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Excerpted from Grand Brand Rajini co-authored by P C Balasubramaniam and Ram N Ramakrishnan, Rupa Publications, with the publisher's permission.
In Sivaji, Brand Rajini was paired with a dream team.
With S Shankar as its director, the film had music by A R Rahman, art by Thotta Tharani, photography by K V Anand, and came with a number of catch-points that mesmerized the audience:
Art director Thotta Tharani showcased a Babylonian palace for a song and upped the scale with a complete acrylic and glass set for another hit song, making the audience gasp at the sheer size and glory;
Rajini was given a fair look with computer-generated imagery;
The well-known designer Manish Malhotra designed Rajini's wardrobe for the movie while the French hair-stylist Sandrin Veriar Seth designed two different hairstyles for the film and thirteen hairstyles for one of the songs;
Rahman's blast with Thee Thee (Fire, Fire) was made into a complete visual treat -- a trademark of director Shankar; Ballelaikka -- the opening word of the song came from a Russian music instrument which intrigued the audience about its source but then went on to become a simple catchphrase;
Brand Rajini donned the names of the two legends in Tamil cinema -- Sivaji and MGR -- in his two roles, provoking debate about whether it was intentional;
The movie was devoid of the famous punchlines that were one of the USPs of a Rajini film; yet, one of the regular lines, Paera kaetavudane chumma athuruthilae ('Don't you feel the instant tremor when you hear the name?'), when uttered by Rajini in his own inimitable style, transformed into a punchline.
For the 150,000 odd fan clubs and the millions who watched the flick, it was Rajini mania.
The cult's thirst and yearning for Rajini --- who showed himself once in two years, was never seen on any product advertisements or TV shows and rarely in media interviews -- was being satisfied.
Pathans who got free tickets sponsored by a non-profit organization in the Persian Gulf came out of the hall saying 'Rajini, kya aadmi hai woh!' ('Rajini, what a man!') despite not understanding a word of dialogue.
For the die-hard Rajini fan, the clincher came from his one-liner: Panningathaan kootama varum, singham singalathaan varum' ('Only swine travel in droves, the lion comes alone').
As Mathew W Ragas and Bolivar J Bueno say in The Power of Cult Branding, 'Cult branders enjoy incredible loyalty because they work hard to connect with their customers at the very highest level [...] They don't just offer great products and services, but they understand needs for social interaction, esteem and self-actualization.
They make customers believe that your brand has no equal.' With Sivaji, the cult of Brand Rajini was complete.