Rajinikanth's character Manik Baashha in the 1995 film Baashha says "Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna maadiri (If I say something even once, it's as if I've said it a hundred times)". By joining Twitter and the digital world, this Rajinikanthism will now become a reality.
Just before the Friday release of Kochadaiiyaan, Rajinikanth, 63, in his signature humour said about joining the microblogging site: "I'm looking forward to catching up with the best Rajini one-liners... I decided to start with Twitter because I felt the platform is abuzz with all the news and trends that happen across the globe."
Soon after his first tweet from his handle @superstarrajini at 3.58pm on Monday - Salutation to the Lord. Va?akkam a?aivarukkum !! A big thank you to all my fans. Excited on this digital journey – Twitter went crazy. Within half-an-hour of his joining Twitter, Rajinikanth had 34K followers, an hour later it was 65K. At the time of going to print, it had touched 125K.
Thalaiva, as he is fondly called, has partnered with CA Media Digital's first venture, Fluence -- a celebrity digital network, which is managing his digital presence. "I'm confident that I have the best team and the best guides who will help me connect with my audience," the superstar said.
Rajinikanth's Twitter debut is only feeding further into the signature frenzy that marks the release any Rajini film. But then Kochadaiiyaan is like no other film ever made in the country. India's first motion capture photo-realistic 3D animation movie, Kochadaiiyaan is the superstar's younger daughter Soundarya R Ashwin's Rs125 crore labour of love. The U-certificate by censors has only come as a shot in the arm for the film which will enjoy a wider release in 10 countries on approximately 6,000 screens and will be dubbed in six Indian languages, including Telugu, Hindi and Bhojpuri, besides English, Spanish and Japanese.
"It took us two years, with over 200 technicians from India and abroad to make the film. Everything is shot with 40 cameras and the end result is digitally-created based on all these visuals," said Soundarya, 29. "This process takes long." Calling it her "tribute to her father's illustrious career", she says she wanted him to be part of a larger-than-life film which will always be looked upon as epoch-making.
Brushing off Kochadaiiyaan's comparisons with Hollywood, she says she worked on a fraction of their budget and time. "Avatar and Tin Tin were both made in five years. While the former was made on a budget of Rs3,000 crore, the latter cost about Rs4,000 crore!"
Paired with current Bollywood sensation Deepika Padukone, Soundarya remembers her father feeling awkward shooting romantic scenes under her baton. "I guess because I was around, calling action and cut, dad felt very awkward to shoot those scenes. But after some coaxing, he did them effortlessly," Soundarya said. Praising Deepika, she said, "Appa wanted her action sequences superhero style." A 10-minute stunt in the film has been choreographed by Peter Hein, the man behind Rajinikanth's stunts in Robot.
"At the first screening, for the first few minutes, he sat quiet, staring vacantly and I was alarmed. When I asked him, he smiled and said, 'I never knew I could look like this on screen'," Soundarya remembers her father telling her. Her mother Latha, who has also sung for the film, has also been a pillar of support.
Soundarya is excited about the response her father is getting on Twitter. "You know, every joke, every tweet, this is the love people feel for him."
Nearly 1,000km away in Western Maharashtra's Kolhapur, Hambirrao Patil, who was a fellow conductor in the city transport with Rajinikanth (then Shivaji Gaikwad) many decades ago, does not fully understand either the Internet or Twitter. But he's also excited. "Will I be able to talk to him directly with this Twitter?" he asks.