Passing a cinema on Friday night, I saw a huge crowd waiting outside but thought nothing of it, as this is a common sight. The next morning I learned that what I witnessed was the opening of the very much-awaited Tamil film Sivaji – The Boss featuring Rajnikanth or ‘Rajni’, a former bus conductor who has become one of Tamil cinema’s biggest stars. I read in the paper that the opening was a scene of complete mayhem. The police was on hand to try to control the crowds who thronged cinemas across the city, causing traffic chaos. At Ajanta cinema the police even had to inflict a ‘lathi charge’ (translation: to hit with big sticks) on cinemagoers who tried to enter the cinema hall as the crowd that attended the previous screening was trying to exit.
In India, movie stars are akin to gods and that’s the way fans treated their idol Rajnikanth. They poured milk on the film posters and garlanded them, lit camphor and broke coconuts. Apparently die-hard fans were even seen kissing the posters. Tickets sold out in advance and huge crowds formed at cinemas across the city to book tickets for the next available show. Ticket scalpers cashed in on all the excitement by re-selling tickets for five times their price.
Going to the cinema is extremely popular in India and the Indian film industry is the biggest in the world with over 800 films produced each year. A Bollywood (Hindi) or Kollywood (Tamil) film has to have the perfect recipe to be a success. Take a larger than life hero figure with a big moustache, add a few beautiful starlets, mix with a hint of melodrama, an energetic soundtrack, several outrageous song and dance sequences, and at least one big fight scene with acrobatic moves which put Bruce Lee to shame – and you have an instant recipe for success. A coherent storyline is optional. If the film is successful, then the soundtrack will also be a huge hit and long after the movie is off the screens it will live on in its songs played over and over again at restaurants, in shopping malls and on the bus.
It looks like Sivaji is already a big hit despite lukewarm reviews. You can watch the trailer here: