The audio launch of Lingaa was like a KS Ravikumar movie. The event had a little bit of everything: fun and action; sentiments and confession; a little dancing and a lot of hero worship. It was fast-paced and action-packed; three hours had sped by and we hardly knew.
And in between all this, there was a Shankar subplot playing out in public, with all the guests urging Rajinikanth to enter politics, reminiscent of this moving scene from Mudhalvan, where Manivannan counsels a reluctant Arjun to join politics. At the end, as everyone waited with bated breath to hear the big ‘Yes’ from Rajinikanth, the Superstar dealt with all the coaxing in his quintessential way: “If God wills me to, I will serve the people!,” leaving the door open for a sequel.
In between that Rajinikanth statement and the underplayed welcome address of actor Shiva, the event barely gave our live tweeter and photographer any time to catch their breath.
We arrived an hour early to the launch, but were delayed by an overly zealous security staff that checked and rechecked our press passes; giving us enough time to exchange pleasantries with a group of fans waiting outside. Rajinikanth devotees, whose white t-shirts read, “Thalaivar Rajiniyin Murattu Bakthargal!” They were waiting on the street so they could get a glimpse of their Thalaivar. For them, the audio launch of Rajinikanth’s film was a “phenomenon”.
Finally, as the fuss about the passes went on, someone appeared out of nowhere like a genie without his magic carpet and whisked us all into the auditorium. The hall was almost empty, with a journalist here reading a newspaper and a photographer there checking his flash. The mystery man disappeared before we could thank him. It was not Rajinikanth.
The stage wore the look of a king’s court with tall golden pillars with thrones on stage for the cast and crew. Sonakshi Sinha stayed true to the royal theme, literally shining in a glittering Manish Malhotra saree, but the rest of the Lingaa team surprised us by wearing rather modern looking outfits. The cast and the crew were dressed in deep-purple suits, and the volunteers and PRs wore the grey suit that Rajinikanth is seen wearing in the posters of the film.
In an hour, the theatre filled up fast with actor Vijakumar appearing first, followed soon by Santhanam, Anushka and Sonakshi Sinha; and finally, Rajinikanth, to the tune of Oh Nanba blaring out on the loudspeakers. The event started without much ado, unusual for an audio launch of this scale.
After the trailer and a preview video of the songs were screened, KS Ravikumar spoke a little bit about Lingaa, with the promise that he would reveal more details later on. Calling Rajinikanth an open book, Ravikumar said that the film was named by the Superstar himself. “After Rajinikanth suggested Lingaa, we checked availability and learnt that Ameer had registered the title a long time ago. When we told Ameer that we wanted this title for Superstar, he gave it up without any second thoughts,” said KS Ravikumar.
The director apologised on behalf of AR Rahman, who couldn’t attend the launch, but Rahman managed to make his presence felt through a video message for the audience. And Rahman wore the same purple uniform that the rest of the crew wore, and seemed more cheerful than his usual self. “I am a big fan of Rajinikanth,” he began, and explained that the songs were composed in a very short time. He revealed that his team’s favourite song from the album is Mona Gasolina, written by Madhan Karky. Rahman signed off on an optimistic note. “Lingaa is the comeback of Rajinikanth.”
And then the event took a detour.
A visibly emotional director Cheran, was the first to request Rajinikanth to venture into politics. “We see Superstar as our God. And after Kamarajar and Gandhi, we consider Rajinikanth our leader. Enga paasam unmai. Nambitom. Ungala nambitom. Neenga makkalukku edhavadhu pannanum!” he said and quickly stepped down from the stage. Rajinikanth wore an impassive expression throughout, as speaker after speaker started urging him to enter politics.
Vijayakumar, who plays an important role in Lingaa, seemed to have a clear agenda in mind. He was determined to open his heart up to the Superstar. At the end of what seemed a harangue, Vijayakumar turned to Rajinikanth and said, “Sir, ungalukku makkal oru periya virudhai vazhanga pogiraargal. Ettru kollungal!” No smile on Rajinikanth’s face.
The ladies in the audience went ‘awww’, when Jagapathi Babu spoke. “I won’t talk a lot. Even if I talk, you won’t listen. You will listen to only one man here. Even if you listen, my speech will be edited out by videographers. So I will keep it short,” he began. The audience burst into laughter.
As promised, Jagapathi Babu ended his speech quickly. “Superstar oru kadavul!”
When it was comedian Santhanam’s turn to talk, the compere Shiva joked that Santhanam looks more Bollywood hero than comedian these days. And we wanted to concur. A fitter Santhanam in a dapper white shirt said, “During the shoot of Lingaa, I often used to ask questions to the Superstar. I once asked him, ‘sir, anbukkum aasaikkum enna vithyaasam?’ I was taken aback when he asked, ‘Anushka-vukkum, oru Aayavukkum enna vithyasam?’ When I looked confused, sir said, ‘Kelvikku bathil illa. Kelvi kekkravanukku thaan bathil!’
