Although people visiting Chennai usually complain about its uneventfulness, I have found it to be quite the opposite. I guess me being here at this time of the year is nothing more than luck. During my short stay here I have witnessed a few things that I would have otherwise missed, an example being seeing the Tamil Nadu elections and witnessing Jayalalithaa get bank to power. However, I also got a chance to witness something that I would have otherwise dismissed as a joke – the Rajinikanth frenzy.
By pure luck the Rajinikanth starrer movie Kabali happened to release bang in the middle of my tenure, and I got the opportunity to witness something that I had only heard of so far – the love and craze that people here have for the star. I guess I have never before heard of 40 cinemas in the city being renovated just to be the perfect venue to host the movie of a superstar! And never before had it occurred in my wildest dreams that a couple of start-ups in Bengaluru and Chennai would declare the Friday an off for the employees just so that they could watch a movie. The icing on the cake was getting to know that people waited outside the cinema the entire night so that they didn’t miss out on the 4am show. People were even willing to pay 10 times the value of the ticket just to have a look at the star! However, this was just the beginning…
I was rather disheartened by the fact that almost none of the cinemas hosted any other movies (The geeky part of me was really looking forward to Star Trek Beyond). The ones which did host the movie were either too far or the show time was rather inconvenient. When I did try to book a couple of seats for Kabali, the seats were either unavailable or too close to the screen, for every single cinema house I checked. Irrespective of the day and the location, BookMyShow showed house-full shows for two consecutive weeks. Such is the frenzy! Well, just on a whim, my roommate and I spontaneously decided to stop by AGS Cinemas on our way back from the office to check if any seats were available. We both pretty much prepared to return empty handed, but somehow ended up with the best seats in the house – the balcony seats. Our luck must have been REALLY good, as we somehow managed the last 2 balcony seats even though we waltzed to the ticket counter a little before the 7.15pm show. All put together it cost my roomie and me only ₹240. The part that really made us grin like kids was that we got the bragging rights – for a show at the same time our senior booked in advance and paid more than double of what we did!
We finally understood how big a sensation Thalaivar is in South India. The energy was of the crowd was just crazily infectious. We reached the auditorium moments before the show began, and wondered by the resonating cheers if we had missed the beginning. The whole auditorium came alive when the superstar first appeared on screen!
I was slightly disheartened as there were no subtitles – my roomie was sweet enough to translate the important bits to me, while I tried to use my Sherlockian skills to deduce whatever I could from the body language of the actors. The fact that I don’t really know Tamil helped me in observing the things that I otherwise may not have – the differences in the dressing sense of the bad guys and the good guys, how differently they style their beards, and finally the way they carry themselves (the main inference I drew was that the good guys look way more sophisticated than the villains). I loved the fight sequences were shot – even Newton wouldn’t cease to be surprised this time! Although the storyline wasn’t really impressive, Rajinikanth’s acting was mesmerising. Memories of watching Padayappa and Chandramukhi at my bestie’s house during my pre-teens flooded my mind. My roomie and I spent the remainder of our perfectly spontaneous evening at the nearby Domino’s outlet, drooling over the spiciest pizzas they have.