Kabali was released Friday to an audience bursting with anticipation to watch Rajinikanth play an aging mob boss, but what they witnessed could be the actors greatest and most complete work to date.
The 65-year-old actor plays an aging mob boss in the movie, which has fans in India and across Asia off to unprecedented levels of excitement. But his role in the movie goes far beyond appearing on the screen as he took control of the development process and hand-picked many of the major players.
Rajinikanth is considered the biggest star in Indian cinema, and there are 170 different Tamil films on the resume of the 65-year-old actor. He appears to have an unusually high influence on the creation of Kabali, starting with his selection of director Pa. Ranjith.
After Rajinikanth told his daughter, Soundarya, how much he admired Ranjith’s 2014 movie, Madras, Soundarya set out trying to bring the two together on their own movie.
Soundarya later recounted to The Hindu how that conversation was the beginning of what would become Kabali.
“One day, Appa mentioned to me that he loved Madras… and it started working on my mind. Later, when I met Ranjith, I casually asked him: ‘Will you make a story for Appa?’ He froze. He took a few days and then told me the storyline: he opened the pitch saying, ‘Malaysian don’, and that was enough. I conveyed the storyline to Appa, who liked it, and told him it was Ranjith’s line. Today, it is Kabali.”
The director wasn’t the only major part of Kabali that was hand-picked by Rajinikanth. Producer Kalaippuli S Thanu told India Glitz that Rajinikanth personally asked him to produce the film. That makes Kabali a reunion for Rajinikanth and Thanu, who worked together on the 1978 movie, Bairavi, which was the first lead role for Rajinikanth.
Even before its release on Friday, Kabali had already turned into an international sensation. Earlier this week, pirated copies of the film reportedly leaked to the internet, and a two-minute clip went viral on WhatsApp, FirstPost noted.
But it’s not clear if the entire movie was actually leaked, and the producers denied it was online.
“These are just rumors and as far as I know, so far there has been no leak. We are taking all efforts to block over 100 pirate sites,” S Thanu told FirstPost.
But the early peek on the internet may have only helped Kabali, turning it into a viral sensation even before it was released. Many netizens took the opportunity to joke about the release and the wrath that illegal viewers would feel from Rajinikanth.
There was even such a high demand for Kabali that many businesses in southern India gave employees a day off on Friday so they could attend screenings, the BBC reported. Many companies in Chennai and Bangalore closed, and some even gave employees free tickets to the show.
There were plenty of other promotions to capitalize on the Kabali hype, the report added.
“Budget airline Air Asia has laid on a special Kabali flight from Bangalore to Chennai, featuring Rajinikanth’s favorite food. The special flight will be carrying 180 Rajinikanth fans to watch his film on the day of its release.”
And any questions about whether Kabali could be a money-making venture have already been answered as well. The movie has already grossed more than Rs 200 crores ($30 million) by selling overseas rights, GUC reported.
There will likely be much more to come for Kabali and Rajinikanth. The International Business Times noted that early ticket sales are off to an unprecedented level, and there are reports that some cinemas in Bengaluru are already charging exorbitant prices for tickets.
[Image via YouTube/S Thanu]