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When Your Neighbour Is ‘Billa’: Watching ‘Vivegam’ Among Fans At Bengaluru’s Lavanya Theatre

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It’s a little over 5 AM in Bengaluru. Shivaji Nagar, one of the most populous areas of the city, already looks busy. There’s a procession of college-goers on their bikes riding towards Lavanya Theatre on Kamaraj Road. One of the last remaining single screen theatres in the area, Lavanya becomes the go-to-place for fans of Tamil films at the time of any major release.

On the morning of August 25, hundreds of Ajith fans stood before the theatre’s gate, willing it to open soon. The rain was no deterrent. Huge cutouts of the Thala provided temporary homes to a couple of drenched pigeons, while a young man sprayed milk on Ajith’s cutout.

It was the second day of Ajith’s Vivegam, and the intense celebrations for the film hadn’t reduced one bit. Some attempted to light firecrackers, while others preferred to huddle under their umbrellas.

As soon as the gates sprang open, the crowd rushed in. 

Sitting next to a Thala fan…

Lavanya’s seats are not comfortable. Neither is the AC any good. But, the fans didn’t mind. As soon as the actor appeared on the screen, the first few rows broke into a frenzy. Men took off their jackets and spun them around — à la Sourav Ganguly at Lord’s balcony. Anirudh’s music seemed to excite them more. 

The excitement was such that it became difficult to follow what was happening onscreen. My seat was shaking as a result of my neighbour’s exuberance.

During interval, he told me his name. David is a college student from nearby Jeevanahalli. “But sometimes, they call me Billa,” he says.

He, too, came with thousand waalas and atom bombs that he’d managed to procure in this off-season. “But the ground was so damp, it did not light up,” he says mournfully. 

To David, the content of the film doesn’t matter so much as seeing his favourite star onscreen. “We read that he had a surgery. Does he behave like a man who was sick? Look at him walk!”

The excitement in the theatre was perhaps comparable to that of Chennai’s famous Kasi Theatre. For the Tamil youth in Bengaluru, watching a star’s film in Lavanya is a ritual and a rite of passage.

The second half, quite tellingly, did not excite the audience as much as the first half. There was half-hearted applause from time to time. These young ones don’t give up on their star easily. Every time Ajith began his moral science lecture, the audience screamed, and jumped around. The energy was missing though.

Siva clearly disappointed these young men and women.

But, Anirudh did not. Every time his surviva tune was played, these people danced around, whipping their phones out, and waving it at the screen. Probably half of the people I watched the film with, had the song as their caller tune. 

As the show got over, and we all took our tired bones home with the rain still pounding.

One thing was clear — if Anirudh ever decides to make his acting debut, he’s got a die-hard fan base ready to welcome him with open arms.

 

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