Superstar Rajnikant at the audio launch of 2.0 movie at Burj park in Dubai on Friday night. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

When Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar declared on Friday that the tag ‘superstar’ should be reserved for South Indian idol Rajinikanth, he wasn’t being diplomatic.

The proof of Rajinikanth’s euphoric appeal, or Rajini mania, was evident as thunderous roars erupted from his legion of fans at the Burj Park in Dubai as Kumar, a legitimate Bollywood action hero in his own right, continued to praise his South Indian colleague.

“To call me a superstar in front of Rajini sir, is a dishonour in his presence. Let that title be with him. Superstar means Rajini sir. He’s a legend, he is super and he is a star. We all have grown up watching his films,” said Kumar, adding that playing a villain in director Shankar’s sci-fi extravaganza was a dream role.

The flashy 2.0 audio launch in the UAE, attended by big names including Rajinikanth’s actor son-in-law Dhanush, his daughters, singer Vijay Yesudas and Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty, was as big in scale as the budget of this sci-fi magnum opus; its estimated budget is Rs4.5 billion (Dh254 million).

“This is my 131st film and after doing 130 films, I can say with conviction that I have learnt during this film. We [Bollywood] need to learn a lot from the South and the way they function at work. Their unity and the respect that they have for each other’s talents is a lot to learn from,” said Kumar.

That so-called mutual respect was evident as stars including Dhanush, also Rajinikanth’s son-in-law, described Rajinikanth as a symbol of perseverance and dedication to his craft.

The event, which culminated with Oscar-winner A R Rahman’s live performance and unveiling of two songs from the sci-fi fantasy fiction, was hosted by Bollywood director-producer Karan Johar and Baahubali villain Rana Daggubati.

But all eyes were on Rajinikanth, who confessed that it was his first visit to Dubai. It was nearing 1am, but his fans didn’t go home until they heard him speak.

“Usually, I transit through this city. But it’s wonderful to be here as a visitor and see the amazing places. I want to thank the government of the UAE for providing so many job opportunities for Indians. I have always enjoyed a deep bond with Muslims, my brothers.

When I was a bus conductor, I stayed at a home owned by a Muslim and later I bought a home owned by a Muslim, so I feel a deep connect,” said Rajinikanth in Tamil.

The 66-year-old icon added that his career was a testament to how hard work pays rich dividends.

“I have always got acting jobs without snatching it from any talent. It’s my hard work and earnestness that helped reach this position and I believe that if you are true to yourself, then you can never go wrong,” said Rajinikanth. His actor and son-in-law, Dhanush, paid homage to this hero by calling him a symbol of perseverance.

But it was after midnight on Friday, that true magic unfolded. The best was saved for the last as A R Rahman took to the stage with the Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra and unveiled two songs from 2.0.

“Shankar is quality-conscious, jovial and tough. He’s ahead of everybody … We wanted to make music that would appeal to everyone,”

said A R Rahman, describing director Shankar with whom he has enjoyed a working relationship for 23 years.

Actress Amy Jackson also made it her business to add glamour to the glitzy event.

Jackson, who was wearing a sparkling black gown by Dubai-based designer Michael Cinco on the red carpet swapped that with a steely spacesuit and treated her fans to a robotic dance with futuristic beats. She emerged from a glittering crystal ball.

The stage that had futuristic designs and lit in psychedelic colours gave us a peek into the futuristic world of 2.0, where robots and evil forces lurk.

“It’s such an honour to introduce the songs of 2.0 in a magnificent city like Dubai and this night does justice to our vision of making an Indian film that has a global social message,” said director Shankar.

They called it a night by taking a collective bow.