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Rajnikant mania rocks India

While a sold-out first month was a foregone conclusion in South India, what has pleasantly surprised the trade is the response the superstar’s latest film has received in the north.

regional movies Updated: Jun 16, 2007 14:28 IST

In time-honoured tradition, gallons of milk were poured on Rajnikanth cutouts in Chennai on Friday as fans welcomed the superstar’s latest — Sivaji: The Boss.

Elsewhere, producers AVM organised a special screening for Jayalalithaa, who wouldn’t settle for anything less than a first-day viewing. In Bangalore, fans tossed money on the screen as Thalaivar (as Rajnikanth is fondly called) appeared.

In Malaysia, the film is reportedly booked over the next three weeks at 52 screens. In Seattle, fans converged from all over the US for a special Friday night premiere.

In Delhi, the film opened to packed houses — PVR cinemas were considering doubling the number of shows in some audis next week.

Some crazy Rajni fans reportedly travelled all the way to the Capital from Chennai to catch a show, because getting Sivaji tickets down South is mission impossible right now.

Rajnikanth is back, younger and fitter than he has ever looked in recent times, thanks to yoga, a veggie diet and Manish Malhotra’s wardrobe. “We were happy to see Thalaivar so energetic and young. His stunts are amazing. As for the story, we’ll focus on that only at our third or fourth viewing,” said Vijay Mohan, a college student from Chennai who paid Rs 600 for a ticket.

While a sold-out first month was a foregone conclusion in South India, what has pleasantly surprised the trade is the response the film has received in the north, particularly Delhi.

Sivaji, reportedly the most expensive film in Indian history (at an estimated budget of Rs 60 crore), has had a housefull opening in the Delhi-NCR region. “We are sold out at all audis till the middle of next week,” said Shalu Sabharwal, vice-president, sales and marketing, PVR. “The film has repeat value even in the north Indian circuit. Although the majority audience at our audis is Tamil, even non-Tamilians are going in. Rajni seems to have a lot of fans in north India too.”

While the film opened in one show each at two PVR screens in Delhi, and in two shows each at two PVR screens in Gurgaon, clearly there is a demand for more shows.

Says Sabharwal, “Given the positive response, we plan to run Sivaji in two shows even in the Delhi screens during the second week.”

While no major unrest has been reported so far, about 60 protestors in Bellary, Karnataka, were taken into custody while demonstrating over the actor's silence on the Cauvery water dispute. The political overtones have not dampened the party for Rajni's fans, though.

The going rate of a Rs 75-ticket in the black market at Bangalore is an astonishing Rs 1,000.

At another Bangalore theatre, Cauvery, the staff was forced to open the counters at 9 a.m. because fans had queued up since Thursday evening to buy tickets. Those who could not get tickets were seen celebrating outside every cinema hall.

“How can we miss his movie? He's God,” said Vijaykumar Gowda, a youth who travelled to Bangalore from Hassan, 180 km away, for the first show at Urvashi theatre.

The film is also drawing packed houses in almost every major Indian city, including Hyderabad and Mumbai.

“There are long queues outside our Mumbai multiplexes, of people who will settle for whichever show is available,” says PVR's Sabharwal.

In this era of wide release and multiplexing, that is a rarity. In fact, given its wide-release (252 screens across the world) strategy, sections of the trade had declared the film a super-hit even before release, predicting a minimum net profit of Rs 25 crore for the distributors.

It can all be summed up in Rajni's own line: “Summa adhirudhu illa (it reverberates, doesn't it)?”

By the look of it, not just Tamil Nadu will be reverberating to the Rajnikanth rhythm over the next few weeks.