Is the Rajini frenzy waning?

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 1 June 2018

Unlike his other films which created mass hysteria, Rajinikanth’s upcoming film Kaala isn’t creating a lot of buzz. Sakal Times decodes the phenomenon

A Rajinikanth movie means mega budget, mega returns and major fan frenzy, not just in India but abroad too before its release. But surprisingly, his latest film Kaala has not generated all the buzz. The film directed by Pa Ranjith, is set to release on June 7 and also stars Nana Patekar, Samuthirakani, Huma Qureshi, Easwari Rao and Pankaj Tripathi. 

Unlike his earlier releases, this film, which has been made on a budget of almost Rs 100 crores, has been embroiled in some controversy or the other. Has it got anything to do with the fate of his last outings — Lingaa (2014), Kochadaiiyaan (2014) and Kabali (2016)? In spite of all the hype and hoopla, these films got mixed response at the box office.  

Several trade experts agree that this one isn’t making much noise. The not-so-great box-office collections of his recent films could be one factor, but there are other reasons too. For example, the film is banned in Karnataka and in the rest of India, it is likely to be released in Tamil with English subtitles. A trade expert, on request of anonymity, says, “I spoke to experts in Tamil Nadu and they too agree that the film isn’t creating a lot of buzz even there. There doesn’t seem to be much excitement among the people considering Rajini enjoys such a huge popularity.”

Movie business analyst Atul Mohan says, “When Rajinikanth collaborates with filmmakers like Shankar those films have a different kind of hype. Kaala has got more of Tamil flavour and might not appeal to all kinds of audience.” 

He adds that there are chances of the film releasing only in Tamil which might act as another hindrance. “Going by what we have heard, the producer is asking for Rs 30 crores to dub the film in Hindi.  So, the film might release in Tamil with English subtitles. If that happens, the film might not have a pan India appeal even though it stars mainstream Bollywood actors like Nana Patekar, Huma Qureshi and Pankaj Tripathi,” says Mohan. 

Trade expert Amod Mehra says that the makers are having a low key promotion. “After the success of Baahubali, South Indian filmmakers believe that their films can work without promotions. Coming to Kaala, they are confident that Rajinikanth’s name will draw the crowds. But if the film releases with English subtitles, it might not make money in North India.”  

Certain industry experts say that it’s unfair to question his popularity because of political aspirations or the failure of his past few films. Trade expert Taran Adarsh says, “There is a week to go and we have to wait and watch. Rajinikanth is a huge phenomenon with mind-boggling fan following. Hits and flops are part of the industry and we can’t write off a person just because he did not give a not so encouraging film.”  

Narrating his experience, Pankaj, who plays a policeman in Kaala, says, “We were shooting in a protective environment so the crowds weren’t inside but I could see the frenzy among the junior artists. They were crazy about Anna. The artists would just see him and feel  hugely enthusiastic about their work. In fact, one can see the madness on screen.”  

Dhanush’s Wunderbar Films, which has produced Kaala, is trying to create a noise around the film, by collaborating with Twitter and recently launched the first-ever Rajinikanth emoji for #Kaala. People in India and across the world can join the conversation around the film by simply tweeting with #Kaala, and use the specially designed emoji curated by Twitter. The emoji appears next to the hashtag in the tweet and is inspired by Rajinikanth’s character from the film.  The emoji will be active till June 10.

Announcing the launch, S Vinod, Executive Producer & COO of Wunderbar Films Private Limited, says, “Rajinikanth is India’s biggest megastar and we are very excited about the launch of the emoji. We’re thankful to Twitter for this vibrant emoji that we’re sure his fans will absolutely love.”

Keya Madhvani-Singh, Head of Entertainment Partnerships, Twitter India, says, “Over the past few years, the South Indian film industry has really grown on Twitter and emerged at the forefront of global conversations. Garnering over 2 million tweets even before the launch of the movie, #Kaala has already become one of the most talked about films on Twitter.” 

Karnataka-based film distributors and exhibitors have decided not to screen the film in theatres across the state to protest against the superstar’s stand on the Cauvery river water row with Tamil Nadu. 

“In view of the public outrage over Rajinikanth’s recent remarks on the setting up of a Cauvery Management Board, distributors and exhibitors have decided not to screen any version of his movie Kaala in any theatre in the state, and we welcome it,” Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) President Sa Ra Govindu said. 

Clarifying that the Kannada film industry was not against Rajinikanth, who hails from Bengaluru, Govindu said there was no ban on the film. But the fraternity had decided to support the decision and respect public sentiment.

But the Tamil Film Producers’ Council are hopeful of resolving the problem and want to start a dialogue with The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) for a smooth release of the film. 

(With Inputs from IANS)

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