No Kabali-like Publicity Blitz, No Hype: Will You Watch Kaala?

Kabali came with a lot of fanfare but the hype and pomp is completely missing from Kaala. Will you still watch?

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‘Kaala’ comes around at a time when the state and the actor are riddled with controversies.
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The work week leading up to 22 July 2016 was one of the busiest I’ve been as a journalist. It was the week before Kabali hit the screens. There was magizhchi in the cutouts that blocked motorists from riding over the footpaths, magizhchi in the litres of milk that trickled down the 60-feet tall cardboard-Rajini and magizhchi in the scores of people who wailed and shattered glass panes at the Kasi theatre after failing to snag tickets for the first screening of the film.

Upon its release, Kabali garnered a mixed response. Fans figured that it was probably unfair to expect a Baasha repeat. What a movie that was – that impeccable salt-pepper beard, that trademark laugh, the signature walk and the auto driver hero. There can never be another Baasha.

Any way, back to Kaala.

A Rajinikanth film usually is a superhit even before it releases. Kabali saw theatres being booked out way before the release date. But Kaala comes at a time when both the actor, and Tamil Nadu, are battling controversies.

Deafening Silence

If you’re in Chennai, you’ll notice the absence of the giant Rajini cutout over Sathyam Cinemas, or Rohini Theatre or even Baby Albert Theatre. This time around, there is no Air Asia plane that is plastered with the superstar’s face; no announcements have been made about establishments declaring a day off to mark the day of the release; no Kaala-themed food menu; no silver coins from Muthoot Fincorp to promote the film; no special advertisements by Five Star; no companies offering to treat employees with FDFS (First day, first Show) tickets.

The Kabali days saw angry fanatics cursing the ticket counter employees for selling out days before. A single ticket could cost as much as Rs 2,000. For Kaala, there’s no need to hurry – you can still grab a first day ticket. Twitter introduced a Kaala emoji to try and keep the momentum going, but it doesn’t come close to the way Kabali was promoted. Perhaps, it is the Kalaipuli Thanu factor that Kaala is missing.

Blurring of Reel and Real Lives

Rajinikanth is no longer just a superstar. He has donned the politician’s hat, changing the landscape. We no longer simply look out for his latest, power-packed dialogues, but we’re now also keeping an eye on whether or not he has what it takes to be a leader. Kaala is expected to be a hard-hitting film with a strong political message. The bar of expectations is high.

The film’s chances may also have been hurt further by Rajinikanth’s outburst while interacting with reporters after he visited Tuticorin in the aftermath of the anti-Sterlite protests. Director Pa Ranjith tried to undo the damage, even releasing a trailer of the film that featured a close up shot of the police opening fire. Coincidence? I leave it to you to decide.

No Hype, No Drama, No Buzz

You don’t need to be a fan to watch a Rajini film. He is an emotion.

Had it been any other Rajini film, by now, the songs would have worked their charm, making their way into everyone’s ringtones. But this year, the Kaala songs seem to suffer a Kabali-esque hangover. And to be honest, besides “Kya re, setting ah?” there is not much that I can remember.

The Hope Lives On

The audience and the theatres still have faith; Fans-turned-party workers still have faith.

Rajinikanth might not win it on political grounds, but when he walks in on screen, with his salt-pepper beard, and flips his glasses and smiles in his trademark style, he definitely wins hearts. So, I am going to watch the film, in true Rajini style, at his home ground Baby Albert Theatre. Where will you be watching it?

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