Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sivaji - First Day, First Show


To no one’s surprise, Sivaji will be screened at the same 2 theaters in the Bay Area this weekend also. Rajni may be the BOSS(Box Office Super Star) onscreen but since there is another BOSS(Balaji’s Own Strict Spouse) at home, it seems unlikely that I will be able (read allowed!) to see it again this weekend. So I decided to simply relive the experience of watching the 8pm preview show, which was the first screening in the Bay Area, last Thursday.

We’ve long crossed the state where a Rajnikanth movie is just another movie and its release, just another release. With the actor cutting down drastically on his films and his box-office power and aura increasing with each film, his movie releases have become mega-events, each bigger than the one before. Proof of that was seen at the show last week. I have caught the first day shows of Padaiyappa, Baba and Chandramukhi here in the Bay Area and the Sivaji preview was easily the biggest of ‘em all.

I don’t think I have seen the FDFS of a Rajni movie back home in Chennai. Not knowing any theater managers and not counting any Rajni rasigar manram members among my friends, I was forced to stand in line at the ticket counters the first weekend after advance booking opened. With tickets for the first couple of days being blocked en masse by the fan clubs, I would usually get tickets for only the 3rd day or later. The crowds and the celebrations and the torn lottery tickets were all there but I always longingly imagined the scenes inside the theater on the first day.

The FDFS dream came true once I moved to the Bay Area. Knowing the distributor helped me get tickets easily for our full group for Padaiyappa while tickets for Baba and Chandramukhi were sold online and by keeping constant vigil on the website, I was able to snap them up as soon they were announced. Getting tickets for Sivaji turned out to be more complicated. Registration for the tickets was announced a long time back but in a case of procrastination never before seen when it came to Rajni movies, I let it pass by and did not register until I received the 4th email. I was heartbroken when I got an email from them saying that the 8pm show was sold out and that I was in line only for tickets for the 11.15pm show. But salvation came in the form of my wife’s cousin, who had registered for 2 tickets early enough to be get those tickets for the 8pm show and offered me one of them. With the cousin offering me the 2nd ticket and the home BOSS generously agreeing to me going to the show, I was all set (considering the earlier sadness and subsequent turnaround, all I could think was Aandavan nallavangalai sodhippaan, aanaa kai vida maattaan :-).

We arrived at the theater around 7.45pm and the place was already milling with Rajni fans (in a great idea, the distributors assigned row numbers for the tickets. So there were no lines and no mad rush when the doors opened later). Quite a few fans were wearing BOSS t-shirts and a few had on blonde wigs. A roar went around as one fan brought in a Sivaji poster and a short aarthi was performed in front of it, complete with agarbathis and coconuts. Since this was done in a courtyard with a Starbucks and a gym around, there were quite a few curious American onlookers for the activities, as you can imagine. It was almost 9 by the time the movie started but nobody really cared. Chants of thalaivaa or Sivaji went up at regular intervals as the long line snaked through the lobby and up the stairs to the theater door.

Adding to the festive feeling was the number of familiar faces I ran into. I met an old roommate and his friends, a friend who I hadn’t seen in more than 5 years and Shwetha, a regular reader/commenter here, was also nice enough to stop by and say “Hi”.

Mysore paakkus were distributed to viewers as they entered the theater and the atmosphere was electric as we settled in our seats. The Sultan(that's the animation film starring Rajni, directed by Soundarya Rajnikanth) trailer served as an appetizer to the main course and seeing Rajni’s face in graphics was awesome. Loud cheers and cries drowned out everything else as the censor certificate was shown, before stars lined up on screen for Rajni’s name(both the graphics and the background music have been changed from the earlier style that started with Annamalai). Thalaivar’s first appearance was ofcourse treated with thunderous applause as was the Ballelakka… song soon after.

Even in Rajni’s previous films, the noise usually ebbed after the first 10 minutes or so and popped up only occasionally after that during specific styles or punchlines. But the cheers lasted right to the end in Sivaji and I think that by itself is solid testimony to the way Shankar has presented Rajni. Off the top of my head, some specific moments that got the loudest cheers – Vivek’s comment about other actors doing the finger swish and uttering punchlines, the teakadai scene, the glass flip in the Style… song, the Panninga dhaandaa… line, the bullet backtrack in the Adhiradee… song and mottai boss’ arrival.

As we came out of the theater completely hoarse but thoroughly elated, the one thought in everyone’s mind undoubtedly was RAJNI RULES!!

37 Comments:

At 11:34 PM, Blogger Raju said...

Adhellam sari.. When did ur home BOSS become a Rajini fan? In ur homepage (at geocities), I see a change in the 'Fav actors' column.. Unmaiya sollunga.. :)

 
At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Balaji, I hope you got to see the pics of the Bay Area preview show at Behindwoods.com and also the video of the same. I knew a few folks at the showing that I couldn't stop laughing at the whole 'aarthi' done so festively for Rajini..

Rajini would have 'style'-aa smiled looking at all these folks in San Jose! :-) ;-)

 
At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paditha Muttaalkal!!!!!!!!!

