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Objects of Desire

Mani, who heads a Rajinikanth fan club in Chennai, actually pawned his wife’s jewellery to pay for the iconic Tamil film star’s local birthday celebrations.

Meenakshi Shedde

In another instance, his fan club had cheerfully destroyed a cinema hall when the projectionist didn’t replay a popular song during a screening of Rajinikanth’s Padayappa on request. You meet many such obsessive ‘Superstar Rajinikanth’ fans in Rinku Kalsy’s documentary For the Love of a Man, which showed at the Venice Film Festival last year. The mega star has an estimated 150,000 Indian fan clubs, and is worshipped as a god mainly by thousands of fans throughout South India, in Mumbai and elsewhere. Many celebrities, and especially film stars, have fan followings worldwide, but few test the limits of the celebrity cult and fandom like Rajinikanth’s fans.

You simply cannot imagine the fan clubs of the top film stars worldwide—Tom Cruise, Olivier Martinez, Tony Leung or Min-sik Choi—let alone Bollywood’s Khans—threatening theatre managers and demanding block-booking of tickets for the prestigious first-day-first-show, resulting in shows at 3 am or 6 am. Your garden varieties of film stars have shows beginning at noon or 3 pm. In Tamil Nadu, many corporates declared the July premiere of Rajinikanth’s Kabali a holiday, and block-booked tickets for their staff; AirAsia even routed special flights to Chennai, the entire plane painted with the Kabali poster.

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September-October 2016