22 Dec 2014

Rajnikanth Blues: Watching Lingaa in Kerala

It was on the afternoon of December 11, 2014 that we arrived at Angadipuram, Mallappuram district, Kerala for my sister's wedding. The marriage was to be a solemn ceremony to be held in a nearby temple, two days later.We are put up in a cosy lodge. It was in a quiet little lane, away from the grind of small town traffic. 

The last thing I didn't even expect to see on the right side of the narrow path was a single screen theater.Yet, there it was. Chitralaya, the legend proclaimed in English. There was also the boast of DTS sound embossed on a glass pane. 

Then came the eye-catching moment. A series of posters displayed Rajnikanth in a high-quality wig, make up, computer-generated patch up and his enigmatic style. Though I know nothing of written Tamil (a little bit of spoken Tamil, yes), I knew this was Lingaa, the superstar's latest release. Other dubbed versions (Hindi & Telugu) were to release simultaneously on December 12, prosperously and incidentally, as a push for a grand opening, on the actor's birthday.

I hadn't yet seen a Rajni movie in a theater yet and for once I was ready to forego the absence of any iota of realism in the proceedings, just for the experience. 

Two days later...
By 13th afternoon, the tumult of the wedding was all but over. Evening brought over two hours of heavy rain, as it can only fall in Kerala. No flooding, no stagnation, no puddle-ridden roads, just the rain, like some guest visiting it's birthplace. 

My long lost cousin was around, down from Bengaluru and even as lightning lashed the tiled lodge roof, we decided to make it for the 9.45 night show. After a furtive dinner, we rushed over in a half-run, my cousin way ahead in the sprint, down the dark lane. When I arrived at the theater gates, he had already purchased the balcony tickets. He waved them in the dim low-voltage tube light and I followed. It had stopped raining for sometime now, hardly any residue of the shower remained.

The crime, the audience 
We had already committed a Rajnikanth fan crime when we took the seats. Apart from missing a clear five minutes of the start, we had missed the unmissable - the 'Superstar Rajni' entry scene. 

Behind us, the audience, all men, were unusually quite. Orange embers gave away some beedis* in the dark, traces of smoke, all clad in simple shirts and lungis, some stretching their legs to the top of the seats before them. As we were enlightened by a couple of 60-watt bulbs in the interval, the crowd consisted of mostly labourers, dead tired of the day's work and thus subdued, it seemed. A little stench of alcohol somewhere when we arrived, not overwhelming though.            

There was some excitement in the stalls at some scenes, nothing loud, but rising in waves occasionally. Maybe, several of them were returning to see the film for the umpteenth time. They all wanted a late night's sleep, lulled down to their pillow by Rajni's histrionics, probably building a deliberate habit for the coming week. The dreamy escape of the film like a soothing massage perhaps, after a hard day's work .  

We? We were there for the fun of it. So what is it exactly (pronounced 'egg-jaag-tly' here) that makes Rajnikanth tick? I am still thinking of a thousand impossible things. 

(To be contd.)

(*Beedi - A cheaper local version of the Indian cigarette.)