Actor Vijay and director Lokesh Kanagaraj’s much-awaited Leo, despite quite a few setbacks, has been released worldwide. Almost all the theatres in the state opened to packed houses as fans thronged to catch the star-studded action film. Keeping with tradition, several theatre complexes saw fans in celebratory mode which ranged from bursting crackers to cracking open coconuts, while some centres even saw live music performances.
The release of Leo comes as a huge relief for the makers of the film and fans of Vijay, after the slew of troubles the film faced before it saw the light of day. When the first single from the film, ‘Naa Ready’ was released three months ago, a section criticised Vijay for appearing with a lit cigarette in the song. The track’s lyrics were also criticised by a few for glorifying the use of alcohol and tobacco products. Closer to the release, the film’s trailer came under the scanner after it featured Vijay using expletives. The makers had to later mute the words in the trailer, while the censor board snipped it in the theatrical version.
Just a few days before the film’s release, the film’s production house requested the Tamil Nadu government permission for two special shows (4 a.m. and 9 a.m.) on October 19 followed by one special show (7 a.m.) from October 20 to 24. The government later released a statement that said permission has been granted to allow one special show for Leo from October 19 to 24 with the maximum number of shows per day not exceeding five.
Dejected, the makers approached the Madras High Court seeking a direction from the Tamil Nadu government to permit. The Madras High Court on Tuesday, October 17, directed the Tamil Nadu government to reconsider a request made by Seven Screen Studios, the producers of Leo. A day later, the government denied permission for the 7 a.m. show making 9 a.m. the first show timing for theatres across the state for the film’s opening day on October 19. Theatres in Kerala, Karnataka and a few northern states had 4 a.m. shows for Leo, followed by Pondicherry where the first show started at 7 a.m.
A day before the release, during the trial run of Leo in a theatre, a video containing scenes from the first half of the film was leaked and the makers went into overdrive to take down the clip which went viral within minutes. Until Wednesday evening, several of the major theatres in Chennai didn’t reach a mutual agreement with their respective distributors and some theatres had a delayed first show on Thursday. Meanwhile, right after the first show of Leo, it has been widely reported that the entire film was leaked online on pirated websites.
Thankfully, this didn’t deter fans from flocking to the theatres. Ruban Mathivanan, owner of GK Cinemas shares that despite the lack of early morning shows, the crowd and celebration have been on par with the releases of Vijay’s previous films. “It was an electrifying atmosphere as people went crazy like always for the FDFS (first day first show) of a film of this magnitude. We opened online bookings till Tuesday, and all the shows on all our properties are fully booked till then. At our complex, the major celebrations happened for the 12 pm show and it included a DJ performance too,” says Ruban who adds that the new timing for the FDFS is here to stay. “This is the new norm and several big films like Ponniyin Selvan and Jailerhave had successful runs. We are expecting the shows to go housefull till next Sunday.”
Articulating about certain theatres having failed talks with the film’s distributor, Ruban says, “Like with all films, there were negotiations between theatre owners and distributors. Probably, the distributors demanded more and it didn’t work out for some. Usually, these negotiations are done beforehand, but since it’s Leo and some main theatres didn’t host the first show, it blew up.”
Speaking about box office reports, veteran distributor and head of Tamil Nadu’s Theatre Owners Association Tirupur Subramaniam told The Hindu that they would need time till at least Friday evening to share the numbers as they are yet to get the reports themselves.
While the drama is still unfolding behind the curtains, fans seemed to have a gala time catching the FDFS. Vinod Kumar, a Quality Services Manager and a fan of Vijay, says, “I saw it in a multiplex and this is my first time catching a Thalapathy film in such a setting as I usually stick to theatres like Vettri and Rohini. We went as a gang of 10 people, and the excitement among fans didn’t really feel any different as we had quite a blast. The cheers and claps for certain important secondary characters were on par with what Vijay’s introduction received. Anirudh’s background score elevated the action sequences which were fantastic.”
Echoing the thoughts of many who took to social media to praise Vijay’s performance, Vinod says, “While the mass sequences were brilliant, the ones that showcased the actor in Vijay were really good. On his performance front, this has to be one of his best films ever and the callback to his previous films made it quite an experience despite a comparatively middling second half. The surprises though, work wonders.”
Leo, which marks Lokesh’s second film with Vijay after Master, also stars Trisha, Sanjay Dutt, Arjun, Priya Anand, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Mansoor Ali Khan, Sandy, and Mysskin.