](see below)

The story revolves around two brothers; one is a magician avenging his parents' deaths and medical crimes, and the other, a reputed doctor who charges meagre amounts from his patients. The film's principal photography commenced on 1 February 2017, at Chennai and was completed that September, within 130 working days. Filming took place on Gdańsk, Poland and Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The background score and soundtrack album were composed by A. R. Rahman, while the cinematography was done by G. K. Vishnu and edited by Ruben.

Mersal was released worldwide on 18 October 2017, coinciding with Diwali and opened to positive reviews with critics praising the performance of Vijay, A. R. Rahman's soundtrack, the cinematography, the social message and Atlee's direction, but criticised the cliché plot and excessive length. It is also a recipient of various accolades. The film was a commercial success, grossing ₹250 crore (US$37 million) worldwide, becoming the fifth-highest grossing South Indian film and is Vijay's most successful film till date.[7]

The film's dubbed Telugu version Adirindhi released on 9 November 2017. The film completed 100-day theatrical run on 25 January 2018.[5][8][9] The film was released on 6 December 2018 in China by HGC Entertainment.[10] Due to demand, the film was screened at the largest cinema theatre in Europe Grand Rex, France.[11] The film was screened at the Hainan International Film Festival in Hainan, China[12] and at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea.[13]

PlotEdit

An ambulance driver, a broker, a hospital worker, and a surgeon are abducted at dawn, which is traced to Dr. Maaran, a doctor from Chennai known for providing treatment to all at just ₹5. Maaran is arrested and interrogated by Ratnavel "Randy", a police officer who is assigned the case. Maaran explains his motive for the abductions; the four were responsible for the death of the auto driver's daughter and subsequent suicide of his wife, Selvi, due to their greed for money and negligence in providing proper healthcare. He gives Randy the locations of his hostages but asserts that he had already killed them simultaneously using contraptions.

Maaran reveals that he is not Maaran but his doppelgänger Vetri, a magician. Vetri was also responsible for the death of Dr. Arjun Zachariah, a corrupt doctor who was killed during a stage performance in Paris two years earlier. Dr. Daniel Arokiaraj, another corrupt doctor and the head of the state's medical council, had been associated with Arjun, who sees Maaran's inexpensive healthcare as a threat to his flourishing hospital business and decides to kill Maaran using his goons and one-armed henchman Kasi but is saved in the nick of time by Vetri, who knocks Maaran unconscious and swaps places with him, providing clues to the police which led to his arrest. Maaran is rescued, while Vetri, manages to escape from Randy. Later, Maaran confronts Vetri, believing him to be the cause of all his problems. Vadivu, Maaran's compounder, and also Vetri's assistant, intervenes and explains to Maaran why Vetri is targeting doctors indulging in corrupt medical practices in general and Daniel and Arjun in particular.

Maaran is the elder son of Vetrimaaran, a village wrestler and chieftain from the 1970s and Aishwarya "Aishu". Vetrimaaran, being referred to as "Thalapathy" by his villagers due to his altruistic nature, decides to build a temple in his area and holds a large scale event with a festive mode. However, a fire breaks out, injuring many and killing two children due to lack of mobility. By the advice of Aishu, Vetrimaaran had established a hospital with the help of a younger Daniel and Arjun in his village Manoor in Madurai district and made chief doctors, while Vetrimaaran managed the hospital. However, it soon turned out that Daniel and Arjun were money-minded misanthropists and performed a Caesarean section on Aishu when she was in labor with her second child, to extract more money from Vetrimaaran, even though she could deliver the child normally. Aishu lost a lot of blood during the operation, and along with an overdose of anesthesia, she dies while the child was declared stillborn. When Vetrimaaran found out how Aishu had died, he went to confront Daniel, but was attacked by empty bottles. Vetrimaaran fights but in the end gets stabbed to death by Kasi (An assistant of Daniel), but just before he died, he amputated Kasi's arm and placed an unconscious Maaran (who had been struck on the head with a glass bottle) safely on a Chennai-bound lorry. Daniel admits that he was the one who set fire to the temple and ruthlessly killed those children so he could set up the hospital just to rob and kill everyone; thus, Vetrimaaran swears that one day Daniel will pay for his misdeeds. Maaran lost his memory and was unable to recollect anything that happened before passing out due to the impact of the bottle on his head. After killing Vetrimaaran, Daniel and Arjun embezzled money in medical service to consolidate their dictatorship over the years, while creating a massive genocide from beyond.

