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Buzzkill: Rajinikanth’s political avatar overshadows Kaala
As the film continues to be tangled in a series of issues pre-release, could the star’s political avatar have impacted Kaala’s fortunes negatively?
Only one day to go for Kaala, but where is the pattasu, paal abhisekhams or paparazzi that is the norm of a superstar Rajinikanth release? An ominous — if not quite deafening — silence has been heard in the run-up to the film’s release on June 7, as theatre owners, distributors and the Kaala team themselves endure a nervous few days.
The film’s promotions have been tangibly low-key when compared to its predecessor Kabali (which literally had a Rajini-themed plane endorsing its star). Imagine the shock when most people logging onto theatre websites found empty seats for most weekend shows. As the film continues to be tangled in a series of issues pre-release, could the star’s political avatar have impacted Kaala’s fortunes negatively?
Subramaniam, owner of Kasi Theatre that is traditionally a favourite for Rajinikanth film buffs, said that ticket sales have been quite disappointing, and the timing of the film’s release was a mistake. “There are other unsaid factors, but releasing a film right around the time vacation ends and schools begin is bad planning. As always, we have put up a poster and are hoping the film picks up if audiences like it.”
A distributor who didn’t wish to be named said they were wary of the minimum guarantee fee, and that it was way too risky in the present climate. “The implementation of the GST and the industry strike that went on for so long certainly has had its impact, and theatre owners too are feeling it. This is the first really big release since the strike and the increase of ticket prices. All these work adversely for Kaala. Rajinikanth’s previous films – Lingaa and Kabali – didn’t exactly set the box-office on fire, and that is playing on everyone’s minds too.”
SPI Cinemas is distributing the cinemas in Chennai city, and a source from the organisation said that being a Rajinikanth film does have its benefits, and Kaala will be met with a ‘wait and watch’ approach. “People wish to watch the film in multiplexes like Sathyam, so bookings have been good. There are also no other major films in the market right now, so this will play in Kaala’s way.”
But, it is the actor-turned-politician’s dual avatar that seems to be affecting the film’s fortunes the most. An industry veteran and producer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the audiences were polarised. “The DMK fan base are actively shunning the film, as are Kamal Haasan fans. Even Vijay fans, who usually support Rajinikanth films ardently, are avoiding it, as they think now that the superstar is a threat to their star’s potential political hopes.”
“Rajinikanth added fuel to the fire with his recent stunt at Thoothukudi, and this has pitted the youngsters against him. Right now, there is a systematic campaign underway to ensure his film fails – I can go so far as to say that. Rajinikanth today is the not the same superstar he was 10 years ago.”
Fans say it doesn’t feel like a superstar’s film release at all
While hardcore fans from Rajinikanth fan clubs and Tamil cinema forums will still throng the theatres for a first-day first-show experience, the festivities appear to be quite a sombre affair. Auto driver K Dhanasekaran, who has enrolled in the superstar’s Mandram as well, noted the theatres were bearing a desolate look. According to him, it doesn’t even feel like a ‘Rajini release.’
“It breaks my heart to say this, but maybe his time is over after all. Since his son-in-law Dhanush is the producer, it looks like they have made a conscious decision to keep the pre-film hype average and not waste too much money. We also hear that Rajini sir doesn’t want to promote the movie as too extravagant. But where does that leave us fans who wait patiently for this day to come?”
Kaala outside TN
Contrary to the less-than-enthusiastic response in Tamil Nadu, it appears that the Rajinikanth fever still persists outside the state and the overseas market. Close to 2,000 screens across India will screen the film in Hindi and other regional language versions outside TN.