 
At 5:17 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

If I show this to my daughter who is 5 years old she will ask who is this Appa.

What is this Umbachi's Name?

Venkat

 
At 5:18 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

I mean the whole aarti sequence video and pictures. sorry for the confusion. I know you all would have figured out what I meant.

Cheers
Venkat

 
At 6:34 AM, Blogger Ganesh said...

Balaji we had similar experience here in DC. But my take on Sivaji is disappointment. But that's just me.
Movie would have been a disaster but for Rajni. My take is Shankar just couldn't find the right balance. Moreover he really should move on from his pet theme.

 
At 6:55 AM, Blogger Arul said...

The walk scene in front of the helicopter and tea kada scene were simply thalaivar and thalaivar only..

Long time visitor and first time commenting...

The scene at Boston was simply amazing... The same theater which had only 5 ppl for a Ajiths film(I dont remember the name), Sivaji had people waiting in line for more than hour...

The magnetism and charisma of the man is simply amazing...

 
At 6:59 AM, Blogger Arul said...

Needless to say, me too a big fan of thalaivar..... Will be watching the film again this weekend

 
At 8:10 AM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan said...

balaji,

like San says, some people go for go for the movie (story, acting etc.). some people go for the expeience (the people and ambience in the theater).

San went for the show purely for the experience and Rajni with no expectations whatsoever on how technically accurate the movie was. I have not seen her happier!

somehow, the sarcastic cynic in me doesnt let me just enjoy the screams. time to lighten up some more I guess.

:)

 
At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raj from Cary, NC....last time on the FDFS for Chandramukhi I was the only one dancing and whistling if I glimpsed a Thalaiva-ism....couldnt care less about the sedate and seat-stuck crowd in the theater...this time I missed it coz I was out of town...but who the fuck wants to watch a thalaiva movie with such a moronic crowd ??

 
At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Ram said...

bb, nice write-up that reflected your ecstasy at watching rajni on screen and more importantly, watching rajni in such a festive atmosphere...

but now I think its time for you to move on to other posts. konjam sivaji overdose aayndruku bbthots-la. not speaking from the POV of a kamal fan but that of a bbthots fan.

 
At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ram, let Balaji enjoy his moment in the sun, basking in thalaivar's aura, after all we get to see Rajini only once in 2 years in these times. I don't know how many more such movies are we privileged to see from probably the last of the superstars!
Arun

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wanted to add, based on the ballelaka song, Rajini couldn't keep up with the fast tempo, getting old, don't know how many movies we have left. It was accentutated further with the clothes he wore in the song which really showed he is far too thin and you could notice the lack of smoothness in steps compared to other songs where he wore bulkier stuff.
Arun.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Ram said...

Arun, yeah yeah, i know. known BB's Rajni fanaticism for a long time so I understand! But just wanted to nudge him and say that its been 10 days since I've read anything else on bbthots. thats all.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

The time when Thalaivar films get released is one time when I wish I had been in the Bay Area :) Though we had our own fun time here in Seattle, I am sure, looking at all the photos & the aarathi and all, it would have been amazing over there.

BTW, unga BOSS kitta kaettu second time paarunga Balaji. You will love the movie even more, just bcos you will go in without expecting the perfect movie. My count is 5, so far and I have simply loved the movie every single time I have seen it :)

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger KK said...

Kewl! (like Thalaivar in Sivaji)
I was luky to get the first day first show at Chicago... we were treated with Chakkarai pongal while entering the cinema hall...

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Well, Ram, I will have to concur with Arun on this. As much as I agree that I would also enjoy reading something else besides Sivaji/Rajini and the lot in BBThots.. this is indeed a festival that happens once in 2 or 3 years. If you don't enjoy it to the fullest now, you will not get this experience again (time and tide waits for none of us! :-) ;-)..

As much as I told myself the same thing to go see Sivaji in the theater FDFS, I still can't see past the $21/$16 till now.

At least, enakku kidaichcha orE pleasure.. watching folks write from around the world about the film and their experience FDFS.. :-) ;-)

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

Balaji, you've had quite an experience and this is the first time I have watched a Rajnikanth movie on the first day but not the first show. It was quite fun and at the same time, tiring. My friend called me at about 4.00 PM for the 6.30PM show and it was at a lower tier theater in Poonamelle and I had to travel about an hour to reach it.

The bus was halted for about half an hour near Anna Univ and I was having nightmares about missing Thalaivar's entry. Then, near Porur my bus was caught 300m behind the signal in traffic. I decided to take matters into my own hands and ran about 500m past the signal to catch a share-auto and it dropped me 400m off the theatre. So after again running about 500m (the time then was 6.45PM), I thought I had definitely missed it but thank God, the movie was long and the name Superstar Rajni was displayed on the screen just as I entered the theatre.

Quite possibly the best and most rewarding overall experience for me watching on the first day. As Thalaivar and then you here have said, "Aandavan nallavangalai sodhippaan, aanaa kai vida maattaan". :)

 
At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Starbucks said...

