Chennai: Believe it or not but 2012 has sounded the death knell for hero-worshipping scripts. Out of the 423 films released to date in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, the most successful have been the ones sans any superstar or mega budget.
Some of the small wonders of 2012 include Tamil films 'Marina', 'Attakathi', 'Pizza' and 'Oru Kal Oru Kannadi' as well as Telugu offerings 'Eega' and 'Ee Rojullo'.
Trade analyst Trinath feels that "small films in 2012 undoubtedly rocked the southern box-office. They may not have collected hundreds of crores, but certainly impressed audiences with creative scripts. This is probably the first time in the southern film industry that small and medium-sized films have taken over big budget films".
Some of the big budget Tamil films that were expected to rake in moolah but bit the dust at the box-office include 'Billa 2', 'Thaandavam', 'Maattrraan' and 'Mugamoodi'.
Arvind Nambiar, a Singapore-based Tamil film distributor, feels big budget films "always ensure very good opening in the first two or three days, but don't promise longevity except for films such as 'Thuppakki' and 'Nanban', which were one of the few big hits of the year".
Vijay's new avatar as army commando in Tamil action-thriller 'Thuppakki', a Rs.70-crore film released during the Diwali weekend, was the year's biggest hit involving a star actor. It raked in Rs.65 crore worldwide in the first two weeks of its release and is still running to packed houses in some parts of the state.
However, the biggest hit in Tamil was romantic-comedy 'Oru Kal Oru Kannadi'. Made at a shoestring budget of less than Rs.2 crore, it raked in a combined gross collection of Rs.15.86 crore in Tamil and Telugu.
Other surprise hits in Tamil were 'Marina', 'Attakathi' and 'Pizza'.
'Marina', about children who earn their livelihood by doing odd jobs on the Marina beach, collected Rs.5.47 crore on an investment of Rs. 1.35 crore.
The budget for 'Attakathi' was Rs.2.5 crore and it collected Rs.7.67 crore, while 'Pizza', made within Rs.1.5 crore, has raked over Rs.3 crore and is still running in theatres.
Meanwhile, in Telugu, one of the earliest releases was Mahesh Babu- starrer 'Business Man', which despite mixed reviews, went on to earn Rs. 44.8 crore at the box-office.
Trinath said: " 'Business Man' and 'Julayi' were the only two high-budget films that managed to break even and earn some positive response from the audience. Other biggies fell flat, while small budget, non-starrers like 'Ee Rojullo' reaped gold at the box-office."
'Ee Rojullo', made under a crore of rupees, collected a gross profit of Rs.7 crore. However, the year's biggest Telugu hit was S.S. Rajamouli's 'Eega', which collected a combined profit of Rs.58.5 crore in Telugu and Tamil.
Meanwhile, the Kannada film industry survived on remakes.
"Tamil films such as 'Mounaguru', 'Poraali' and 'Subramaniapuram' were remade in Kannada and some successful Telugu films like 'Seema Sastry', and 'Blade Babji' were not spared either," said a trade analyst.
'Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna' turned out to be the biggest Kannada hit of the year by grossing Rs.18 crore at the box-office.
Other low-budget hits were 'Kalpana'. A Kannada remake of Tamil horror-comedy 'Kanchana', it was a Rs.4 crore film and raked in Rs.9 crore, while the Rs.4.5-crore Kannada romantic-drama 'Addhuri' collected Rs.16.4 crore.
The Malayalam film industry had quite a few surprise hits this year.
"Films such as 'Usthad Hotel' and '22 Female Kottayam' were the year's biggest low-budget hits. These films had fresh and innovative storylines and were, therefore, unanimously accepted at the box-office," Trinath said and added that other blockbusters were 'Ordinary' and 'Thattathin Marayathu'.
'Usthad Hotel', starring newcomer Dulquer Salmaan, collected Rs. 8.5 crore at the box-office, while '22 Female Kottayam', which revolves around a nurse who wants to take revenge on her tormenters, was made on a budget of Rs. 2.5 crore and it collected Rs. 5.2 crore.
Malayalam comedy-drama Ordinary' collected Rs. 14.05 crore on an investment of Rs. 3.3 crore, while Rs.3 crore film 'Thattathin Marayathu' managed to earn a profit of Rs. 9.8 crore.
These films have proved that a good script and superlative performances are the need of the hour.