As dawn was breaking in Chennai, home of the Tamil mega star Rajinikanth, hundreds of his fans lighted firecrackers to welcome their hero’s movie based on an ageing gangster, and moved in whatever mode of transport they could lay their hands on, stereos blaring the theme song, “This is fire, dude!”
Then the bad news: All the tickets were sold out. For the next two weeks. The fans became restless and were chased by police without any major incident.
“If I don’t get to watch my favourite star’s new movie on the ‘first day, first show,’ there will be a big black hole in my life,” said a 27-year-old man, wiping away tears. “After my parents, it is superstar Rajinikanth who is most important to me.”
India’s movie industry is the biggest in the world, producing more than 1,600 new films a year, more than the Hollywood, in more than 20 local languages. And Rajinikanth is a biggie.
In Chennai, some companies gave employees the day off Friday so they could go see Kabali, Rajinikanth’s first film in two years. Others had booked entire cinemas for their staff. Air Asia flew 180 fans to the city for the first-day showing in a plane custom-painted with the star’s likeness. One county was giving away free tickets to people who pledged to install an indoor toilet, taking advantage of the movie’s popularity to address the issue of widespread public defecation.
Rajinikanth, the actor’s stage name, was born Shivaji Rao Gaikwad in southern India, the son of a police constable. He acted in school plays, but later worked as a railway porter, a carpenter and a ticket seller on public buses. One day a movie director spotted him on stage, which led to his first role, playing an abusive husband, in 1975. A decade later, he was being hailed as a “superstar.” – CINEWS