After the comic interlude, it was back to politics again as director Ameer started speaking. He started off on a neutral note first though. “State-ku state, vera Superstar kedaiyaadhu. India-vukkey Superstar Rajinikanth thaan,” he said. He then spent a few minutes talking about Lingaa before launching into his political speech with a vengeance. Speaking about his desire to see Rajinikanth as the next Chief Minister, Ameer said, “Everybody is waiting to support you, sir. People have trusted you – and only you – for the last 30 years. Like you say in Lingaa‘s trailer, you have to do something for these people who believe you. If you want to do something for the people of Tamil Nadu, just make an announcement. We will follow you and the position will follow you on its own!” As Rajinikanth sat still, the theatre was filled with thunderous applause.
Director Shankar managed to bring back the event back on track by making a bold confession. “I want to learn the art of making movies quickly from KS Ravikumar sir. He finished a ‘Rajinikanth’ film in six months. Everybody calls me a ‘Brahmandamana director’, but watch the songs of Lingaa. How grand!” And he quickly added, “Superstar looks like how he was seen in Sivaji!”
“I want to talk for a few minutes and I beg you all to not interrupt my speech,” began Vairamuthu. Drawing parallels between MGR and Rajinikanth, he said, “Kannadasan occupied one shoulder of MGR and Vaalee took the other one. I am very proud that I occupy both of Rajinikanth’s shoulders. Despite the warning, the crowd couldn’t help interrupting his speech with applause. Vairamuthu ended with a Rajinikanth-style punchline hinting at the slew of political speeches. “Endha mudivaiyum Rajinikanth mel thinikka mudiyaadhu. Avar mudivu eduthaal, yaarum thadukka mudiyaadhu!”
While the talented Tamil speakers on stage struggled to garner applause, Sonakshi Sinha got the loudest cheering by just asking for it. “Who will clap for this new girl? But I can introduce myself like this. I am Superstar’s heroine. Clap for me! Clap!” screamed Sonakshi, and the audience obliged with pleasure. “Clap! Lingaa dance! Lingaa dance!” she swayed and sang Lungi dance with a twist. Lingaa dance. The actress was a breath of fresh air in a hall that was beginning to get a little claustrophobic.
The Rajinikanth speech was saved for the end, as KS Ravikumar delivered a vote of thanks before Rajinikanth could speak. The director thanked a long list of technicians. Quite unexpectedly, he started to cry when he recalled how an accident was averted by a crane operator called Jawahar. “We had to film a rainy scene. We didn’t realise that the crane was about to fall on Superstar. But this boy noticed. He immediately held the crane, despite suffering an electric shock, just to save Superstar’s life.”
Finally, after a good three hours, Rajinikanth spoke, walking us through the making of Lingaa. “After Kochadaiyaan, everyone I met had only one question for me. They all wanted to see me in a mainstream film again. Kochadaiyaan was a different kind of film. Although we lost some money on the movie, I learnt a lot through the experience. After that, I immediately wanted to do a film for my fans,” he started. The actor revealed that he wanted the movie to be made in record time. “I knew only KS Ravikumar could do that. I told him that the film should release this year. He took care of everything that had to be done for that.” From borrowing Sudeep’s and Sabu Cyril’s dates from other filmmakers, KS Ravikumar went the extra mile to meet his deadline.
Rajinikanth continued, saying that that he did not want to use Lingaa‘s audio launch to talk about politics. “But since everybody has spoken about it, I must offer an explanation.” The atmosphere thickened as Superstar started to discuss his intentions. “Picture pannardhu easy-nga. Arasayil poradhu easy-nga. Aana vetri kodukkanumla… Naan late pannuven. Aana oru vishayathula erangita, takkunu erangiduven… Vairamuthu says he doesn’t know me much. Aana enakku ennaiye theriyadhu!” he quipped.
As the sound of applause grew louder, Rajinikanth continued, “I am not afraid of politics. I am just being cautious and I intend to know its depth. And…” He took a deep breath, “If He wants me to enter politics…” He raised his hand upwards. “I will help people!” The applause was deafening. After a pause, he smiled and added a disclaimer. “You must remember ‘helping people’ also means making good movies!”
Then, in a break from tradition, Rajinikanth himself launched the audio of Lingaa.
After everyone left the venue, a group of thrilled fans in the hall formed a long queue to take pictures with an empty chair on the dais. The chair had a sticker on it.
The sticker read ‘Superstar Rajinikanth’.