No Indian movie was ever released with as much fanfare - and watched with as much frenzy - as this one, in Bahrain. (check this news)
Two friends excitedly called me on Friday asking if I wish to watch Shivaji, the new Rajnikanth movie with them. They said, in particular, that I must consider it a special honour. Because they bought the tickets at a much higher price than that from the ticket counter - in black, as it is termed - and with great difficulty.
Three other friends asked if I had the tickets to the movie. Or at least tell us, they said, if you know some way of getting them. When I said No, they stiffly, chided me. Their argument? Not making an attempt to buy tickets for this movie that's making waves the world over, is tantamount to insanity.
Most interestingly however, none of them is a Tamil-speaking person! And the movie is in Tamil!
I pointed that out, and expressed my doubts about their viewing comprehension. But they said that language simply doesn't matter as long as they can feast their eyes on the stylish antics of the icon, the legend, and the reigning czar of Tamil cinema, the south Indian superstar, Rajnikanth.
Apart from his acting in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam movies for which he is renowned for, Rajnikanth had also done some Bollywood blockbusters in Hindi such as 'Andhaa Kanoon' and 'Chaalbaaz'. They had brought him good fame. But he chose and stuck to the south Indian cinema, particularly Tamil, where he is now a demigod.
Not many people know that his mother tongue is actually Marathi, but he didn't do any Marathi film. Named as Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, when born, he grew up to do all sorts of odd jobs before starting his career in the film industry including that of a bus-conductor in Bangalore.
But from a bus conductor to a stage-player, to a cinema villain, to an anti-hero, to a super hero, he's certainly taken the road less travelled. And travelled quiet far. Now, raking millions of dollars from around the globe, and having a fan-following that almost treats him like god.
I remember my journey into the interior of Tamil Nadu, ten years ago, when in my earlier job as a marketing guy, I had to visit places like Chennai, Erode, Trichy, Coimbatore, Madurai and Pondicherry. I was surprised to see Rajnikanth's face peering at me from various angles from various places. In his trade-mark sunglasses, and with his thick crop of dense dark hair, his face was ubiquitous. It was everywhere. On the glass panes of hair cutting saloons, on the back sides of the passing trucks, on the rear glasses of taxis and auto-rickshaws, on the side-walls of supermarkets and on the sides of the city-buses. Everywhere.
It was because the then hero-hungry masses were agreeably sated by the arrival of this man on the silver screen, who played their hero - yes, their hero - in scores of films. This angry young man's irreverent fights against exploiting employers, his courageous conniving against manipulating zamindars, and his witty scathing dialogues uttered to hit their heart, have all spawned a new generation who swore allegiance to the new style icon.
Joyous whistles, claps and hoots rise up from the front-benches to reverberate in theatres every time he employs a style unique only to him. He can kick the villain's goons, rising high up into the air, defying all Newtonian laws of gravity. He can smash things with an incredible swish-swashing of arms and legs. He can suddenly twist his neck to throw his ruffled hair, back into place, to quick swooshing music. He can, like in fits and starts, stylishly place his sunglasses on his nose twisting his hands and wrists at unbelievable angles. He can hit his one elbow with the other hand, ejecting from fingers, a live cigarette, which makes a couple of summersaults in the air before his mouth deftly catches it, by the right end. Yes. Endearing feats for fantasy-yearning fans.
Recently, his Telugu movie, 'Peddarayudu' (remake of Tamil hit 'Nattammai') had broken several records. His 'Muthu' and its songs became a rage in Japan and, 'Padayappa' also ran to packed houses in the UK and USA. Now his latest release, 'Shivaji', is running to packed houses, across the globe, wherever it is released.
The cinemas are packed and the shows are booked. But is it caused by genuine anticipation for a star-movie, or is it just a marketing stunt and media-generated frenzy? Maybe yes. Maybe No. But what is sure is that Rajnikanth is obviously still cruising on the crest, drawing multitudes to his movies. And for a star-size that is larger-than-life, reviews just don't matter. Hit Happens.