There is an air of anticipation and a flurry of activities — plans have been made, life-size cutouts are almost touching the sky, after all Thala’s film Vivegam is releasing on Thursday. Ajith’s fans have grand celebrations lined up, some are rather bizarre — like a 57 kg idli with his likeness. Going for the movie is simply not enough, for Ajith’s release, celebrations have to be king size.
Before Billa 2’s first day first show, a 40 feet cutout of Ajith adorned with a huge garland worth Rs 1 lakh was put up in Chennai’s Albert theatre. Fans recall that it was one of the best celebrations they had till date.
Vivegam will release in over 800 theatres across Tamil Nadu. While the theatre owners will rake in the moolah, they are also in the throes of big preparations to control the fan frenzy.
“Usually, cinema halls will be occupied by the star’s fans on the first day show. The general public may not get tickets on that day. We have to frequently go inside the halls to check on these fans and see everything is okay and that they are within their limits. For other films, there won’t be any police security, but for big releases like Vivegam, we have to arrange for tight security around the theatre complex,” says Shankar from Devi Theatre administration.
Industry insiders claim that Ajith is the king of opening. His films have always had the biggest opening. For Vivegam, Saravanan, president of Ajith fan association, Chennai, says, “We plan to set up a 40 feet cutout of Thala. Wall paintings of some of the popular film stills will also be there. A few theatres will also have serial lights as early as 5 am. We have also arranged for bands in a couple of theatres. Vivegam is not just a normal release, it is a festival for us. Our Diwali comes only when Thala’s film releases.”
Dina Shankar, a fan from Madurai, says, “We have booked all the August 24 shows. We will see all the shows on repeat mode. We don’t expect anything out of the film. We just want to see Thala on-screen. That’s it. Poikaal kuthirai dance and other tharai thappattai have been arranged to start the celebrations.”
This time, the Ajith fan association of Coimbatore have decided not to do milk abhishegam — a common ritual that the fans of superstars have been doing for many years now — they will be donating milk instead.
Abirami Ramanathan, president of Tamil Nadu film theatres association, recalls an incident when fans of Rajinikanth went out of control. “I don’t remember the name of the movie. But the film had released both in Tamil and Telugu on the same day. While the first reel was the Tamil version, somehow the second reel that we played was the Telugu version. When Rajini suddenly started speaking in Telugu in the film, his fans became furious. We were able to get the right print in the next 45 minutes but it was a task to manage the agitated audience. It was the toughest crowd that I have ever handled,” he says.
Fan frenzy is manageable these days when compared to the days when Rajini and Kamal Haasan’s films used to release on the same day, says Paneerselvam of Rohini Multiplex. “Those days, films of big stars used to clash at the box office. Parallel shows of Rajini and Kamal films used to run at the same cine complex. Clashes between the fans used to break out. Extra effort was required to control these fans,” he says.
He adds that since stars like Ajith and Vijay have solo releases these days, there is not much ruckus in the theatres.
Ramanthan also echoes the same, “Nowadays, there is no need for any extra police security as fans behave themselves. They ensure that they enjoy but not at the cost of others.”
However, a few days ahead of Vivegam’s release, Ajith had sent out a legal notice, condemning online abuse and clarifying that he does not subscribe to any views that several social media accounts seem to lean towards using his name.
The notice sent out by his legal counselors addresses the fact that he has no social media accounts, and hence it’s “misuse of his name” when his fans troll people who aren’t his fans.
Booking for Vivegam began much ahead of its release day and the possibility of getting tickets for the weekend is rather dim.
Paneerselvam says, “Usually, Thala’s films have a grand opening but Vivegam’s opening will be bigger than his earlier films. The best opening that I have seen so far was for Rajini’s Kabali. We will have to see if Vivegam can beat that.” He adds that police security will be in place at the complex and frequent visits will be made inside the hall to keep an eye on the excited fans.
The kind of hype the film has got ahead of its release is enough for the film to rule the box office. G Dhananjayan, producer and film historian, says, “These stars have that magnetic effect to pull the crowd. Their followers are in lakhs who wait for the release of their star’s film. Irrespective of the content, the film will be a super hit, because of the euphoria that is generated ahead of the release. If the content is bad, it will reflect only in the second week collection. But nowadays a film’s success is judged based on the weekend collection.” He adds that social media promotion and the huge publicity around the film on the digital platform add to the hype and hysteria.
“But Padaiyappa ran for around 153 days without any such promotions. Rajini had the power to bring the audience to the theatres,” he says.
Gone are the days when a film like Haridas would run in the theatres for three years, but theatre owners feel that these big ticket releases keep the theatre industry alive.
Ramanathan says, “Big releases help the theatre industry to survive. That’s why we don’t pose much restrictions on the fans. Only big films remind the audience to visit theatres and as a result even the smaller films get noticed.”