The year 2015 saw approximately 500 films release across southern filmdom, but performance-wise, it turned out to be a mixed year. The success of films such as "Kanchana 2", "Premam", "Pataas" and "Kaaka Muttai" surprised everybody, but the failure of some highly-anticipated, big-budgeted and superstar-driven films was worrisome.
Of the over 200 Tamil releases, only 10-15 turned out to be money spinners at the box office.
"It has been a mixed year at the ticket window for Tamil cinema. While big-ticket films such as 'I' and 'Vedalam' had done well, too many releases played spoilsport for the overall performance of the industry," Sreedhar Pillai, film critic and entertainment industry tracker, told IANS.
Films such as "Kanchana 2" along with its Telugu dubbed version "Ganga" raked in over Rs.100 crore ($15 million) on an investment of Rs.18 crore, while M. Manikandan's critically-acclaimed, National Award-winning low-budget drama "Kaaka Muttai" collected three to four times its investment.
"In terms of return on investment, 'Kaaka Muttai' will be the most successful venture," Pillai said, adding that the industry lacks fresh content.
Other successful Tamil outings include "Naanum Rowdydhaan", "O Kadhal Kanmania, "Anegan", "Demonte Colony", "Maya" and "Darling".
"The success of 'Naanum Rowdydhaan' has shown the importance of making a successful film within limited budget to the industry," Pillai added.
Big-budget movies such as Kamal Haasan's "Uttama Villain" and "Thoongaavanam", Vijay's "Puli" and Suriya's "Massu" turned out to be duds.
Following the phenomenal success of S.S. Rajamouli's "Baahubali", Tollywood market expanded by 10 percent, says Om Deepak of AndhraBoxOffice, a popular box-office portal.
"The success of 'Baahubali' and Mahesh Babu's 'Srimanthudu' resulted in addition of new screens in the state and even witnessed a little hike in ticket prices," Deepak told IANS.
"Baahubali" itself minted over Rs.600 crore worldwide, while Koratala Siva-directed "Srimanthudu" raked in over Rs.200 crore.
"The success of these films showed us the market potential," said trade analyst Trinath, adding that they also increased the market for dubbed films.
"'Baahubali' did exceptionally well in all the dubbed versions. It collected over Rs.100 crore from the Hindi version alone. It all boils down to good content, which, irrespective of the language, will be lapped up," Trinath added.
The success of low-budget films such as "Raju Gari Gadhi", "Cinema Choopista Maava", "Kumari 21 F", "Pataas" and "Bhale Bhale Magadivoy" stood testimony to the fact that good content triumphed over star power.
"Both 'Bhale Bhale Magadivoy' and 'Raju Gari Gadhi' were the biggest hits of the year on return on investment. Films such as 'Rudhramadevi', 'James Bond', 'Subramanyam for Sale' and 'Kanche' also did well and had a good run, but fell short of break-even for distributors," Deepak said.
Dubbed films such as "Raghuvaran B. Tech", "Fast and Furious 7" and "Jurassic World" were hits, while some highly anticipated Telugu films such as "Bruce Lee: The Fighter" and "Akhil" turned out to be box office disasters.
Malayalam filmdom continued to churn out films that succeed commercially as well as earn critical acclaim. Two of the biggest blockbusters of the industry this year were "Premam" and "Ennu Ninte Moideen".
"Made on a budget of Rs.12 crore, 'Ennu Ninte' grossed over Rs.50 crore. 'Premam', meanwhile, minted over Rs.60 crore on an investment of under Rs.5 crore. Both these films worked because of good content," Trinath said.
Of the over 100 Malayalam releases, films such as "Mili", "Picket 43", "Fireman", "100 Days of Love", "Oru Vadakkan Selfie", "Ennum Eppozhum", "Bhaskar the Rascal" and "Chandrettan Evideya" tasted success.
"Some of these hits are already being remade in other languages. 'Oru Vadakkan Selfie', for instance, which is being remade in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali, earned nearly Rs.20 crore from theatricals alone. It's phenomenal," distributor Arvind Nambiar said.
Mammootty-starrer "Bhaskar the Rascal", whose Telugu rights have already been acquired, collected triple its overall cost.
Some highly anticipated films that bombed, include "Laila O Laila", "Mariyam Mukku" and "Chirakodinja Kinavukal".
The Kannada industry garnered all the attention with Anup Bhandari's "RangiTaranga", which has even earned a spot in the list over 300 films eligible for 88th Academy Awards.
According to trade analyst and distributor Ramesh Gowda, the film collected over Rs.20 crore from Karnataka alone.
"The film broke so many box office records. You could even call it the biggest multiplex hit in the state. Even in cities like Hyderabad and Pune, the film ran for over five weeks in cinemas. It's also the first Kannada film to have run for eight houseful weeks in the US," Gowda said.
Another biggest hit is Darshan-starrer "Mr. Airavata", which raked in over Rs.32 crore in three weeks.
Big films such as "Ranna", "Vajrakaya", "Rana Vikrama" and "Siddhartha" did decent business and recovered money. But as Gowda put it, "It could've been a much better year. The success rate is very low and the number of releases has gone high."
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at email@example.com)