Is the so-called box-office success of Rajnikant-starrer Kabali the brazenly lying handiwork of a secret cabal ?
The inflated collection reports of Kabali are lies, reported the DNA. Operative excerpts:
A day after the release of Rajnikant starrer Kabali, there were reports of the film having made Rs. 100 crores on day one. According to The Economic Times, Rajnikanth’s Kabali reportedly collected a record Rs 250 crore on its first day. An industry source says these figures are grossly inflated.
The B-O figures (approximately) are: All India (four languages) + overseas = Rs 89.4 crore.
Everyone seems to have bought the Kabali lies.
Often, the producers send out inflated figures and the media carries it without checking the facts. Also, the figures are being compared to those of Aamir Khan and Salman Khan-starrers, which isn’t fair because in Tamil Nadu, films are tax-free, so tickets are cheaper, because of which audiences go to see the film in large numbers.
Media outlets like The Times of India, said the opposite. The Rajinikanth starrer [Kabali] is said to have created history at the box office, said the Times of India.
Kabali has done unbelievable business at an all India level, was the guarded verdict in a website devoted exclusively to box-office records. Operative excerpts:
The Hindi version may not have done well and the Telugu version is also not going to be up to the mark but in its original format Tamil it is huge wherever released.
There was a drop in collections after the weekend, but, that tends to happen with films down South which open so huge.
Relevant excerpts from reviews – which were – to say the least – ‘mixed’:
We have seen many movies in the past which couldn’t measure up to the vaulting hype around their release, and Kabali makes it to the list as well. What Kabali lacks is pace and mass, an unwanted trait in many Rajinikanth movies of late.
Tamil magazine “Bhagya” owned and edited by ace director, screen-writer and actor Bhagyaraj has raised serious questions over the tall claims being published by those who benefited by the film vis-à-vis those who reportedly are believed to have lost heavily. The relevant cartoon depicts various sections of the exhibiting industry seriously questioning the “so-called success story of Kabali” comparing it with a bargain in a cattle market.
Reverberating booms of the “Neruppuda” [I am fire] song that rendered some Chennai streets nearly deaf have fallen silent after the initial hoopla over the release of Kabali.
Diehard fans of the actor are disappointed. One of them was heard saying thus in Chennai’s middleclass enclave of Rangarajapuram – that houses a marriage hall owned by the actor’s family:
When I saw the Neruppuda teaser, I was in ecstasy. After seeing the film, I need a fix of the ‘ecstasy’ drug to pep me up as the film was so meaninglessly boring! When someone asked me give my verdict about the film, I retorted, “Seruppudaa [footwear]! If someone tells me that the actor on the screen is Rajnikant’s double, I will start considering that allegation with some seriousness. The famous swagger seen in successful movies like Sivaji is in direct contrast with the tired trudge in the introductory scene of the film. Besides, I simply cannot believe the real Thalaivar could do such a stupid film in his right mind! Then there is this feeling on the over-dependence on Malaysia and its proximity to Singapore – when the Thalaivar reportedly underwent some treatment beyond the reach of virtually everyone else but for his immediate family. Is there some sort of mysterious symbolism hidden in all this?
The film has a wafer thin plot.
Rajni played a Malaysia based Tamil gangster who is released from prison to wreak vengeance. Every 10 minutes one is served with a flashback of some sort followed by frenzied violence full of blood and gore.
The climax is tepid and the anti-climax is insipidity raised to the power of infinity!
The Rajnikant one knew had a devil-may-care attitude about virtually everything on screen. But for his yet to be declared political ambitions, he never cared about his off-screen persona. The down-to-earth to the core simplicity of the man who regularly rubbed shoulders with his hoi polloi fans and his friends from the old times forte of the matinee idol is missing now – rather mysteriously.
A close look at his career shows a huge contrast between Rajnikant of yore and the man one encounters now.
A brief pen-portrait of the superstar
Rajnikant is the screen name of Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, whose mother tongue is Marathi. He spent is formatory years in Bangalore, Karnataka.
‘Rajni’ called himself by that name because the man wanted an “honourable” nomenclature befitting a star to boost his film career.
Since that production became a hit, and for want of a better alias, the khaki clad busman adopted it, it is said. It resulted in others copying the trend. There is Vijaykant – an ominously washed up actor as a poor comparison. There were others. One of them is a little-known screen-baddie – Nalinikant.
The then unknown Rajnikant began living from day to day, moment to moment and had hoped for lady luck to smile on him.
An uneventful period of training in the Film Institute located in Adyar – a south Madras suburb landed Rajnikant a glorified extra’s role in a black and white flick “Apoorva Raagangal” (rare tunes) whose storyline had been “inspired” from a joke.
