It's double bonanza for Rajinikanth fans as his newest film releases on his 64th birthday.
It’s 7am, when Mumbai is either fast asleep or begrudgingly trudging back to life.
Then there is Aurora theatre in the heart of Matunga, Central Mumbai, bustling with so much activity and excitement, it seems like it belongs to a completely different time zone.
It’s December 12, the day of ‘Superstar’ Rajinikanth’s 64th birthday that coincides with the release of his 172nd feature film Lingaa.
The first show of the film at Aurora is scheduled for as early as 8.15 am.
But time is hardly a constraint for Rajini fans (in some theatres in Chennai, the first show was held at an even more unfathomable 1 am and reports suggest, the film ran to packed houses).
Keeping up with its 25-year-old tradition of screening the first show of the Thalaiva’s newest film with extraordinary fanfare, the front walls of the single screen theatre have been covered with massive Rajini posters and cutouts from Lingaa and his past blockbusters like Baashha and Sivaji The Boss.
There’s a group of young men dressed in white shirts and mundus surrounded by eager fans and passersby as they play their Naadaswarams (musical instruments mostly played at weddings that are similar to the shehnai) and thavils (drums) at the entrance of the theatre.
Members of the Mumbai wing of Rajinikanth’s Fans’ Welfare Association, that organises this ceremony every year, mill about with urgency, looking over the proceedings and periodically breaking into a smile when their eyes meet.
Prabhu, dressed in skinny jeans that crumples around his ankles, and a blue t-shirt, is watching the proceedings from the sidelines with his friends when one of them suggests that they check if their tickets are in order.
“It’s our hero’s birthday too so the public is going to enjoy to the fullest. We have erected an 80-feet statue of him and we’ll start the Abhishekam (offering respects, which mainly involves a bunch of Association members bathing the tall cutout in milk) soon,” he barks over the deafening sounds of drums and collective cheers.
While there is a birthday cake with the Thalaiva’s face on it to be cut (by actor Dev Gill, who plays the villain in Lingaa), firecrackers to be burst and the Abhishekam to be carried out, fans are getting increasingly restive.
When the gates are finally opened after all the rituals are performed, fans rush inside to do a little jig in the circular verandah of the theatre before approaching their designated stalls.
Unlike a routine movie hall where all activity and sound dies down ahead of a screening, things have gotten only much louder inside Aurora.
The audience is a curious mix of Rajini fans -- men donning safari suits, lungis and oiled hair -- rub shoulders with the well-scrubbed, chino pants-wearing SoBo dwellers.
While the latter take their seats and patiently wait for the film to begin, the former can be found bang in front of the screen, dancing and drowning out the film’s weak sound.
Instantly visible in the first row is 16-year-old Amit and his friend -- who are in white shirts and mundus hoisted and tucked around their waists, and dark aviator shades.
“It’s a big day. He (Rajinikanth) is the God of our Gods. We love and respect him more than our own parents. We’ve bought our tickets for Rs 500 each,” he says with a hint of pride in his voice.
Watch the fan frenzy right here!
He and his friend apparently paid Rs 1,000 each to watch Rajini’s earlier release Enthiran at the same theatre.
“This picture will cross 500 days, you’ll see,” he says before rushing off to join his friends inside the theatre.
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Video: Afsar Dayatar/Rediff.com