The hype and hysteria surrounding the release of Sivaji: the Boss in India and overseas needs to be seen to be believed but there is no doubt about who is the country's biggest superstar.
Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, or Rajnikant to the most people, who was never seen as a hero by the Mumbai based Hindi filmdom or Bollywood, is today the undisputed king of Indian cinema.
He took home a wad of Rs.160 million for Sivaji which is the most expensive Indian film ever. Even A-list Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan charge about Rs 90 million each per film.
Before 57-year-old Rajnikant's latest venture Sivaji hit the marquees this week, it was a common sight to see fans performing ablution by milk on his cut-outs, breaking coconuts in front of the film's posters to ward off evil forces, offering prayers and standing in never-ending serpentine queues to get a ticket.
Fans could be seen gathered outside single-screen theatres as well as multiplex theatres prior to the film's screening and chanted slogans. In Mumbai, fans were seen with hair dyed blond (like Rajni in the film), bursting crackers, distributing sweets and flowers.
In cinema halls in Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai, front benchers and the so-called suave balcony crowd alike were seen hooting, whistling, clapping, slogan chanting, dancing and throwing confetti every time their hero made an appearance, broke into a dance, delivered a punch line or hit the villain on the silver screen.
<b1>Rajni's histrionics in Sivaji with the coin, sunglasses and even his bald pate, have been hailed like there was no tomorrow. And the Rajni mania is not just griping India but according to reports desi fans wrecked at least 10 cinemas across Malaysia after a nationwide premiere of Sivaji: The Boss was either delayed or cancelled due to technical glitches.
The Rajni mania is at its zenith in the US and Japan as well. Reports from the US said there is unprecedented rush for tickets of Sivaji being screened in major cities.
No other Tamil film - be it Chandramukhi, Anniyan, Ghajini, Vettayadu Vilayadu - has attracted the kind of craze that has preceded the Sivaji release in the US. A similar story is taking place in Japan where Rajnikant is immensely popular, according to reports.
Supernova, superstar, 'Style Mannan'...the Periya Thaliavar of Tamil filmdom has many adjectives attached to his name. Now that his latest movie is said to have grossed nearly Rs.20 million in advance bookings from 17 theatres in Chennai itself, it wouldn't be wrong to anoint him as the biggest star of India.
The only time Bollywood cast Rajnikant in an important role was in Anil Sharma's Farishtey, J Om Prakash's Bhagwan Dada and Wafadar, which were forgotten soon after. But except for his crisp Tamil accent, a Romeo-style red scarf, a cowboyish swagger, there was little to write home about his Bollywood career.
Rajnikant's first notable performance was in Moondru Mudichu in which he played a character with negative shades and charmed one and all with his famous cigarette flip. String of blockbusters likes Pokkiri Raja, Thanikkattu Raja, Naan Mahaan Alla, Moondru Mugham and Nettrikkam followed, making him a phenomenon.
Rajnikant has portrayed people from various walks of life and his films always carry a social message. Sivaji is the superstar's 100th Tamil film. It is his ninth movie under the banner of AVM Productions.
With every movie he does, he just seems to get bigger and better. Clearly, for him the world is not enough.