Box office

‘Vivegam’: Strong opening for Ajith and brickbats for critics from his fans

‘Freedom of speech is not an excuse to criticise a film,’ it seems.

Despite mixed reviews, the opening weekend figures of Tamil star Ajith’s Vivegam are strong: an estimated Rs 69.5 crores between Thursday and Sunday in India and Rs 36.5 crores in the overseas markets. Produced for a reported Rs 120 crore, Vivegam, the third in the series directed by Siva after Veeram (2014) and Vedhalam (2016), is reportedly the widest debut at the box office for ‘Thala’ Ajith.

A gargantuan share of the collection comes from the star’s largest fan base in Tamil Nadu, particularly Chennai, where the opening weekend figures have allegedly overtaken the collections of Baahubali: The Conclusion (2017): reportedly Rs 5.75 crores.

Set largely in the snow-capped locales of Eastern Europe, Vivegam is the first Ajith film to be set entirely outside India. Ajith plays AK, a counterterrorism squad agent whose goal is to avert a nuclear attack targeting several countries. The film marks the debut of Vivek Oberoi in Tamil. Oberoi plays Aryan, a double-crossing agent, alongside Kajal Aggarwal, Akshara Haasan, Aarav Choudhary, Amilia Terzimehic, Serge Crozon-Cazin and Karunakaran.

Fans go on rampage against critics

Vivegam barely works as a spy thriller but it has all the frills of an Ajith movie. The movie directly addresses his fan base. “Never ever give up,” the actor says repeatedly along with a number of lines redefining the tenets of failure. A preemptive strike against potential criticism, perhaps?

Fans seem to have taken the actor’s advice far too seriously and have been relentless in trolling and attacking critics who dare to give the film negative reviews. One such critic is Tamil reviewer Maran, who goes by the moniker Blue Sattai (blue shirt) for the garment he wears in all of his videos. “There’s no logic in this film and it is evident in the opening scene itself,” Maran says in his opening sentence.

Maran reviews Vivegam.

Ajith’s fans immediately took to Facebook and Twitter to voice their anger against the reviewer. Some even threatened him with violence. “If I see you anywhere in the city, I will definitely thrash you,” says a fan in his video message. “Freedom of speech is not an excuse,” he adds.

Support for the critic has been sparse. Singer Srinivas posted a message of solidarity with Maran but deleted it soon after.

Rivalry between the fan groups of actors Vijay and Ajith is well-known. In July, Vijay fans attacked a journalist for criticising Sura (2010). The actor belatedly denounced the attack.

Preemptively, ahead of the release of Vivegam, Ajith released a statement distancing himself from attackers and trolls voicing their opinion in his name or on his behalf. “Persons misusing our client’s name have also been trolling members of the film industry, journalists, critics and other individuals,” the statement read. “While it is important to identify such miscreants and hold them accountable, our client unconditionally apologises for any hurt or harm caused.”

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