Monday, December 23, 2013

At the Feet of The Master

Film-maker Rinku Kalsy has done a 90-minute documentary on the fans of Rajnikanth

Photo by A. Raja Chidambaram

By Shevlin Sebastian

Film-maker Rinku Kalsy went to Sholinghur, 110 kms from Chennai, along with a seven-member crew to interview N. Ravi, the president of the Rajnikanth Fan Club. While there, she stayed at a guest house opposite Ravi 's house. “Since I was not sure whether an ATM would be available, I took a lot of currency notes,” saysRinku.

On the morning after she arrived, she paid off, in advance, the hotel charges for four days to the receptionist. However, this had an unforeseen effect. When Ravi and the owner of the guest house came to know about this they sacked the receptionist. “You have come all the way from Holland to our small town to hear our stories about Thalaivar (‘Our Leader’),” said Ravi. “How dare this man take money from you?” Ultimately, a compromise was reached. Rinku took back the money, but the receptionist was re-instated.

Rinku got the idea to interview Ravi when she read about him in a newspaper in Chennai. Apparently, the 500 members of the Sholinghur fan club, including Ravi, climbed 1200 steps on their knees to the town's famous Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple. Their aim: to pray for the success of Rajnikanth's film, 'Enthiran', which was released on October 1, 2010.

I was expecting somebody who was flamboyant,” says Rinku. “But I was taken aback to see that he was a simple person.” Ravi is a local politician who runs a successful sweetmeats shop.

Thereafter, Rinku met numerous fans and got an idea of their psyche. “Rajnikanth is their role model,” she says. “They constantly talk about his humbleness. They respect the charity work that he does. When they talk about his films, it is always about his style and punchy dialogues. And they admire the fact that, away from the camera, Rajnikanth is always himself. In other words, he has the guts to come out in public with his bald head and white beard.”

Rinku did shoot some astonishing scenes, including those of fans who were queuing outside a theatre in Chennai. All of them touched the feet of a life-size poster of Rajnikanth placed outside the hall.

Apparently, there are 60,000 clubs, worldwide, with an average membership of a few hundred in each unit. Thanks to this large number, when a Rajnikanth film releases on a Friday, especially in Tamil Nadu, ordinary people can hope to see it only on Monday. “All the initial shows are booked by his fans,” says Rinku, who went from Mumbai to study at a film school in Amsterdam in 2004, and has remained there ever since.

Incidentally, the idea for the 90-minute documentary came from Rinku's childhood friend, Joyojeet Pal, who has since become the film's producer. In 2009, Joyojeet was working in Tamil Nadu on a research project on computer use in schools. “I discovered that when I asked children about computers, they kept talking about the laptop they saw in the film 'Shivaji',” says Joyojeet. “And because Rajnikanth played a computer engineer all of them wanted to be one. It made me aware of the enormous influence of the superstar throughout the state.”

At present, the film is at the post-production stage. “Once it is ready I am planning to show it in film festivals all over the world,” says Rinku. “Fans in Chennai are also eagerly waiting to see it.”

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)  

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