Meanwhile, Vetrimaaran's second child was not stillborn; he miraculously survived, and this child was Vetri and Vadivu, their paternal uncle (Vadivu is the younger brother of Vetrimaaran) took care of him. Both were adopted by a famous magician Salim Ghosh, and it was from him that Vetri learned all his magic tricks. Vadivu explains that by seeing both Vetri and Maaran, it reminded him of the qualities of his brother; Vetri had his anger and sense of justice, and Maaran had his sense of selfless service. Upon hearing Vadivu's story, Maaran reconciles with him and Vetri and takes his place when the police arrive. With Vetri (who is actually Maaran) seemingly in custody, Daniel meets him in prison and expresses his hatred and contempt for all humans and contemplates on misusing the medical industry for his personal gains. Meanwhile, Daniel's nephew Sesha tries to make a deal with Maaran (who is actually Vetri) to shut down his practice. However, when they both learn the truth, Vetri slits Sesha's hand. Daniel rushes to Vetri's hideout. Vetri defeats all of Daniel’s henchman and injures Daniel with a glass bottle, but just then, Kasi crashes a bus into Vetri, making him faint. In the truck is an unconscious Maaran who got involved in an accident orchestrated by Daniel. Maaran wakes Vetri up, but as Vetri is injured, Maaran goes and kills Kasi by himself. Just before Daniel can strike Maaran, he and Vetri team up and kill Daniel.

Later, Vetri is arrested for his role in the murders of all six people killed and is sentenced to life in prison. Before leaving, he gives a press conference justifying his actions by exposing corrupt medical practices and embezzlement of money in the field; he adds that his endeavours will continue until the whole system is reformed. In prison, Vetri watches a news report in which, despite his efforts, another young girl in Odisha had died from negligent medical treatment. On hearing this, Vetri escapes using his magic tricks and continues his mission. In a mid-credits scene, Maaran has conferred a statewide recognized medical counselor post, which he accepts.

CastEdit

  • Vijay in a triple role as
    • Vetrimaaran, a village wrestler, commonly referred to by the people as "Thalapathy" and who gets killed by Daniel. Maaran and Vetri's biological father (Paired with Menen)
    • Vetri, Vetrimaaran's younger son, a magician and Maaran's younger brother who gets arrested for his role doctor assassin in the murders. He is younger than Maaran by 5 years (Paired with Aggarwal)
    • Dr. Maaran, Vetrimaaran's elder son, is a doctor who serves people for just 5 rupees and gets conferred a statewide medical counselor post (Paired with Akkineni)
  • S. J. Surya as Daniel Arockiyaraj, and a greedy and evil doctor turned dictator who killed Vetrimaaran and Aishwarya to grab power
  • Kajal Aggarwal as Anu Pallavi, Vetri's love interest, a doctor and assistant of Arjun Zachariah
  • Samantha Akkineni as Tara, Maaran's fiancée and a media reporter
  • Nithya Menen as Aishwarya "Aishu" Vetrimaaran, Vetrimaaran's wife, who dies in a hospital due to blood loss and overdose of anaesthesia. Maaran and Vetri's biological mother.
  • Vadivelu as Vadivu, Vetri's assistant and Maaran's compounder (their paternal uncle) and Vetrimaaran's brother
  • Sanoop as Local Boy
  • Sathyaraj as DCP Rathnavel "Randy", an officer from the Tamil Nadu Police
  • Kovai Sarala as Sarala, Maaran's adoptive mother who gets taken hostage by Daniel
  • Hareesh Peradi as Arjun Zachariah, Daniel's friend and another corrupt doctor who gets killed by Vetri's magic trick performance
  • Sathyan as Maniya, Rathnavel's assistant
  • Rajendran as Health Minister
  • Yogi Babu as Nolan
  • Kaali Venkat as Poongodi's father
  • Devadarshini as a nurse
  • Surekha Vani as a nurse
  • Misha Ghoshal as Tara's friend
  • Shivani Murali as Paapu, Anu Pallavi's friend
  • Sreenath Bhasi as Colombian Manager Vishnu
  • Honey Rose as Suarez'sISsz' Sister Pareena
  • Master Akshath as Young Maaran
  • Bharath Raj as Sesha, Daniel Arokiyaraj's nephew
  • Priya as Tara's mother
  • Sangili Murugan as Salim Ghosh
  • Senthi Kumari as Selvi
  • Seeni Amma as Chitti Kuruvi, Vetrimaaran's mother
  • Kamaraj as Kasi, Daniel's henchman whose arm was cut off by Vetrimaaran
  • Abdool as Vetrimaaran's friend
  • Thavasi as a priest
  • Sai Dheena as a prisoner
  • Pasanga Sivakumar as the hospital HR
  • Pandian as a police officer
  • Madras Central Gopi as a show host
  • Madras Central Sudhakar as a show contestant

