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The Rajinikanth phenomenon

His latest film 'Kabali' has yet again shown that no other actor in India can match him when it comes to fan following

Published: Jul 23, 2016 08:46:07 PM IST
Updated: Jul 23, 2016 09:03:41 PM IST
The Rajinikanth phenomenon
Image: Mexy Xavier
Fans gather outside Mumbai's Aurora Theatre on Friday afternoon to watch Rajinikanth's latest movie, 'Kabali'

Salman Khan: I release the movie on Eid because it is a holiday

Rajinikanth: I release the movie and that day becomes a holiday

This social media forward circulated by the hardcore fans of Tamil Super Star Rajinikanth is not entirely bombastic. While no holiday is actually declared in Chennai or other parts of Tamil Nadu, any release of his movie does become a festival and for his fans, who are many and across age profiles, it is a virtual holiday. The expectation begins to build up a week before. The social media erupts with forward messages. Television channels enter the fray fanning the frenzy further. The hunt begins for a FDFS (First Day First Show) ticket. The less lucky but ardent fans settle for some show on the first day. Most of the fans would have seen the movie, some more than once, during the first weekend. Many companies in Chennai even book tickets for their employees. The thinking being: the employees are anyway unlikely to work that day and why not generate some goodwill by getting them the first day tickets.

The theatres that screen his film are decked up with large size cutouts and flags. The auditorium goes wild when his name flashes at the beginning of the movie and turns more ballistic when he makes his entry in the film. All this, despite the fact that the 65 year old actor does a movie only once every two years or more and unlike Bollywood stars, does not promote his films.

It has been no different this time too with his latest film Kabali that released yesterday. He plays the role of a don who fights for the rights of Tamils living in Malaysia. It is expected that the film will take in Rs 100 crore in the very first weekend. Box office pundits expect it to be one of the top grossing movies of this year. Media reports have said that the film has already earned Rs 200 crore even before it was released through TV rights and distribution rights in various parts of India and abroad (Rajinikanth has a crazy fan following in Japan too).  For a Tamil film star (who has occasionally acted in Hindi films), such fan following is unprecedented.

At the Aurora Theatre in Matunga, Mumbai, on Friday afternoon people of all ages — kids, youngsters in their twenties, middle-aged men and women and a even senior citizens — flock around a giant cutout of Rajinikanth put up against the facade of the building. The youngsters take selfies with the cutout. Flags with Ranjinikanth’s much younger face flap in the wind above their head. The crowd is excited and many of them waiting for the evening show have already seen the movie once.

"Actually, we have seen the movie once in the morning — first day, first show. This is the second time. And tomorrow we are going once more. We see the first day, first show of every Rajinikanth movie," said a teenage girl who has come to watch the film along with her large family. A sari-clad middle aged woman who came out after watching the film said "Story accha hai, fight accha hai, gana accha hai. Rajnikant ki subse acchi baat hai uska style." (Story is good, fights are good, songs are good and the best thing about Rajinikanth is his style).

Ironically, even the phenomenon that Rajinikanth is, does not guarantee box office success. His previous film Linga did so badly that the distributors demanded return of their money. Rajinikanth compensated a part of their losses. Kochadaiyan, the animation film that used the motion capture technology and was released before Linga, too bombed. People, film critics say, have a certain expectation from the star which he needs to fulfil. Otherwise, Rajinikanth too pays the price.

Kabali, it appears, will make reasonable money. Those who have seen the film say though it is not the usual Rajinikanth movie, it has enough masala to make it a success. That is the verdict from a cross-section of fans across the country. That should be music to the ears of the film's distributors.

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