Reporting by Niveda Manohar; Photos by Dani Charles. Photos from the audio launch are below the report.
To accommodate the innumerable Vijay fans, the Puli Audio Launch was held at a resort far from the city, in Mahabalipuram. The ambiance was electrifying, with hundreds of fans wearing white Puli t-shirts like a uniform. At the entrance were men on horseback, dressed as guards with costumes from the film. Our photographer managed to capture a shot of Vijay at the entrance, as he personally welcomed each celebrity guest before they were ushered inside by the bouncers. And though the start was delayed, the uproar from the fans every time a celebrity entered kept the venue alive. And then it finally began. The luminaries were on stage. Key moments:
- Producer Shibu Thameens said he was in shock over the enthusiasm shown by Vijay’s fans. By his count, the fans had spent more on publicity for the event than the Puli team had.
- Producer PT Selvakumar, Vijay’s long-time associate and PRO, expressed his gratitude to Vijay and his family, and said he would serve Vijay and his family until his last breath.
- Hansika Motwani, resplendent in a Nivedita Saboo creation, charmed the audience with her broken but endearing speech in Tamil. She thanked the fans and the Puli team for the opportunity.
- SJ Suryah, a fan favourite, said the title Puli wouldn’t suit any actor other than Vijay. As fans screamed ‘Kushi-2’, Suryah said that he wanted to make the film and would do so, if God willed it. He also admitted that Shruti Haasan was the actress he admires the most, after Simran.
- SA Chandrasekhar made an emotional speech thanking the directors who had made films with Vijay. He also thanked the fans for showering their love on Vijay and requested them to support Vijay in his social welfare projects.
- Thambi Ramaiah said that though he couldn’t reveal any details from the film, Puli would be a superhero film, and would appeal to audiences of all ages.
- Shruti Haasan looked wore a heavily embellished gold lehenga designed by Rimple Harpreet. Despite a bad throat, she said she had always dreamed of acting with Vijay, and Puli had made that wish come true. She also said, “I didn’t know Vijay could sing so well. Now, after listening to the song, I feel I shouldn’t have sung it, because he has done a great job.”
- Director Perarasu, known for his trademark punchy dialogues said “Vijay ‘Vaalu’ ku mattum illa ‘Thala’ kum nalladhu dhan nenaipaaru.” That was enough for the crowd to give him a deafening cheer.
- Director Dharani made a short speech, ending with a ‘Thank you Nanba’ to Vijay, and wishing him a Happy Friendship Day.
- Actor Jiiva requested fans to not participate fan-wars on social media as it damages the reputation of Tamil cinema and its actors. “The whole world is watching us on social media, so do not bring ill repute to yourselves,” he said.
- Actress Nandita, who has a pivotal role in the film, said she was “Kumudha Romba Happy” to have worked with Vijay and the Puli team.
- However, it was T Rajendar who stole the show, with a thunderous speech praising Vijay:
“Vijay kitta Irukudhu Natpu, Naan Paakala avaritta thappu
Unavu nalla iruka theva uppu, Uravu nalla iruka theva natppu”
“Nee pesamaata vasanangal katthi, Nee nadicha padam
Peru katthi, Ithana rasigargal irukanga unna suthi”
The crowd went ballistic, with many standing on chairs. As if that wasn’t enough, T Rajendar belted out almost fifty adjectives for Puli and eventually Vijay had to rush on stage and hug him to make him stop.
- Vijay Sethupathi said he understood how tough it is to follow T Rajendar, and wished the team the very best.
- Sridevi, who had arrived late, was applauded for her speech in Tamil. She said she felt like she had returned to her ‘Thai Veedu‘ with Puli. She added that she was amazed by Vijay’s simplicity on the film’s sets.
- Coincidentally, it was music director Devi Sri Prasad’s birthday, and he broke into an impromptu jig with choreographer Sridhar.
- Director Chimbu Deven thanked each and every member of the cast and crew of the film and also introduced his directorial team on stage
It was well past 9:30 pm before Vijay went on stage, to tremendous applause. He too thanked the cast and crew of the film, and was careful to not miss anyone. He said Puli was a ‘Pudhu Muyarchi’. “The whole team feels like a student who has written an exam and is waiting for the result,” he said. He added, “Neenga mark podunga, padatha paathu….theatre la“.
He criticised the people who had leaked the teaser and stills of the film saying that the team works hard with the creative content and pirates easily upload them on the internet. He also joked about how earlier there used to be a trailer 15 days prior to the release and that was all, but today’s movie promotions have a first-look poster, teaser, trailer, and so on. In stark contrast to his usual quiet self, he made several strong statements:
“Enaku unmaiya oruthara verukka theriyum, aana poiyya nesikka theriyaadhu.” (I know how to truly hate, but I cannot falsely love.)
“Velaiyaata eduthuka vendiya vishayangala serious ah eduthukareenga, Serious ah eduthuka vendiya vishayangala velaiyata ah kooda eduthuka maatendrom” (We are serious about trivial things, but we do not consider serious issues even trivially.)
“Ellar vetriku pinnalayum oru penn irupaanga nu solluvanga, En vetriku pinnal neraya avamaanangal than iruku” (They say there is a woman behind every man’s success, behind mine, I find only embarrassments.)
He topped it all with “Enakkum ennoda rasiganukkum matthavana vaazha vechi dan pazhakkam. Enna Nanba?” (My fans and I only know how to let others live. What say, friend?)
The event came to an end with the audio being launched and a surprise cake-cutting for Devi Sri Prasad. We left the venue feeling a mixture of elation and exhaustion. As we walked out, the tired horses trotted along behind us.