ProductionEdit

DevelopmentEdit

Following the release of Atlee's Theri, with Vijay in the lead, the pair was signed by Sri Thenandal Films for another project together in September 2016.[14][15] Initially, reports were surfaced that Atlee will be directing Mahesh Babu after Theri, and was developing the script for the past seven months which did not happen;[16] Similarly, Vijay too being signed for Sangamithra produced by Thenandal Films, but as the film demanded 250 days of the schedule which he could not afford, he politely declined the offer.[17][18] It was reported that the film will begin production only after the release of Vijay's Bairavaa.[19] On October 2016, Safwan Saleem, the chief executive officer of the production house, confirmed the project; and further announced that writer K. V. Vijayendra Prasad, who had earlier worked in films like the Baahubali series and Bajrangi Bhaijaan will be a part of the technical team.[20]

The film featured Vijay playing triple role for the first time in his career,[21] as a doctor, magician and a head of panchayat in the film.[22] A report from Deccan Chronicle said that: "The actor’s comic timing will be brought on screen through the magician’s role. His portions are intended to evoke laughter and lighten up the mood."[23] The report further denied claims that Vijay will play a sikh in the film.[23] Vijay learnt a few magic tricks in preparation for his role as the magician. He learnt the magic tricks from three magicians: Gogo Requiem from the Republic of Macedonia,[24] Raman Sharma from Canada,[25] and Dani Belev from Bulgaria.[26][27]

Hema Rukmani, CEO of Sri Thenandal Films announced that the film would be the 100th production of the company, instead of Sangamithra;[28] On 21 April 2017, the producers announced that the film would be launched under their newly renamed banner Thenandal Studio Limited and also announcing a release date of October 2017.[29] At the first look launch of Sangamithra at the Cannes Film Festival, Hema Rukmani said that "Most people look at Vijay as a ‘mass actor.’ But, I’ve seen him perform and he’s an outstanding actor. I’ve noticed a lot of things during shooting. His sense of continuity is brilliant. Whether the assistant director remembers or not, he will know. I had the great joy of watching him improvise and it is a treat."[30][31] The production of the film began without announcing a title; on 21 June 2017, the makers announced the title as Mersal and also released the first look poster of the film.[32][33]

CastingEdit

In December 2016, Samantha Akkineni, Kajal Aggarwal[34] and Jyothika[35] were announced as the female leads for the film.[36][37][a] However, the production team later revealed that Jyothika opted out of the film due to unavoidable reasons,[38] and the role went to Nithya Menon in his first association with Vijay.[39] In January 2017, A. R. Rahman was reported to compose the film's background score and soundtrack album, collaborating with Vijay after ten years since Azhagiya Thamizh Magan (2007).[40] Actors S. J. Suryah and Sathyaraj also joined the cast as supporting actors, the former in a negative role with two looks in the film.[41] Vadivelu who eventually wanted to act with Vijay in Theri, missed the role due to unavoidable reasons.[42] He was later announced as a part of this project.[43] Other comedians Kovai Sarala, Sathyan and Rajendran also joined the film.[44]

Atlee's usual cinematographer George C. Williams whom worked for Raja Rani and Theri, was supposed to work in this film too, but failed due to date clashes with his other project. Later, newcomer G. K. Vishnu, an erstwhile assistant of Richard M. Nathan was signed on this project.[45][46] The official cast and crew members working in the film, were announced by Thenandal Films on January 2017,[47] with Anal Arasu as the action choreographer, Ruben who worked with Atlee in his previous projects were announced as the film's editor, T. Muthuraj as the film's production designer, Shobi and Prem Rakshith as dance choreographers, Neeraja Kona and Komal Shahani as the costume designers.[40][46] During the film's production, Hareesh Peradi, Yogi Babu and Cheenu Mohan joined the film's cast.[48][49][50]

