The reincarnation of Karnan

The legendary film featuring Sivaji Ganesan, re-released after almost 48 years, is taking Tamil film industry by storm

The reincarnation of Karnan
At a time when even new Tamil films seldom attract a good opening, a Tamil film of yore is creating a furore across the state in its re-release almost after 48 years. It is not only attracting a mixed crowd of youth, elders and families, the film is running houseful even in multiplex screens where tickets prices are in the Rs 120 – Rs 150 range.

Karnan, an epic originally released in January 1964 and featuring late actor Sivaji Ganesan, is now making waves in its digital avatar, when re-released on March 16 with upgraded sound track in DTS and in digital Qube servers.

“We re-released the movie in its upgraded form in about 70 screens across Tamil Nadu, including multiplexes like PVR, Escape and Satyam in Chennai. While in about 30 screens it has entered the third week, it is being screened in additional 20 centres,” said a proud Shanthi Chokkalingam of Divya Films, who obtained the distribution rights and spent an additional Rs 40 lakh for the film’s technological upgradation.

When originally made, the film that focused on the Karna episode of Mahabharat, was made at a budget of around Rs 40 lakh, a whopping sum in the ’60s. Produced and directed by veteran BR Panthulu, with whom Sivaji Ganesan had given several hits in Tamil, Karnan was released in about 35 – 38 centres on January 14, 1964.

It completed 100 days in four theatres, including Madurai Thangam, which was Asia’s second largest theatre with a seating capacity of 2,500 seats. “The film was reportedly removed after completing 80 days in another 10 – 12 theatres just to accommodate Pachchai Vilakku, another film by Sivaji Ganesan due to limited availability of theatres at that time,” recalled K Chandrasekharan, president of Sivaji Social Welfare Forum.

According to him, Panthulu had shot the film extensively in various palaces in Rajasthan, as well as in Mysore and Thanjavur. Post-release, the chariots specially made for the film’s Kurukshetra war scenes were donated to the Big Temple in Thanjavur.

“The source that we obtained had suffered substantial damage to the soundtrack as well as images. It took us nearly two years to restore it. But, we ensured that the sound and music tracks do not fall into the re-mix trap, which is an easier option, and instead scouted for DVDs and other sources to get the sound and music in its original form,” said Chokkalingam.

In order to create awareness about its new digital form, a trailer was cut and launched, which acted as a perfect teaser. “We are overwhelmed by the response from the public, especially the youth,” Chokkalingam pointed out.

A week’s revenue from the film in its new form has surpassed what it managed to originally collect in its entire 105 day run in Chennai’s Shanthi theatre, which incidentally is owned by Sivaji Ganesan’s family. “The success of Karnan in its reincarnation shows that good film and good content will always be appreciated by the public, irrespective of when the film was made,” Chandrasekharan added.

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