Fans swarm to Indian gangster movie

Fans of superstar Rajinikanth taking a photo with his posters as they celebrate the opening of his film Kabali at Aurora theatre in Mumbai.
Fans of superstar Rajinikanth taking a photo with his posters as they celebrate the opening of his film Kabali at Aurora theatre in Mumbai. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Kabali, a Tamil movie starring Indian superstar Rajinikanth, sent fans into a tizzy when it opened in cinemas across India yesterday.

There were long lines of people trying to grab a ticket, with some having queued overnight to be among the first to catch their favourite movie star in action.

The 65-year-old actor plays an ageing and reformed gangster who emerges from 25 years of imprisonment in a Malaysian jail to defeat his enemies in a fight of good over evil. Made on a budget of 1.1 billion rupees (S$22.2 million), the film was mostly shot in Malaysia and dubbed into Malay, Hindi and Telugu.

The first screenings of the film in Singapore began on Thursday night at 9.30pm at Rex Cinemas, with long queues forming at both outlets at Mackenzie Road and Golden Mile Tower. Screenings stretched overnight, with one starting at 4am. The film officially opened yesterday. Tickets cost more than those for most Tamil films, with Rex and Cathay pricing them at $18 each. A regular ticket costs $10 to $15.

In southern India, some businesses gave their employees the day off to avoid mass leave, politicians held special screenings for their supporters, fans offered prayers at temples while hundreds camped outside cinema theatres for the first shows, which were held as early as 4am in multiple movie halls.

 

Professor S.K. Karthik, 33, an engineering professor at PGP College of Engineering and Technology in Tamil Nadu, spent the night outside a movie theatre in the town of Paramathi Velur with more than 100 other fans to catch the 5am show yesterday and then went back for two more shows in the afternoon and evening.

He said: "There was a festive atmosphere outside the movie halls. At 3am, people started playing drums. There were prayers during which milk was poured on Rajinikanth's cutout."

Milk is traditionally offered in temples to propitiate the gods.

Prof Karthik added: "Rajinikanth was super... I will watch this movie 25 to 30 times. There are many people like me and others who are even bigger fans than I am."

Rajinikanth, a bus conductor turned actor, has a cult following not just in India, but also in countries such as Japan. There are hundreds of Rajinikanth fan clubs devoted to his every move.

His movies are known for their gravity-defying action sequences, snappy one-liners such as "mind it" and unique gestures. A Rajinikanth signature move is flipping a cigarette in the air and catching it in his mouth.

His last movie, Lingaa (2014), received mixed reviews and did not do as well as expected at the box office. Kabali has been promoted aggressively.

Directed by Pa Ranjith, the movie is being shown on more than 10,000 screens and, according to Indian media reports, it had earned more than two billion rupees in film rights and brand tie-ups before its release.

Sociologist Shiv Visvanathan said: "What sets Rajinikanth apart from others is that he oozes a sense of compassion and sensitivity. He is a family man and whether he loses hair or puts on weight, nobody is bothered."

As expected, his fans were not disappointed by his latest offering. One of them, 23-year-old Raghava Srivastava, who watched an early show in Chennai, said: "He is very charismatic and is a pure entertainer."

Another, 35-year-old autorickshaw driver Balaji, said: "Rajini's name means style."

•Additional reporting by Anjali Raguraman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Fans swarm to Indian gangster movie'. Print Edition | Subscribe