Rajnikant played a bearded geriatric husband to a wayward woman who chooses to love a man young enough to be her son, while their daughter falls for the son’s father like a ton of bricks.
In the movie Rajnikant’s screen presence lasted under 15 minutes.
And even in that span, his face was hidden behind a shaggy beard.
Nobody noticed him in the film – except for a few superstitious dream merchants – who felt that Rajnikant’s first shot – opening the gates of a concert theatre was a good omen.
That still didn’t make Rajnikant’s life in filmdom easy.
He hired single room in a small seedy lodge in a suburb which had the dubious name – “Kolakaran Pettai” (murderer’s area) simply because he couldn’t afford anything better and also due to the reason that nobody was willing to give him a dwelling on rent as he, self-admittedly, loved to smoke and drink.
Rajnikant’s mentor Balachander had hired him to play anti-hero roles.
The other director whose name started with the letter “B” – Periyamayathevar Bharati Raja (a man who had started life in Bangalore as well) too made him a bigger villain in his maiden venture “Pathinaaru Vayathinile” (Sweet Sixteen) too tried “claiming” Rajnikant as his “find” for some time, but to no avail.
Movie critics opined Rajnikant was a cruel joke on them and panned him endlessly. Yet, he became India’s star number one.
Vintage Rajnikant circa 1980
The set of Netrikkan [the third eye on the forehead] was garish and big.
Rajnikant’s costumes were old-fashioned and seemed like they were hired from a friendly but shady launderer.
The three leading ladies were studies in contrast – Lakshmi – a minor legend since her arrival a generation before the hero, the second – Saritha – who was a more saleable star than him in that period (therefore being given a better role) and the third – Menaka – was destined to for a very short career that lasted a mere 6 years. There was a 4th girl in the film – Vijayshanti – who played Rajnikant’s sister in the film. Much later, she came to be known as ‘Lady Amitabh’, joined politics and faded away.
Rajnikant was playing a dual role – each an antithesis of the other. The meatier of the two was a philanderer who never left anything wrapped in a sari or otherwise alone. The other was a straitjacketed do-gooder who pretends to marry his own father’s rape victim to reform the old lecher.
This writer wandered into the floor in AVM studios as he had been asked to interview the star who was just emerging from doomsday predictions.
Rajnikant had been called a crackpot, drug addict, drunkard and worse simply because he had been rumoured to have had links with a fading actress – who at the fag-end of her career had been the flavour of Chief Minister MG Ramachandran till 1978.
In 1979, even as MGR was still CM in his first inning at Chennai’s seat of power – Fort St George, the film Mullum Malarum [bloom and bristle] won the best film award from the government of Tamil Nadu, marking the end of the so-called feud between the then current superstar and the ex-superstar-CM.
“Try to get under the skin of Rajnikant, see if we can get some nasty quotes from him,” my editor stationed in Hyderabad had said.
It was taking a long time between shots as the film inside the archaic Mitchell camera had to be rewound as per needs of the double-role shots since nobody had heard about CG then and very tricky lighting had to be done.
Rajnikant had removed his jacket as he waited because air-conditioned make-up rooms were unheard of at that time for up and coming stars like him. He was smoking a State Express 555 cigarette.
I accosted the star and asked him whether he was willing to answer a few questions.
“Is it for a movie magazine?”
“Then you are welcome. Ask whatever you want. But please remember to print my answers verbatim.”
It t was supposed to last a few minutes. The chat stretched for four hours – two till shooting ended that day and the balance a day later during a drive from Rajnikant’s Poes Garden bungalow to the studios in his modest, air-conditioned Fiat. The matinee idol drove his car himself. The driver was seated behind as the ubiquitous “assistant”.
Three statements made by the actor during the interview while answering personal questions are etched in my memory.
“I only fear God and my conscience. When I started to earn a living as a bus conductor, I did not know that one day I would come to Madras and become film actor. For me, no matter how famous I become, I will always be a pal to my pals, because they are my roots. Tamil Nadu has become my preferred home because this people of this state have given me a new identity and my modest claim to fame. I may not speak the language properly, but I have come to realise that I express myself better in Tamil than in any other language.”
“My most humbling moment was when I went to [current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu] Jayalalithaa’s house to discuss a role offered to be me by a producer – to play second fiddle to her. I was commuting in a scooter – something I was rather sheepish about. It didn’t work out for various reasons. She chose to ‘graciously’ see off at the gate. ‘Do not be shy about your humble present status. You will certainly be a big man one day,’ she said. I thought her eyes teased me for my rather nondescript situation. I decided that one day I would have my residence in the same area as she lived – Poes Gardens – so that I could shrug off the poverty complex once and for all. And I have done that now,” Rajnikant said the first day with a glint in his eye.
