Rajnikanth has been in and out of hospitals thrice over the past few days. Having given up alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms have been playing havoc with his system. For an actor whose image is larger than life — ardent fans believe he is God — his state has been disheartening to the film fraternity in Mumbai that is also his fan like the rest of the country.
Fifty-one-year-old Nambi Rajan owns the single-screen theatre, Aurora Cinema, on Kings Circle, Matunga, Mumbai. The unusual part of the theatre’s screening policy is that it screens Rajnikanth’s films with unmatched fervour. About 5,000 people turn up on the first day of a Rajni release in the hope that they’d be one of the first 700 to watch the film. That is after they perform a religious aarti for their God.
“When a Rajnikanth film releases, it is festival time for us in Mumbai. Even though my theatre, which was built in 1942, seats only 700, 5,000 people turn up and wait for their turn in batches of 700. It is a single screen right now but I have submitted my papers to turn this theatre into a multiplex over the next three months. Then I will screen only Rajni’s films on all screens!” says Rajan, who started the Rajni celebrations 15 years ago primarily because he is a huge fan, and the fact that there was a big public demand for it.
The ticket prices here remain the same at Rs 80, 90 and100 with no escalations during the Rajni fest, like one would assume. “It is because of our love for Rajni and for cinema that we do this, not for any monetary gain at all. People from the ages of 2 to 80 are his fans,” he says, recounting an instance when a lady aged 75 came for Robot’s first day, first show with her 80-year-old husband. “The first few days of a Rajni film, you cannot hear the dialogues because every time he comes on screen, there is so much shouting and screaming. But people are not bothered. They enjoy all that because they love him,” he says.
Sharing his concern for the superstar’s health, he says, “It is a worrying factor that he is unwell and we are all just praying for him to get well soon. I have not gone to Chennai because I don’t want to disturb his family at such a time. It doesn’t seem right. I did not organise a prayer meeting for him here in the city because most of the people from our fan association are in the South during the months of April and May. Ab mandir aur bhagwan udhar hai, toh idhar pray karke fayda kya? Woh sab log native place se Chennai main gaya hai to be closer to him.” Not surprisingly, Rajan’s caller tune is a song from Rajnikanth’s milestone hit, Baasha, which shot the superstar into the limelight.
Messages from the fraternity:
K S Ravikumar, filmmaker: Rana is superstar Rajni sir’s dream project and his brainchild and hence he is very keen on completing it successfully. His ill health might have caused a minor glitch initially in our shooting plans but Rajni sir is very positive about recovering and getting back into action. The shoot is just postponed temporarily as we await his complete and total recovery. He is now on his way towards a speedy recovery and we are now hopeful of releasing Rana the following year (2012).
Rohan Sippy, filmmaker: Rajnikanth is a megastar. I wish him a speedy recovery.
Sonu Sood, actor: I worked with him for the first time in a Tamil film called Chandramukhi some years ago. When I reached the sets, he was sitting on a chair; he called out for another chair for me. Till the chair did not arrive, he continued standing. I was humbled by his sheer humility, and since then I am extremely fond of him. He is a strong-willed man and I am sure he will be out of the hospital soon. I pray for his good health and I’m looking forward to working with him on our July schedule of Eros’s film, Rana, in London.
Abhishek Kapoor, filmmaker: Rajnikanth being unwell is just unbelievable! He’s Rajnikanth! I mean the way he carries himself, the kind of films he’s done and the image that he has on our minds – it just doesn’t sound right. But I know it’s true and I wish he gets well real soon and gets back to doing what he does best – being Rajni!
Shyam Shroff, distributor: It is extremely sad to hear of his ill health. He is one of the finest gentlemen in the film industry, apart from being immensely successful. I wish he regains his health soon and is back to fighting off villains on the screen.
Rakesh Roshan, filmmaker: I know Rajnikanth very well and we are close friends. I have worked with him as an actor in three South Indian films. I produced a film, Bhagwan Dada, which was directed by my father-in-law, J.Om Prakash. In fact, Hrithik acted in the film too as a child star. We have been family friends for years. I pray for his speedy recovery and good health. He is a strong man and I am sure he will get out of this soon.
Poonam Dhillon, actress: Rajni is one of those people in our country who have the maximum amount of well-wishers, and he enjoys public adulation like no actor ever has. People’s prayers are with him and I am one of them. I’ve worked with him in a few films; he is an absolute delight to work with and the most understated person on a set, despite his magnum status. I have great regard for him and I am sure he will be fighting fit soon.