It's a shame that educated people do things like 'aarathi', 'Kalpooram' etc. in public places.

Everyting about the West is copied! But we leave the good ones.

Naai vaala nimirtha mudiyadhu

 
At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Ram said...

starbucks, you've been high on caffeine. C H I L L!
being a fan of rajni the actor more than rajni the star, i am looking at all this with detached amusement. i dont see anything wrong in all this as long as its harmless fun. as long as fan clubs arent turning into warring groups i am cool with all this...anything for a bit of fun...esp since its not hurting anyone's sentiments.

 
At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Ram said...

sandya, btw, i'm leaving 2mrw to india...next week thaan ennode...well, you know!

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Ram, congrats.. enjoy pannunga.. pudhu pondaatti, pudhu life.. Sivaji.. hmm..hmm.. jamaainga! :-);-)

 
At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Starbucks, yaaru mela sir/madam ungalukku ivaLavu kobam/kaduppu?

Konjam relax pannunga..

The intention is purely an attempt to deify Rajini as the 'Style God'.. but in a fully comedic fashion.. I'm glad these people didn't do thOppu karanams, namaskaarams and then some.. I dread to know how you would've reacted.

Not to vendha puNN-la vel-ai paayichchu-fy, but do check these photos when you have the chance. Be sure to try the Cool Frappucinos after seeing these!.. It may help the erichal! :-) ;-) (Just kidding!!)

 
At 10:00 PM, Anonymous ram said...

sandya, thank you...

btw, what is that in the last pic of that sivaji fans photo set? it looks shocking...?

 
At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Krishna Sivaramapuram said...

That does look gross. Doing Aarthi and stuff for fun is enjoyable. But hurting a innocent animal is not.

This sucks!

Krish

 
At 8:36 AM, Blogger Arun said...

I have gone to Rajini's first day first show movies many times. I particularly remember walking behind a bullock cart carrying the film and rajini's fan club members throwing the rose petals onto the cart. In Kansas, Sivaji will be screened tomorrow. It is sold out, but i plan to catch the wed show.

 
At 9:02 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

"It's a shame that educated people do things like 'aarathi', 'Kalpooram' etc. in public places.

Everyting about the West is copied! But we leave the good ones."

Not quite. Have you see what the American fans here do before every Star wars release? They dress up in weird costumes and do all sorts of weird stuff. A Rajni movie release is like a Star wars movie release for desi fans:-) They have some catching up to do. It is there everywhere man. Fan worship. I dont even have to mention about rock stars and to what extent crazy fans go here to celebrate.

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Sandhya... We should just take it easy and don't analyze things..
Rajini is God :)
Pushpa

 
At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Starbucks said...

Hello anonymous ( above )..the fans here are all Rajini fans..they can't read all this !.

 
At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm.. you are right, Starbucks.. we can't read all this.. since we read only 'stylish fluff!' :-) ;-)..

 
At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whos is this idiot.

Balaji.. you have to filter this
-n

 
At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being an NRI, when you see pictures such fanatic devotion to a mere movie & it's star, it is somewhat baffling that such practices are condoned and appreciated with detached amusement. One can't help but think this must be the effects of education (lack of), values (lack of), time (loads of it) and fanaticism (abundance). Otherwise, for all normal homosapiens, simply enjoy the fun-ride called SIVAJI!

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Karthik said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Karthik SC said...

Movie is crap.
Worst ever Shankar movie

 
At 3:13 AM, Blogger Akshay Shah said...

Superb piece Balaji! Sounds like quiet an experience!:-)

A.Shah
http://aakshayshah.blogspot.com/

 
At 11:13 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

raju, haven't touched the homepage since i first created it in 98. So not sure whats on there. Wife is not a rajni fan per se but does like him :)

sandya, yep saw the pics and the video. but nothing like the live show ofcourse :)

anon/starbucks, if u guys take these things seriously, then u really need to cool down :) ellame oru jolly-ku dhaan baa :)

venkat, lol for many he is ummaachi :)

ganesh, i dont think shankar was really going for balance. he's said that he wanted to take a rajni movie and he did it real well :)

arul, ensoy :)

sundar, to enjoy the screams, u just have to join 'em :) i went for the experience as much as the movie. thoroughly satisfied on both counts :)

anon, FDFS with no dancing/whistling?? u need to move :)

ram, i'm sure even u expected this :)

Arun, yep he defly had some trouble in 'ballelakka'. but considering his age, it was still a great job :)

filbert, been following each of ur posts after each viewing. me real jealous :)

kk, kalakkal dhaan :)

balaji, interesting story there. i'm sure each fan has his/her own story to tell about 'sivaji' experience :)

krishna, i agree. was pretty horrified by that pic.

vijay, well said. and to bring in a more recent example, the same kinda stuff was seen for 'snakes on a plane' too :)

anon, not sure if this calls for such in-depth analysis :) just getting together with like-minded people for a fun time at the movies. thats all :)

karthik, ok.

akshay, thanx :)

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Bharathiya Modern Prince said...

hi

i too managed to see the movie on the first day, first show :)))

 

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