I think Kabali earned around Rs 120 crores on the opening day. It’s a classic example of how some times, even facts and truths can be absurd. It’s absurd because so many people across several countries spent time, money and mindshare on an actor who continues to get away with mediocrity. The financial gains within 24 hours of release have made this monster venture one of Indian cinema’s hottest creations, shedding light on Indian cinema goers’ bigotry. If I were Rajinikanth, and 65, I’d feel extremely fortunate and fluky.
I think he is the southern version of Salman Khan, with ‘looks’ being almost the only difference. While Salman Khan cannot act, ‘Thalaivar’ is only average. They both have only relied on action to reach stardom. Yet, they are both the most popular in their region.
Kabali’s future is brighter, still. The team has been strategic in its release time. There are no major movie releases for the next two weeks from the day of the film’s release. So, Kabali will be a solo release in Tamil Nadu and could play alone till August 5, thereby allowing it to reap maximum profit. The next 21 days will belong to Kabali with no major movies around. A Rajinikanth without any competition. Can it ever fail?
Rajinikanth, plays an ageing gangster, a saviour of Malaysian Tamils in Kabali. He is a messiah who is the nemesis of people who ill-treat Tamils living in Malaysia. He spends many years in the prison for opposing racism. There is nothing in the movie, except action, to write home about. Like in most mainstream Indian films, here too, the hero is a gun-toting saint, who sadly looks like a washed-up star, frantically trying to summon old tricks, but nothing seems to work. It’s actually a pity to see him wreck himself somewhat. The script is typical of a southern action movie.
Although he may have passed his sell-by date, we are immune to that, seeing him only through rose-coloured glasses. Perhaps, on some level, it reflects our narrowness as audience.
We invest so much on the Salman Khans, the Shahrukhs, Amitabh Bachchans and Rajinikanths that we stop paying attention to what they are really doing. All that matters to us as die-hard fans is that they are there on screen, even if they are doing more or less the same thing again and again.
A below-par movie, symbolized by a megastar that becomes a blockbuster, is a lesser reflection on the actor and more about the movie-watching audience. It’s also about the lack of choices on offer, about our rejection of anything new.
I have enjoyed Rajinikanth’s movies and certainly don’t begrudge his success. It wouldn’t matter even if I did. But is there no limit to our inanities? In a temple in Tamil Nadu, his fans organised a special puja, where his idol was given a royal bath with milk, and a special abhishekam was organised for the success of the movie. Everyone wants to capitalise on the brand Rajinikanth.
Last week AirAsia, a low-cost airline, had signed up as the official airline partner for Kabali, which includes a movie logo on the aircraft. It also features a customised in-flight menu and Kabali-themed in-flight merchandise.
So much for fiction.
Airtel has offered unlimited 2G services for an hour at Rs 5, a ‘Kabali recharge pack, Kabali special caller tunes, and Kabali start-up kits for new customers. Cadbury is tagging the 5 star chocolate with Kabali besides advertisement panels on Tamil Nadu buses plying with posters bearing the tagline ‘Superstar ka 5 star’ and ‘Superstar in 5 star’. Amazon too has caught the Kabali fever with the sale of key chains, wax statue, posters, photographs and other Kabali-memorabilia. What attracts Amazon to a south Indian film is its massive reach – dubbed versions in Chinese, Thai, Japan and Malaya.
Everybody is riding on Kabali and it’s a good thing for everyone I guess.
But it’s also a little depressing that Kabali, as substandard as it is, has managed to create so much buildup, although it’s not necessarily surprising. This is what happens when we stop thinking, when we ignore the stark inadequacies of our super heroes.
Why do we attach so much importance to a celebrity, to the extent that we treat them as Gods? Are we trying to fill a hole, a void in our own lives, by bringing in an outsider?