Kabali and the mass hysteria of Tamils
In the olden days, a huddle of touts and black-marketers could be seen outside cinema halls. During the first few days of a big release, the halls would turn into a fiefdom of black ticket sellers. Nowadays, corporate companies are doing that job with great élan.
Black marketing is a crime in India. But in India, it's a crime only when committed by the lumpen. When large corporate firms do it, it becomes the accepted practice.
Sample this recent Facebook post by a friend: 'For the last one week I've made the rounds of every theatre in the city, morning and evening, that's screening Kabali. There are hundreds of people at all times hoping to get their hands on one ticket. They hang around there listening to every invective in the Tamil dictionary from the security guard.
The reality is that all tickets for Kabali have been shared around among corporates, VVIPs and VIPs. The hoi polloi can get a look in only after the third day.
One Chennai theatre is charging Rs 5000 for an unofficial 12.50 am screening of the film.
In the same movie hall, the tickets for official screening cost Rs 1000.'
Not only are software firms in Chennai hoarding tickets, but they've also declared an official holiday on the day of Kabali's launch.
The producer of the film, S Thanu, got a favourable judgment from the Madras High Court which restrained the license of 169 registered Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in India from permitting illegal downloads of Kabali. By the same token shouldn't there be some regulation on the movie makers' extortionist pricing tactics?
But that hasn't dampened the desire of 8 crore Tamils to watch Kabali on 'Day One'. The whole state is in the grips of a mass hysteria.
In everyday Tamil life, there is no recreational avenue other than films. A Rajini film, therefore, is the apogee of entertainment.
The hysteria that Rajini releases end whipping up is a result of the herd mentality that we witness during New Year's Eve in other Indian cities.
Sometimes this hysteria manifests itself when celebrities die. Since we are utterly bereft of heroes to look up to, we end up creating icons and start worshipping them.
People in Tamil Nadu, by and large, shy away from critiquing this Kabali-related hysteria. One of the key distributors and exhibitors of the film in Tamil Nadu is close to the powers that be in the ruling party. The TV rights for Kabali have been lapped up by Jaya TV.
When the DMK was in power, things were much the same. Karunanidhi's family virtually controlled every bit of the state's entertainment industry. The Sun TV group were part of the consortium that produced the previous Rajini superhit Endhiran.
This mass hysteria would have been tempered if people even had a passing acquaintance with literature or world cinema. A Bergman film may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if an entire society turns Philistine with a vengeance, Rajini-mania is what we will end up with.