FilmingEdit

 
The city of Gdańsk, Poland, served as Paris for the film.[51]

A launch event for the film was held at Adityaram Studios in Chennai on 1 February 2017 with production beginning thereafter.[52][53] The shooting of the film took place at Panaiyur in East Coast Road, Chennai on the first day of the shoot,[54] and went continuously for 20 days until 19 February.[55] The team took a brief break after production and then started the second schedule in Chennai on 1 March 2017.[56][57] On 15 March, one of the stills from the film unofficially released through the internet with Vijay in a twirled moustache and a dhoti, and went viral.[58] Following the schedule's completion, the team headed to Rajasthan on 31 March,[59][60] despite being reported that filming may take place in Europe, after the second schedule.[61]

The team has decided to shoot with Vijay and Nithya Menen in Jaisalmer for a song (which was later titled as "Aalaporaan Thamizhan"), irrespective of the hot weather prevailing in the location.[62] The steam engine named 7161WP AKBAR was used in this film while shooting in Rajasthan.[63][64] An action sequence was also filmed at Rajasthan and within its completion, the team completed the Rajasthan schedule in 12 April 2017.[65] Then, the team planned for a month-long schedule in Europe on 25 April,[66][67] with Vijay, Kajal Aggarwal and other cast members being present.[68] A song (titled "Maacho") and few action sequences were filmed at Poland (Gdańsk, Poznań[69] and Rzeszów's airport[70]), as well as filming being conducted in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia.[71]

Following the shooting in Europe, the team returned to Chennai in June 2017 and began the intermediate schedule on 5 June 2017, with Samantha being present and was filmed subsequently at the location.[72] In mid-July 2017, sources had reported that the team had planned to complete the entire shooting within 130 working days, so that the team would have enough time to work on the film's post-production.[73] However, the film's shooting was affected following the indefinite strike announced by the Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) on 1 August,[74] and another strike on 1 September.[75] After FEFSI withdrew the strike on 13 September,[76] work on the film's production been resumed, with few scenes being shot at the Kathipara Junction in Chennai, leading to traffic congestion as the shoot went till 8:00 A.M. despite the officials gave permission to shoot till 6:00 A.M.[77] Following a song shoot and patchwork sequences the principal photography was wrapped up.[78]

Themes and influencesEdit

The character Maaran (or ₹5 doctor), played by Vijay in the film, was inspired from Dr. Balasubramanian, a doctor who hails from Bodinayakkanur, Theni district, and charges ₹2 from patients. It is also known that Vijay's character Jeevanantham in Kaththi (2014), is inspired by a real-life social activist.[79] Critics noted that the film has similarities related to MGR-starrers Kudiyirundha Koyil (1968) and Neerum Neruppum (1971), where he played dual roles,[80] Rajinikanth-starrer Moondru Mugam (1982),[81] and Kamal Haasan's Apoorva Sagodharargal (1989; Appu Raja in Hindi), which had the actors playing triple roles.[82] Shyam Gowtham in his review for the magazine The Week has stated about the references of M. G. Ramachandran in the film saying "Vijay is doing what M. G. Ramachandran, did in the 1950s; the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu did what Joseph Goebbels did in Hitler’s Germany—use cinema to propagate its ideology. Thus, it changed the way films were made. There are four instances in the film where Vijay is compared with MGR—in fact, his introduction scene starts with an MGR song."[83]

MusicEdit

A. R. Rahman composed the soundtrack album and background score of Mersal, teaming up with Vijay for the third time, after his films Udhaya (2004), and Azhagiya Tamizh Magan (2007), and his first collaboration with Atlee.[84] The lyrics for the film were written by Vivek, who also teams up with Rahman for the first time. It marked the first release of Vijay and Rahman in the silver jubilee year.[b][85] The audio rights of the film were acquired by Sony Music India, for a record price.[86] The tracks "Aalaporaan Thamizhan" and "Neethanae" were released as singles on 10 and 17 August 2017. The audio launch event was held on 20 August 2017, at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai,[87][88] which was touted to be the "biggest Kollywood event of the year",[85] and it saw the attendance of prominent celebrities from the Tamil film Industry being present at the event,[89] which also featured a live music performance by Rahman and his team.[90] The album crossed 100 million streams, within 10 days, setting a streaming record for a Tamil album.[91]