“When I left Bangalore, I wanted to be an actor, not a star, because of three things: It would fetch me a little more money than the salary of a bus conductor; I could choose the women to sleep with and get finally plenty of time to rest – in that order. I have achieved much more than that now.”
“Can I publish that?”
“Please do so by all means.”
“Will it not hurt your image?”
“You are naïve, young man. If someone reads this, more girls will come to me.”
The 2500-word interview was printed in a magazine – which soon ceased publication. No Tamil newspaper reproduced it because Rajnikant wasn’t news then.
Vintage Rajnikant circa 1992
The car carrying Rajnikant was making its way towards the arterial Radhakrishnan Road that links the state’s police headquarters on the eastern end to the US Consulate in the West.
Even before his vehicle reached the the main road, suddenly, a police jeep overtook his vehicle and forced it to stop.
“We are clearing the road for the Chief Minister to pass,” the cop announced when the actor sought an explanation.
For the uniformed man, it did not matter that the producer needing Rajnikant’s presence in the studio would be put to hardship and that like all citizens of Chennai the actor too had the right to the use the thoroughfare without being forced to make way.
Something must have snapped in the actor’s mind.
According to eyewitnesses and press reports, he got out of the parked car walked into the busy arterial road, crossed the intersection, went to a kiosk, ordered a packet of cigarettes, shook one out and began smoking.
Within a few minutes, a small crowd gathered to have a glimpse of the star. News spread like wildfire and a huge multitude began milling around the area as the actor didn’t seem to have a care in the world and was puffing away merrily. The whole area was gridlocked.
[The event, in my opinion, has been adapted and fitted into a Hindi film called Dirty Picture to suit the devil-may-care attitude of the central character ‘Silk’ that earned a good sum of money and laurels for its heroine Vidya Balan.]
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who wanted the road cleared, couldn’t stir out of her residence.
Finally, realising their folly, the cops begged Rajnikant to drive away to work because the CM was getting late.
“I am waiting for her to go. I don’t mind waiting,” the actor said nonchalantly for quite some time feigning innocent reluctance.
Finally, he shrugged his shoulders, got into his vehicle and drove away.
The Chief Minister called Rajnikant and apologised. She is said to have spoilt it by adding, “Why don’t you shift your residence?”
Pat came the punch-line from the superstar.
“How would it sound if I suggested the same thing to you?”
The point was made.
He may have a devil-may-care attitude for the screen. In reality, the exact opposite was true. He cared for the rights of those who rooted for him.
In the 1996 assembly elections, Rajnikant was featured in posters of the opposition indirectly endorsing the election symbol Tamil Manila Congress led by GK Moopanar. In the run up to the election, he had declared, “If the AIADMK comes back to power, even God cannot save Tamil Nadu.“
Jayalalithaa and her party were routed in 1996.
Rajnikant circa 2016
“I am humbled by the success of Kabali. I thank [director] Ranjith, my co actors, the crew, Dhanu, distributors, press, and my fans for making this movie a huge success. Magizhchi [I am happy].”
The actor’s fans removed giant Kabali posters from the façade of a cinema in a southwest suburb of Chennai.
All doesn’t seem to be well within his family.
The more talented of his two daughters – Soundarya Ashwin had begun very ambitious projects with her father.
The projects stalled.
She is now said to be part of ongoing multiple litigations in the Madras High Court filed by financiers.
Her husband Ashwin Ramkumar is the scion of a family that is into major construction projects for over 6 six decades.
The company Ashwin Ramkumar partly owns had yanked its account away from Indian Bank following very poor service after banking in that institution for over 5 decades.
A private bank has given the construction firm Venkatraman & Co a huge advance to improve its business prospects. The guarantor is said to be Rajnikant. Some of the loans, sources said, are in the process of being foreclosed.
Quite a few of the latest movies starring Rajnikant viz. Baba, Kuselan, Kochchadaiyan, and Lingaa did not accord joy to its producers, distributors, exhibitors and most importantly, the thespian’s fans.
Lingaa has a sinister link. Its distribution had passed through the hands of the now “declared missing person” and juvenile delinquent S Madhan, the managing partner in a company called Vendhar Movies. Relatives of the missing person allege foul play. Reports said that Madhan had a cash exceeding Rs.100 crores collected in the name of securing admissions in SRM University – a huge complex comprising of a hotel, hostels, hospital and travel-firm located in the outskirts of Chennai. The other partner is Thandavarayapuram Ramaswami Pachamuthu alias Paari Vendhar. His political outfit Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) had been an electoral ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party during the 2014 elections. Vendhar had shared the dais with current Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi himself! The networking was reportedly done by Rajnikant. Sections of the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP are peeved at the matinee idol as he refused to endorse it during the 2016 assembly elections. Jayalalithaa, who continues to be Rajnikant’s neighbour in Poes Gardens, won the polls. The BJP came a cropper!
