By Ramya Abhinand:
July 22, 2016 – for many, this date would be a ‘self-declared’ national holiday. ‘Cause it’s the day when their very own superstar, from the south of the Vindhyas, has a movie release – “Kabali”.
If you think you have experienced fanaticism, wait until you have seen a ‘First Day First Show’ of a Rajini movie. Not long ago, in a popular theatre in Egmore in Chennai, I experienced this unique fanaticism. As early as 4.00 a.m. in the morning, fans gathered around the life-sized cut-out of the actor to perform paal abhisekam (a holy bath with milk). It is a tradition that has been there for years now, for every new movie of Rajinikanth. As fans hooted inside the movie hall in a feverish pitch, I noticed the currency notes and coins that were flung into the air – a few landing on me. The frenzied fans danced, clapped and shed tears as their ‘Thaliava’ rendered punch lines after punch lines on the big screen in front of them. He was their living god! In a country obsessed with films, no other actor enjoys this kind of fan following. His appeal reaches far and wide, touching both the masses and the elite.
But what makes Rajinikanth the phenomenon that he is?
When a humble Shivaji Rao Gaekwad took to acting way back in the seventies, little did he (or the world) know that he would become one of the biggest stars of south Indian cinema. Having worked in over 150 films under the stage name of Rajinikanth, his commercial stardom has been unmatched. His style, idiosyncrasies on screen, and punchline dialogues gripped the psyche of the people. His movies carried tailor made dialogues, with a message for every common man. No wonder, despite a couple of commercial setbacks, even at the age of 65 years, Rajinikanth movies still garner enthusiasm, making him a phenomenon of sorts.
In his latest movie “Kabali”, set to release this Friday, Rajinikanth plays the role of an ageing don based in Malaysia. His fans understandably are excited to see what the film brings.
And cashing in on this Kabali Mania are big brands, groups and corporates with “Kabali” merchandise and special screenings. From keychains, coffee mugs and phone covers to silver coins and credit cards embossed with the image of the actor, the merchandise are flying off the shelves. Recently a fan in Malaysia took his Lamborghini Gallardo that sported “Kabali” posters for a spin.
On a bigger scale, the official airline partner for “Kabali”, Air Asia, unveiled an aircraft with images of the star and the movie. The airline has also planned a special flight from Bengaluru to Chennai for fans to watch the first-day-first-show of the movie.
For many of Rajini’s fans, it is a sort of obligation, to watch his movie ‘first day first show’. And this is the sort of magic Rajini weaves for his viewers.
Banner image credit: Yogen Shah/India Today Group/Getty Images.