MarketingEdit

The first look posters released on 21 June 2017 became the highest retweeted first look in Twitter, close to 50,000 people.[92][93] As an innovative approach, Hema Rukmani teamed up with ICONICbot, an Indo-Austrian Venture, powered by actor Vishakha Singh,[94] to launch an artificial intelligence based chat-bot for the production house through Facebook Messenger. This is a first-of-a-kind initiative in the South Indian film industry, in which an artificial intelligence technology is used to connect with all movie goers personally, where chat-bots are used in Bollywood by top stars for promoting their films.[95] Hema Rukmani had stated that "though we share the information about the film through the official Twitter handle of the production house, there must be false news prevailing all around. So, we had planned for launching TSL chatbot where fans can share the relevant information with them exclusively."[95]

The film is the first South-Indian film to get a Twitter emoji of its first look[96][97] and also to trademark its title.[98] Few sources from the production house stated that "if one uses the term Mersal for commercial purposes, a part of their revenue should be paid to the team as royalty".[99][100] The official teaser of the film unveiled on 21 September 2017 (coinciding Atlee's birthday)[101] and became the most-viewed teaser with 34.6 million views, surpassing Kabali (2016)[102] and Vivegam (2017),[103] and became the first Tamil teaser to get 1 million likes.[104] Two promo spots were screened during the television premiere of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion on 8 October 2017.[105][106] Sources claimed that the innovative marketing strategies of the film contributed to the film's success.[107] Exchange4Media, an advertising company commented that Mersal was one of the South Indian films that disrupted the digital marketing space.[108]

ReleaseEdit

TheatricalEdit

Mersal was earlier scheduled for theatrical release on September 2017,[109] however as the Rajinikanth-starrer 2.0 which was scheduled for release on Diwali (18 October 2017) got delayed due to extensive visual effects;[110] the producers decided to release the film on that date.[111] On 16 October 2017, the film received a U/A certificate from CBFC, with few cuts after getting NOC from AWBI.[112] The film's dubbed Telugu version Adirindhi was released on 9 November 2017.[113] Goldmines Telefilms bought the Hindi dubbing rights of the film in late 2017.[c][citation needed]

The film opened on more than 3,300 screens worldwide which is highest for a Tamil film.[114] In Malaysia, the film released on 800 screens,[115] and more than 350 screens in Kerala.[116] In Karnataka, the film was released in 100 screens, and in Andhra Pradesh, it accounted 400 screens.[117] The film was later screened in PVR Cinemas and Inox Multiplex on 24 October 2017, following their strike against the double taxation row which held on 3 October.[118][119] The film was re-released again on March 2018, following the producer council's strike against digital service providers over the increase of Virtual Print Fee charges.[120]

Mersal was screened at Grand Rex, France, which is the largest cinema theatre in Europe, due to the high demand of the film.[11] It was further released in Japan in four major cities Tokyo, Ebino, Osaka and Nakayama, which is the highest for a Tamil film.[121] The film was released in China by HGC Entertainment on 6 December 2018, through 10,000 screens, which Mersal becomes the first Tamil film to be released in this country.[122][123] The film was screened at the Hainan International Film Festival in Hainan, China in March 2019,[12] and at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in Bucheon, South Korea at 29 July 2018.[13]

DistributionEdit

North Star Entertainment along with SN Techs Film Distribution Company have secured the distribution rights for the film in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; Global United Media has secured the distribution for the film in Kerala;[124] Horizon Studios acquired the Karnataka rights; MKS Talkies has secured the distribution rights for the film in Australia and New Zealand, ATMUS Entertainment has secured the distribution rights for the film in United States.[125]

