TAMIL movie fans around the world came over all Kabali crazy and took hero-worshipping to a whole new level as superstar Rajinikanth’s latest blockbuster hit the screens amid frenzied scenes in south India.
Offices decided to close up shop early to avoid sick days and die-hard fans queued for hours from 4am last Friday (22) to watch Kabali, the highly anticipated release which created history by raking in `2.5 billion (£28.2 million) on its first day in India, according to producers.
It also made an eye-watering £20m in film rights sales even before it was released.
The gangster drama, directed by Pa Ranjith, stars Rajini – a 65-year-old former bus conductor-turned-action hero, who is worshipped by tens of millions across the globe.
Prior to its release, some fans poured milk on huge cardboard cut-outs of the actor in an act of veneration usually only reserved for Hindu gods. Then they sang and danced with excitement outside theatres in Tamil Nadu, home to the icon.
The movie was being shown on more than 12,000 screens in India alone. In some areas, special prayers were held calling for the success of Kabali, and self-confessed “super-fan” Srinivasan Jayaseelan vowed to watch the smash-hit 10 times in a row on Friday (29) and Saturday (30).
Film critic Naman Ramachandran, who penned Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography, spoke to Eastern Eye about the actor’s enduring appeal.
“Everybody needs a hero. In this day and age, it is very rare to find a humane uncontroversial superstar. Rajinikanth fits the bill,” he said.
“For the youngsters, it is a cult passed on from generation to generation. If you grow up in south India, Thalaivar (the boss) is part of the air you breathe, so he becomes part of your DNA.
“His off-screen humility and his refusal to wear wigs and designer clothes endear him to the common man. And that automatically leads to them embracing his on-screen persona as well.”
Ramachandran, who wrote the independent film Brahman Naman which has been picked up by Netflix, said Rajini’s fans were very conscious of issues such as his movies being leaked online.
“The largest online fan club RBSI (Rajini Biggest Superstar of India) were constantly exhorting their members during the Kabali shooting not to leak on-set images as that would subtract from the enjoyment of the film,” he added.
“Recently they did a flashmob in Chennai to spread awareness about piracy. If they find links to (pirated sites) torrents etc, they will send those to the producers to take legal action.”
In London, another flashmob was organised by Tamil group I for India, where supporters danced in aid of their hero and bought all 400 tickets for a theatre showing the film last Friday (22).
In a video posted online, MK Satish Doraiswamy, from the group, said: “I am one of millions of Rajinikant fans. We have grown up watching Rajini films. I don’t remember if I drank milk when I was younger, but I remember seeing his films.
“We have done nothing else but work for Kabalifor the past three weeks. We had rehearsals for the flashmob at the Tower of London. In addition, we have ordered Kabali T-shirts from India.”
The film is being released in countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the US, France and Japan. Tickets are said to be selling out fast.