The stalled project – Sultan the Warrior involves Rajnikant’s daughter Soundarya Ashwin. Its multiple deals with Hollywood and Bollywood entities have said to have gone completely sour resulting in debts running into a few hundred crores of rupees.
Rajnikant, his wife Latha and the principal of a school run by them Vandana Tugnait are being prosecuted in a case pertaining to the disputed lease of a piece of land where ‘Ashram’, a school run by the family continues to function despite lease expiry.
A sudden power outage resulted in this writer being stuck in a lift in Sathyam Cinemas on the first day of the release for 17 minutes. A guy from the Satyam Cinemas’ management tried to assuage my feelings by serving me with some meals and two cups of coffee – the second after the interval. “Well, the coffees were good and the movie was bad,” I told the young man, who had fawned over me.
The other film Rajnikant film watched by me in Sathyam – way back in 2007 was Sivaji. There was a huge brouhaha over the ticket for the press preview. The news agency I worked for needed the review before everyone else.
I was on tenterhooks.
A nerd friend of my son asked me not to worry.
“Within 2 minutes of the first show starting somewhere, I will give you the print on your computer’s screen, uncle,” he said. I did not believe him.
The press show was at 8 a.m. I got to see the show thanks to my colleague Shobha Warrier of Rediff.com.
When I entered Sathyam cinema, I spotted producer AVM Saravanan – standing as usual with hands folded across his chest, in his milk white attire. His balding head was clean shaven – indicating a trip to the Tirupati shrine. The grim expression on his face betrayed that he was on tenterhooks. The rumour was that vast swathes of AVM studios had been hocked and the loans had turned bad. During the interval, a film-review-fixer approached me and whispered in my ear, “For each glowing review of the film, the producers and distributors are willing to shell out at least Rs.5,000 to people from news agencies whose items will be flashed all over India.” I asked the person to get lost and stay lost.
After writing the review, I had noticed that the entire film’s pirated copy was on my desktop even as the first “official show” was on.
Pirated prints of Kabali were out before their release on the internet.
So, the excuse – if ever trotted out for the failure of the film – was kept ready. The despicable killjoy pirates were to be blamed!
Perhaps, this blog has foreclosed that option.
Asinine attempts are being made to keep the hype going by demanding a Bharat Ratna for Rajnikant. Director Ranjith has begun talking of a sequel to Kabali and its remake with Amitabh playing the lead! Well, rumours are free, but facts are costly, especially when they prove to be the roots of a massive dud.
Some of the strange ironies link Jayalalithaa and Rajnikant. Both hail from the same neighbouring state – Karnataka! Jayalalithaa was part of the drama troupe United Amateur Artists begun by Yechan Gunja Parthasarathy [YGP]. Lankan journalist DBS Jayaraj wrote about this connection: Jayalalithaa’s mother Sandhya and aunt Vidyavathy acted in dramas produced by the famous Y.G. Parthasarathy the father of comedian Y.G. Mahendran. YGP as he was known ran the drama troupe United Amateur Artistes (UAA), which staged English and Tamil plays. Soon Jayalalithaa, while a school girl, began acting in some YGP plays along with her mother and aunt. She acted in plays such as ‘Malathi,’ ‘The Whole Truth,’ ‘Tea House of the August Moon’ and ‘Under Secretary’.
In a roundabout way, Latha Rajnikant – the matinee idol’s wife has family ties to those who helped Jayalalithaa become an actress. Latha is the sister-in-law of veteran playwright Y Gee Mahendran [YGP’s son]. She is also related to former actress Vyjayanthimala. Latha’s brother Ravi Raghavendra is also an actor. He is the father of Kolaveri-fame music director Anirudh Ravichander. Latha married Rajinikanth on 26 February 1981 at Tirupati. The couple had met during an exclusive press interview.
The Rajnikant of yore was lovable, likeable and to some, lickable.
The new one … er … seems to be a stranger … who seems to be pale shadow of the has-been superstar.
A cabal is a group of people united in a specific conspiracy.
The group promotes private interests using intrigue as a weapon against gullible persons located beyond the borders of the group.
The unity of a cabal is ensured by kinship and needs of acquiring financial, political, social and religious influence to control a huge section of population and profit from it. The term cabal is frequently used in conspiracy theories, says the Wikipedia.
Its definition: The artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues.
He might have ogled at fellow actresses such as Silk Smitha, he might have proposed Sridevi, he might have had frictions with MGR for the sake of Actress Latha, he may have gone mentally unstable – all during his young years.
Rajnikant, the superstar was famous. With the kind of attention this blog is getting, should we say that he has now become “infamous”?
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