Home mediaEdit

The television broadcast rights were sold to Zee Tamil for 30 crore in July 2017.[126][127] The film had its global television premiere on 14 January 2018 on occasion of the Thai Pongal festival.[128] The satellite rights of the dubbed Telugu and Malayalam versions were acquired by Star Maa and Asianet. Later, Udaya TV acquired the rights for the Kannada dubbed version of the film titled Mayagara and premiered it through their channel on 13 September 2020.[129] It is available in OTT-through Zee5 and Netflix.[130]

ReceptionEdit

Mersal opened to positive reviews from critics.[131] M. Suganth, editor-in-chief of The Times of India rated the film three-and-a-half out of five and said, "With Mersal, we have got this year's most engaging mass masala movie. When you have a mass hero in full form like Vijay is in the film, how can things go wrong?".[132] Manoj Kumar R. of The Indian Express also gave three-and-a-half out of five stars stating "Atlee has not just exploited Vijay's stardom to deliver a flamboyant crowd-pleaser (which he did in Theri already) but has fleshed out an interesting script that plays up the best onscreen traits of the actor."[133] Sify rated the film three out of five stars and said the film as a "formulaic mass masala action film with a strong social message, whistle worthy moments, eye candy heroines and grand visuals". It further added that the film "relies squarely on the charm of its leading man (Vijay) to pull off its over-the-top tone".[134] Priyanka Sundar of Hindustan Times said that the film "is not about the story, but the way it is delivered; the emotions, sentiment and social message formed the crux of the story", but criticised the length of the second half and the manner in which Samantha’s character’s arc is resolved.[135] Behindwoods stated there are triple Vijay in the movie and it had created triple positive impact and rated it 2.75 out of five stars.[136]

Baradwaj Rangan of Film Companion South called the film as "gigantic, but deflavoured take of Apoorva Sagotharargal". He added that "the lack of newness is compensated for by rich production values", but praised Vijay's performance saying "Vijay is one actor who seems to be getting younger on screen. He moves beautifully in the dance sequences. He even manages an effective dramatic bit. But he’s let down by the writing".[137] Anupama Subramanian of Deccan Chronicle gave two-and-a-half out of five stars and added "Though the storyline is not new, Atlee cleverly uses the terrific screen presence of Vijay and presents it in an engaging way".[138] Vishal Menon of The Hindu had opined that the film had "references to yesteryear blockbusters; but that could not be determined as dislikeable; it is quite enjoyable".[139] Sreedhar Pillai of Firstpost called that "the perfect film for the larger-than-life image of its superstar Vijay, has something in it to satiate viewers with varied tastes", giving a rating of three out of five stars.[140] Indiaglitz gave three out of five stars saying "With his winning formula of old wine in a new bottle, Atlee has proved beyond doubt his caliber as a commercial director and has delivered a sure shot winner".[141] The New Indian Express-based critic Daniel Thimmayya called the film as "ultimate commercial entertainer that rides on Vijay's solid performance and Atlee's slick storytelling".[142]

Srivatsan S of India Today gave three out of five saying "one could say that Mersal is nothing but the rise of a matinee idol".[143] Poornima Murali of News18 called the film "as good in parts: during the evocative flashbacks"; but pointed out a few lame dialogues, logical contradictions and frequent song sequences.[144] Vikram Venkateshwaran of The Quint wrote "It’s got three whole Vijays, with intersecting plot lines, great fight scenes and twelve murders, that will either squeeze your heart, or make you cheer along, all in the name of entertainment".[145] Writing for Manorama Online, Prem Udhayabhanu gave the film three out of five stars saying "The film charms the fans with an elaborate canvas spun for the hero and a social message weaved into it".[146] Shyam Goutham, in his review for the magazine The Week wrote "through the film which is packaged with heavy drama and action sequences, Atlee tries to convey a message. For a Vijay fan, there are enough wow moments—slow-motion scenes, 'Ilayathalapathy' saving people and punch dialogues. In fact, a scene showing Vijay talking to the media about the problems in the country has become mandatory".[83]

EconomicsEdit

Pre-release businessEdit

The overall pre-release business of Mersal is reported to be in the region of 156 crore (US$22 million),[147] which includes the Tamil Nadu theatrical rights about 70 crore (US$9.8 million),[147] Karnataka distribution rights about 5.5 crore (US$770,000),[147] Kerala rights about 6.6 crore (US$930,000),[124][147] Andhra Pradesh and Nizam rights about 4.6 crore (US$640,000),[147] Rest of India, for 80 lakh (US$110,000),[147] and Overseas rights about 26 crore (US$3.6 million).[147] The worldwide theatrical rights accounted to 113.5 crore (US$16 million),[147] whilst the satellite rights, sold to 28 crore (US$3.9 million),[147] music rights for 3.5 crore (US$490,000),[147] home video rights for 1.5 crore (US$210,000),[147] and Hindi dubbing rights for 11 crore (US$1.5 million).[148]

