Scene 1: Chennai Mount Road. The bus rumbles by and you take a second look at the ad on its behind – is that the superstar with blond hair? Another bus and you see a young looking Rajini reminiscent of his Johnny days smiling down at you. Is it possible for a 52 year old to look this young?
Scene 2: A net café in Chennai - two women in their thirties are giggling excitedly at the stills of Rajini and Shreya in a song sequence in Sivaji, The Boss. One loves his king get up; the other prefers his new blond look and psychedelic clothes “It’s designed by Manish Malhotra”, she coos.
Scene 3: Near Madurai temple. Balelaika is blaring on the radio in the tea shop… the shop owner nods to the beat as he continues to do his serving trick with the tea, pausing now and then to push his hair back à la Rajini.
Scene 4: The room of a teenager in Tiruchi. Three 14 year old boys are working on a comp putting together a design for the hoarding they plan to put up outside the theatre “Machan Indha Photo Podalaam; Thalkaivar Superaa Irukkaaru!” (Hey man, lets use this photo, the leader looks superb!)
Scene 5: Anna Nagar Round Tana Traffic Signal. The White Hoarding stands out with its stark black sentence: “Is Sivaji Rajini’s last film?” This has been put up by a Tamil daily Dinamalar to promote its story on the film.
Scene 6: Raghavendra Kalayana Mandapam. Several fan association secretaries have come to Chennai to meet Satyanarayana, the superstar’s lieutenant to discuss the run up to Sivaji release. There is an air of suppressed expectation.
Scene 7: The premises of a bank. The sweeper is grumbling to my sister that he needs to take the day off to see first day first show of the superstar’s film. But is confused about the date of release – May 17th or June 8th?
Scene 8: The drawing room of a retired IAS officer. He scans the Hindu report on Sivaji, The Boss that claims this is Rajini’s 100th Tamil film. He tells his son “ I thought Raghavendra was his 100th film”. Son replies “Appa, they would have taken into account all language and dubbed films then to say that was his 100th film. Now they must be strictly talking about Tamil language films only…”
Scene 9: LV Prasad film & TV Academy. The students are discussing about the fact that this is a combination that will work. Shankar, a director with a huge success track, AR Rahman with his eclectic beats that are already making waves among young and old alike and the unchallenged superstar Rajinikanth in a different look.
Scene 10: In an auto near Harrington Road. As Rajini looks down at us smilingly from a Sivaji, The Boss hoarding, the conductor announces “AVM Sollitangappa, Thalaivar Padam definite - a May 31st release.”
For a Rajini film, such scenes are run of the mill. In fact, this is just the beginning of the frenzy. This is quite usual before a Rajini film. But more so this time round since the last Rajini film Chandramukhi (2005) was seen as not really a true Rajini film. After all, for about half the film he was not on the screen. The debacle of Baba (2002) is also fresh in some fans’ minds. No one wants even a shadow of defeat to fall on this venture. Considering that many lives depend on this film and its success and many reputations are on the line including Director Shankar who has to live up to the success of Anniyan (2005), AR Rahman who needs to prove that he has to follow up Guru (2007) with a creditable score, the producer AVM who can take credit for being a vital force in building the superstar’s invincible hero image and of course the superstar himself who needs a huge hit to go out with a bang if his indications of retiring from herodom are indeed true this time.
This time, the hype and secrecy that has surrounded the movie has been enormous. Rumours abound about reshoots of several scenes and song sequences after sneak footage was released on the net as early as June last year. Three of the songs on the net were available to eager fans prior to the official release. One audio engineer died at a party to celebrate the completion of the movie in which all those associated with the making of the film took part. It was immediately speculated that he had been murdered because he had been involved in the unauthorized leak of the songs. Inspite of all this confusion, the music of the film is a roaring success with children tapping their feet to Boss and Adhiradee, the younger people swinging to Balalaika and Vaaji Vaaji Sivaji, wondering what the opening shot of the Rajini introduction scene will be, and older people enjoying the lilting melody of Sahana an Sahaara.
To those of us who closely follow Tamil cinema, this summer is sizzling with the buzz on Kamal Haasan’s Dasavatharam, with the actor donning ten roles and the Superstar looking trim and trendy in Sivaji, The Boss in a new avatar yet invoking his good old style and verve.
Shankar has a stupendous record with all his films being box office hits except the disastrous Boys (2003). With his penchant for dealing with issues that directly impact the common man in a dramatic way, the plot line of Sivaji, The Boss with the focus on Rajini as an educationist revolutionizing the education system in TN will be once again be topical and help draw in the crowds.
Rajinikanth has fuelled ideas about retirement with his earlier films such as Baba and his usual jaunts to the Himalayas. With the title of this film being his real name (for the benefit of the ones who are not in the know: Rajinikanth was born Shivaji Rao Gaekwad), whispers have begun as usual that this will be his final bow on the silver screen and he plans to do so with a bang a mega box office having ensured the buzz and all the ingredients his fans look forward too including the nubile young heroine Shreya that will reinforce his virile screen presence.
Having had previous experiences with Rajini film releases, some quite horrendous (when angry fans set the theatre on fire after the owner refused to repeat the introduction song in Arunachalam (1997) for the 12th time), city theatres are taking extra precautions to avoid any unpleasant scenes. Many smaller film producers and directors have put off the release of their film owing to the fact that most of the theatres have been booked for the superstar’s latest. Theatres are gearing up for the crowds in advance bookings and current bookings too, now that AVM has officially announced today that the film is releasing on May 31st.
The fans will plan meticulously to ensure that the release is celebrated with fanfare and paraphernalia that mark a superstar film release. There are the usual stories of groups of Japanese fans arriving for the first day’s shows. Critics will vie with each other to be the first to review and comment on the film, newspapers and magazines will continue with the onslaught of Sivaji, The Boss features and details while TV channels will go all out with Sivaji, The Boss specials and promos from now. The fun is just beginning and it looks like whatever the outcome, our sage superstar will have the last laugh. Just as the lines in the film’s most popular song Style Go, Adikadi Mudi Kalaivadhum Ss..ttt..yy..le, Pada Pada Pechum Ss..ttt..yy..Le Gada Gada Nadapathum Ss..ttt..yy..Le, Kada Kada Siruppadhum Ss..ttt..yy..le … (His hair ruffles in style, his staccato speech is style, his quick mincing steps are style, his rhythmic laughter is style for millions in TN and the world over).