Lingaa sets box office afire

Rajinikanth fans pour milk over his cut-out to mark the release of his movie ‘Lingaa’ in Mumbai on Friday.— Photo: Vivek Bendre  

Apparently, superstar Rajinikanth wanted to release Lingaa on Diwali. So fans pushed their Diwali to the release date, also his 64th birthday, and set the box office on fire around the world, not just Mumbai.

After a sleepless night following overwhelmingly positive Twitter buzz and reports from late night shows around the world, many headed to the single screen Aurora cinema in Matunga, the headquarters of Rajinikanth fans, for fireworks, nadaswaram accompanied festivities and larger-than-life cutouts of their “thalaivar.”

Late night reports from Rentrak, Hollywood’s tracking agency, revealed that director K.S. Ravikumar’s Lingaa had beaten The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 at the U.S. box office by grossing $2,06,850 from just 91 screens compared to the $1,90,000 the Jennifer Lawrence film collected from 1,583 screens. Encouraged by this opening, this reporter made his way to Fun Cinemas in Chembur — which was the first among the 70 screens in Mumbai to open its ticket counters in advance for Lingaa — to find a full house screaming their lungs out as the words ‘Super Star’ appeared on screen.

The screams continued all through the introduction shot — boots stepping out of a stretch limo, followed by the trademark swagger in slow-mo as the actor burst into a jig for ‘Oh Nanba’, the A.R. Rahman-composed song rendered by S.P. Balasubramaniam.

Unlike Chennai, where the audience drowns the punch dialogues with applause and screams, the multiplex audience in Mumbai saved up their energy for the action scenes and were quickly sucked into the social period drama about a King who resigns his job as a Collector during the British Raj to build a dam on his own to save flood and famine-hit villages in his province.

The template Rajinikanth film had all the familiar tropes: a present day narrative in contrast to a glorious past, a betrayal, personal loss and redemption played by familiar faces and lots of punchlines that once again teased the crowd about his political ambitions.

Rajinikanth has reunited with his old friend K.S. Ravikumar after a gap of 15 years for this movie and did live action for the first time since 2011, when he was hospitalised in a critical condition for months. Many feared that he may never act again. But going by the veteran superstar’s agility on screen and the response off screen, there’s nothing to stop him from beating his own box office records.

The king is back on his throne.