Box officeEdit

In the opening day of its release the film earned 31.3 crore in domestic region and 47.1 crore worldwide.[149] At the Chennai city box office, the film collected 1.50 crore and became the highest opening day grosser, beating Vivegam.[150] The film became the biggest opener in Tamil Nadu at that point, grossing 24.8 crore and yielded a share of 14.1 crore to its distributors.[149] It eventually broke the record of Rajinikanth's Kabali which earler collected 21.5 crore.[149] The film collected 1.7 crore from the premiere shows held at United States and 2.5 crore the following day, totalling up to 3.08 crore.[150] The film earned A$133,057 (68.01 lakh) from 25 locations, upon its release in Australia and earned £94,311 (₹81.08 lakhs) upon its release in United Kingdom in 37 locations, according to trade analyst Taran Adarsh.[151] The film collected ₹90.31 lakhs from its opening day in Malaysia around 800 theatres.[152]

In its five-day opening weekend, the film collected 140 crore (1.4 billion Indian rupees) worldwide[153][154] and 170 crore its first week.[155] In 12 days, the film grossed 200 crore worldwide, including 130 crore domestically in India. It has become the highest-grossing film of Vijay's career, and the first of his films to enter the 200 crore club.[156] At the end of its fifth week, the film had reportedly collected 120 crore in Tamil Nadu, 16 crore in Kerala, 13 crore in Karnataka and 15 crore from the rest of India, tallying 164 crore (1.6 billion rupees) domestically and 250 crore (2.5 billion rupees) worldwide.[157][158]

ControversiesEdit

Title issueEdit

On 22 September 2017, the Madras High Court issued an interim ban against the film producers for using the title Mersal for promotions.[159] In a lawsuit filed by Rajendran of AR Film Factory, he registered the title Mersalayitten at the Tamil Film Producers Council in 2014, and claimed that the use of the title will affect the business of his film.[160] The high court later dismissed the plea on 6 October 2017.[161][162] During the period of interim ban, the makers discussed to change the title to Aalaporaan Thamizhan, but later decided to retain its title following the verdict.[163]

Pre-release controversiesEdit

Prior to the film's release, the Tamil Film Producers Council announced that the release of new films would be halted from 6 October, following the double taxation row, which was implemented on 27 September 2017.[164] It led fans anxious, that whether the film may release on 18 October (Diwali) or may postpone to a later date.[165] As the strike was withdrawn on 13 October, after government agreed to reduce the entertainment tax from 8%,[166] a source report claimed that the film denied approval from Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) granting NOC, for their usage of a few animals without permission,[167] as a result of denying censorship from the Central Board of Film Certification. The team agreed to delete few scenes in order to receive the NOC from AWBI and also being eligible for receiving a censor certificate.[168][169] Prior to the release, Vijay met chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami thanking the government for the reduction of entertainment tax.[170]

Social impactEdit

Upon release, several notions expressed in the film were opposed by various organisations. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling political party of Government of India, and the then ruling AIADMK had objected to scenes in which the protagonist, played by Vijay, criticises the recently introduced Goods and Services Tax,[171][172] and also a scene in which a character ridicules Digital India, an initiative promoted by the BJP.[173][174] The party demanded that those scenes be cut from the film for future viewership.[175] Several medical associations such as the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors' Association, condemned the film for the alleged cynical portrayal of doctors working in government-operated hospitals.[176] Doctors working with the Indian Medical Association planned to boycott the film and shared links of the film on pirated websites online, in the hope that it would cause monetary losses to the makers of the film.[177][178] These acts were seen as an attack on freedom of expression by opposing political parties and various other celebrities working in Tamil cinema.[179][180] Shashi Tharoor condemned BJP's acts against Mersal, similar to infringement of democratic rights.[181]

