Two years ago, Kamaraj Road in Bengaluru’s Shivaji Nagar (said to host a large Tamil population) wore a festive look on the eve of Kabali’s release. Sky-high banners, cut-outs and posters of Rajinikanth in his three piece suit were everywhere. The fans even hosted an impromptu ‘audio release’ function for the film, in front of Lavanya Theatre, a prominent landmark. Plates of steaming biriyani and chicken kebabs were distributed to fans (a curious mix of middle aged men and teenage boys). Much later, a brave few danced on a makeshift stage to old hits of their Thalaivar.
With the recent unofficial ban on Kaala, Rajinikanth’s latest outing, this revelry no longer seems possible. Lavanya Theatre wears a deserted look. Auto drivers from the stand across the road tell us that they’ve never seen a more depressing scene. “Usually, by this time we are all involved to help set up the banners or do some of the other arrangements. Now though, we are left with nothing to do except our usual savaaris.”
Many of the actor’s fans have been forced to cross the State border to catch their favourite star’s film. For them, watching the first-day-first-show of a Rajini film is sacrosanct. Nothing and nobody can mess with it.
Solar Ramesh, an organiser attached with the local Rajini Fans Association, says that it feels weird to be watching Thalaivar’s film so far away from home. “Being in your area and celebrating is very different. Now we have to go to a different city, a different State to watch something and someone we love so much. It feels like one of our loved ones has been sent away from the city. And, now we are travelling to go see him.”
Ramesh says that they prefer to think of the travel as a sort of pilgrimage. “Maybe this will prove to be a special moment for us too,” he says reflectively. He has more than 150 tickets for a 3 AM show in Hosur. “Now, it is up to me to arrange transportation for everybody. It is the least I can do.”
Puneeth Gowda, an IT Professional, is saddened by the turn of events. “A Rajini film in Bengaluru has always been a special memory for me. He is as much ours as he is Tamil Nadu’s. And I think we should definitely have the right to celebrate him.”
Gowda believes that banning a film is not the solution for real world issues. “How will this film’s loss improve the situation of our farmers? It is nothing but an empty statement. It sets a dangerous precedent.”
Rajinikanth’s movies inspire us to be better, says automobile professional Giridharan Palanivelu. He doesn’t care about the Thalaivar’s politics or the widespread criticism Rajinikanth received over his recent comments. “Rajini – the star is different from Rajini – the man. As long as we are able to see this very important distinction, we can enjoy his films. If we think his films and his ideas are the same, then it is going to be very difficult. His movies are meant to inspire and motivate. He is a stylish star, an icon to many. He is an irreplaceable aspect of our lives.”
Giridharan says that he doesn’t mind travelling to a different state to watch Kaala.
“The place doesn’t really matter. I’m willing to travel as long as I get to see the first-day first-show of Kaala. Watching a Rajini film on the opening day is a different kind of feeling. As soon as the superstar’s name comes on screen, there will be deafening applause. A shower of rupee notes and coins will fall on us. There will be screaming. There will be ear-splitting whistles. And that’s that. The distance and effort will mean nothing then,” he says.