They might as well have named it Rajini Day, when they declared July 22 a holiday because Thalaivar’s new film Kabali was opening. As an addon, locking the date permanently on the filmi calendar for a new Rajinikanth release every year wouldn’t perhaps be a bad idea.
Salman Khan has Eid, Shah Rukh Khan has Diwali, Aamir Khan has Christmas. Akshay Kumar has been eyeing to appropriate Republic Day for a while. Rajinikanth just snubbed the trend of gunning for big Fridays, and Twitter went ballistic with jokes toasting that fact over most of this past week.
The release of Kabali forced offices in Chennai and Bengaluru to declare a day’s holiday — Rajini fever was prompting staff to call in sick in any case. Delirious fans had sworn they would skip office and catch to catch a first-day, first-show.
Lesson underlined here would be best mouthed with the same sensational tone as a heroic dialogue from a Thalaivar hit: A real superstar doesn’t wait for a festive weekend to release his film; any weekend when his film opens becomes a festival.
Such amusing incidences perhaps happen only in India, particularly Tollywood. In an age of PR-managed brand power, though, the rage that Rajini has once again unleashed proves he is possibly the last old-school superstar standing.
We had our version of hysteria in Bollywood by way of Amitabh Bachchan. But while Big B has only grown in stature over the years, he has also chosen to restrict his screen avatar to less frenzied character appearances in crossover flicks such as Piku, Wazir and Te3n lately.
Rajini’s romance with all-out mainstream, however, continues. Never mind the brief slip of Lingaa in between, or the fact that Kabali is far from his best, his brand of excess glamour continues to thrive.
The frenzy that Rajini’s new film brings in its wake has inadvertently created an embarrassing situation for Bollywood Sultan Salman Khan. Kabali, it has been stated earlier, was originally intended to open on the Eid weekend, which meant its release was clashing with Salman’s wrestling saga Sultan.
Since Sultan had muscled its way into an overwhelming number of multiplex screens, Kabali was far from getting its ideal screen count in the all-India market. Rajini quietly moved Kabali to a release date a fortnight later.
The film, though, threatens to bust every record that all of Bollywood including Sultan is likely to set this year. The fact became clear when advance bookings of Kabali opened on Wednesday. The film outstripped Sultan’s advance stats, recording sold-out ticket status till Sunday on day one itself. By Friday, when the film released across 4,000 screens worldwide, fans were happily paying hiked ticket prices worth of Rs 500-600 at the cineplexes.
With an estimated 30-crore intake needed for profits, Kabali has reportedly made Rs 40 crore before release, through promotional investments of various private companies. Trade experts predict the film could easily cross a Rs 500-crore gross globally.
These are box-office facts and figures every new-age superstar hankers after. At 65, and showing no signs of slowing down, Rajini doesn’t seem to have trouble garnering them.
Clearly, it is more than idol worship. Rajinikanth’s fans also know him as a human who knows the meaning of being humble.