On 23 October 2017, after Vishal extended his support for the film, the office of his production house was raided by GST intelligence agency,[182] but the officials claimed that they had nothing to do with the film and it was a routine procedure to monitor violations on tax deduction at source (TDS).[183] The controversies surrounded over the film, affected its dubbed Telugu version Adirindhi as the censorship issues delayed the film's original release of 27 October 2017 to 9 November 2017.[184][113] The makers edited and trimmed the objectionable scenes in the television premiere of the film.[185]

Financial tusslesEdit

Though the film was touted to have an approximate collection of 250 crore, the production house Thenandal Studio Limited had to file for bankruptcy due to the high production costs involved. The social media propaganda loss of this film amounts to an approximate 60 crore,[186] with references citing Atlee exceeding the production budget.[186] However, G. Dhananjayan opined that the film was considered profitable to all distributors across Tamil Nadu region, as was, the film's producer Murali Ramaswamy.[187] On November 2018, the Canada-based magician Raman Sharma, who worked in the project accused Thenandal Studios of non-payment of dues and slammed the company for their unprofessional behaviour.[188] In August, Sharma's team sent a legal notice to the makers, demanding the rest of his payment under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.[189] The financial tussles surrounding over the production house led the makers shelve all of their upcoming projects: notably the company's big-budget film Sangamithra,[190] Dhanush's untitled project with Karthik Subbaraj[191] and his directorial film,[192][d] A. R. Rahman's virtual reality film Le Musk, and other productions;[194] furthermore, their completed projects Vallavanukkum Vallavan and Iravaakaalam remained unreleased.[195]

Awards and nominationsEdit

At the 65th Filmfare Awards South, Mersal received eleven nominations including those for Best Director (Atlee), Best Actor (Vijay) and Best Supporting Actor (S. J. Surya). It won in two categories – Best Supporting Actress (Menen) and Best Music Director (Rahman).[196][197] At the 10th Vijay Awards, the film received eight nominations and won three awards: Favourite Film, Best Director and Favourite Song.[198] Mersal received twelve nominations at the 7th South Indian International Movie Awards ceremony and won five awards, including Best Director for Atlee, Best Actor in a Negative Role for Surya and Best Music Director for Rahman.[199][200] Among other wins, the film received ten Techofes Awards,[201] seven Edison Awards,[202] five Ananda Vikatan Cinema Awards[203][204] and two Norway Tamil Film Festival Awards. At the international ceremonies, the film won one award for Best Foreign Film at the National Film Awards UK.[205][206] and Best International actor award for Vijay at International Achievement Recognition Award UK.[207][208]

ImpactEdit

Prior to the film's release, Hollywood stuntman Serge Crozon Cazin, who starred in Ajith Kumar's Vivegam,[209] and S. S. Rajamouli expressed their anticipations on the film, with the latter calling it as "a fantastic film to look forward too".[210] Following the criticism towards the GST and Digital India-scenes levied by BJP, Rajinikanth,[211] Kamal Haasan,[212] Vishal, Vijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swamy and Khushbu Sundar, extended his support towards Mersal and praised Vijay and the team for "bravely addressing social issues in the film".[213][214] As H. Raja criticised the Censor Board officials over the film's certification after watching the film online, demanding that they should be removed from posts,[215] Gautami Tadimalla, the member of CBFC who watched a screening of the film on 22 October, claimed that "Mersal has been given a fair censor certificate. There was no foul in the film’s dialogues with reference to GST, and asking the scenes to be lifted off the film is a direct threat to freedom of speech."[216][217] The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to Smriti Irani, the Information and Broadcasting minister, seeking action against H. Raja for watching the pirated version of the film online.[218] Similarly, Prasoon Joshi, chief of CBFC approved the dubbed Telugu version without any cuts.[219] In a positive note, Mersal emerged as the most tweeted hashtag of 2017 in the entertainment section, according to a survey report by Twitter.[220][221]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Samantha Akkineni, Kajal Aggarwal and Jyothika earlier collaborated with Vijay in two films.[36][37]
  2. ^ Both Vijay and Rahman made their debut in 1992, and completed 25 years in the film industry in 2017.
  3. ^ The Hindi version remains unreleased to date
  4. ^ The project was later exchanged to Y NOT Studios and released under the title Jagame Thandhiram in 2021.[193]

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