Rajinikanth in Kaala Image Credit: Supplied

A Rajinikanth movie is known to elicit tremendous fervour among his ardent fans, but Kaala has lacked the colour and the festivities that is normally associated with the superstar’s movies.

A number of controversies — the actor’s pro-Tamil Nadu stance on the Cauvery river water sharing issue, his statements after the agitation in Tuticorin over the Sterlite factory issue, in which many protestors were killed, and the impending announcement of his political party — dampened the enthusiasm of his followers even before the release of the film.

Adding to that, Rajinikanth’s new avatar, where he doesn’t make a grand entry with all the paraphernalia that is normally associated with his films, has not gone down well with his supporters, which has affected the box office collection.

A fan, who did not want to be identified, said: “[Kaala] is not a typical Rajini movie. It is certainly better than Kabali and the superstar has displayed a lot of maturity in his performance. But it did not live up to the expectations. The controversies have also affected the box office collection.”

For the young generation, Rajinikanth’s acting might be a surprise. But a look back at some of his older blockbusters such as Moodru Mudichu, Mullum Malarum and Thillu Mullu, one could have witnessed his skills as an actor. But after Billa, the remake of Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Don, Rajinikanth has been cast in a superstar mould, shackles that he has not been able to break until now.

Narayan Kannan, an ardent fan who watched Kaala with a 40-member team of friends and their families, says he thoroughly enjoyed the movie and feels Rajinikanth has portrayed his role well with his natural and matured looks.

“One gets a feeling of going into the slums of Dharavi and returning. It has also portrayed the feelings and mindset of people in the 1970s,” Kannan said.

However, he was sad to note that due to the current off-screen issues, Rajinikanth mania has come down.

“Even some of his fans are not ready to show their love for their matinee idol openly as Rajini is now looked more as a politician and this act could expose them to the wrath of his political rivals,” he added.

Kaala’s official Twitter account announced on Monday it had crossed Rs1 billion (Dh54 million) worldwide in three days, though some industry sources feel the figure is exaggerated by about 20 per cent, with the collections touching $1 million in America. However, it is believed that Kaala is the lowest earner among Rajinikanth’s movies as Kabali, in comparison, raked in Rs1 billion in a single day.

Rajinikanth’s team and supporters are hoping that Kaala follows the trend of Chandramukhi. The 2005 blockbuster picked up in the second week after a lacklustre opening.

Dubai-based Ranjith, who likes to analyse a film and its pros and cons and who also shares the name of the director, was critical of the direction and said it was a “confused film”.

“The movie and the dialogues are a stark contrast to what Rajini said and happened in real life at Tuticorin, which did not go well with the fans,” he said, referring the police shooting and killing of protesters in the city in Tamil Nadu. “Rajini is a larger-than-life hero, which was missing in this film. So it is neither a Rajini movie nor a Ranjit movie. The plot is stale and old.”

The positives in the movie are art director’s wonderful touch to recreate Dharavi on an open ground in Chennai has earned him great reviews, and the presence of Nana Patekar, despite him not getting enough space on the screen.

“Music is a big negative factor,” Ranjith says. “On the whole, the movie has neither helped Rajinikanth get the success at the box office nor given the popularity ahead of his foray into the politics.”

In a first, Kaala has become the first Indian movie to be released in Saudi Arabia, where it has done well in the single theatre it was screened.

Rajinikanth’s dual role, one on screen and one in politics, has left his fans in limbo. With the deadline fast approaching for him to float a party, it is time to make a decision. Before that the fans are eagerly awaiting to watch a typical Rajinikanth movie to satiate their heart’s needs.

Out now

Kaala is currently showing across the UAE.

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A.K.S. Satish