Chennai: From flying all the way from London to Mumbai's Aurora theater to giving free auto rides to those who want to watch 'Kabali' on its release day -- Rajinikanth's fans are yet again out to prove why the superstar fandom's is beyond comprehension.
As the release of his 'Kabali' nears, the buzz around the film is palpable. The 65-year old actor's hardcore fans, from different walks of life, are stoked about the first day first show (FDFS) experience.
"Some people might think we are crazy, but they won't understand our love for Thalaivar. If you're not watching the first show of a Rajinikanth starrer on release day, you're breaking a tradition," says 43-year old auto driver Annamalai.
On July 22, when 'Kabali' will hit the screens, Annamalai will be watching the earliest show of the film in the city.
"It's usually at Kasi or Albert theatre. For nearly two decades now, I've been watching his films on release day. It has to be the first show in the city," Annamalai told IANS, adding that he will be watching the film with his friends.
Annamalai also plans to give free rides to anyone who wants to watch the movie, which is about a gangster's shot at redemption and how he fights for equal pay rights for Tamils in Malaysia.
"All Rajini fans are like brothers. Our Thalaivar's films bring us together, under one roof, irrespective of our economic or social background. After I'm done watching the first show, I plan to give 20 free rides to those who want to watch the film," he said.
If you thought the craze for Rajinikanth only runs in the working class, then you're wrong.
Meet Naman Ramachandran, author and film critic, who is popular for his book "Rajinikanth: The Definitive Biography".
"For the premiere, I'm flying down to Mumbai from London and taking part in the early morning pooja and then the procession to the Aurora theatre in Matunga where a bunch of similar diehards will do the 'pal (milk) abhishekam' followed by the first day first show.
"My 'Kabali' T-shirts have already arrived and I'll be wearing one of them on the release day," he said.
Naman, the writer of independent film 'Brahman Naman', is excited about 'Kabali' mainly because, "This is the first time in a long time that Thalaivar has entrusted a film to a new generation director (Pa. Ranjith). 'Madras' (Ranjith's last Tamil film) was amazing so I have high hopes for 'Kabali'."
For Srinivasan Sankar, a Global Data Officer for an insurance company in the Greater Boston area, "Kabali" will be another "crowning glory" in Rajinikanth's career.
"I've never missed Thalaivar FDFS as far as I remember from 'Velaikkaran', 'Rajadhi Raja' and 'Mappillai' days. After I migrated to the US in 1995, it continued with 'Muthu'. There's a nice story here. In the late 1990s, movies won't show up in Boston in the first or second week. So I drove 10 hrs to Washington DC to watch 'Arunachalam' FDFS," said Srinivasan.
In the US, the film will release on July 21.
"I'll watch the 11 a.m. show. That's the first show here in Boston which is also one of the first shows along with Atlanta, New York, etc in the US. Since it's a weekday, we plan to have the first day celebrations later in the evening during the prime-time shows," he said.
Bengaluru-based techie-turned-film critic Uday Senan will be watching 'Kabali' with random strangers he invited via a Facebook post.
"The only common factor between all of us is our love for Rajinikanth. In an open post on Facebook, I've invited genuine Thalaivar fans whom I've never met to join me to watch the film FDFS," said Uday, who will also be reuniting with his schoolmates to watch the film.
"In 2007, a large group of us from school watched 'Sivaji'. Seven of us from that group will be reuniting to watch 'Kabali'. I've applied for leave from work and my boss is upset that I've motivated a few others to take leave too," he added.
Is it worth taking all the effort to watch a Rajinikanth-starrer amid crazy fans on release day?
"His films come once in two years, so it's totally worth it," said Lalith, who works in a managerial position.
"I've already blocked tickets for the FDFS in Chennai. My friends from Mumbai and Hyderabad are flying down to watch the film. It's good to be watching 'Kabali' at a place where it's celebrated the way it's supposed to be," he said.
'Kabali' also stars Radhika Apte as Rajinikanth's love interest.