rajinikanth, shankar and Akshay Kumar at the trailer launch of 2.0

Early on in the 2.0 trailer launch we’re shown the song Endhira Logathu Sundariye from the movie – a love song between two robots played by Superstar Rajinikanth and Amy Jackson that is reminiscent of Irumbile Oru Idhaiyam (Naina Mile in Hindi) from Enthiran. Rajini is wearing cool shades, flashy gold and metallic suits, and is confidently doing the ‘Floss’ like he owns it. For the uninitiated, Floss is the dance move of 2018 that was invented by a 16 year old American Instagrammer, popularly known as ‘Thebackpackkid’. As the video ends, the projector instantly cuts to footage of the real 67-year old Rajini in the front row, dressed in a white cotton shirt, watching himself on screen. To think both those men are the same person is when the enormity of his transformation really hits you. You sort of begin to understand why the man had women standing in the blistering heat and later rain, holding red balloons for him at the entrance.

Through the 2-hour long event at Chennai’s Sathyam Cinemas, countless photographers had their cameras and cell phones constantly trained on the superstar. They stared in amazement even while he did mundane things like taking his 3 D glasses off and on. I wondered if Rajini knew that just a few inches behind him was an army of fans almost tearing each other’s shirts off to get closer to him. A burly man with a white 2.0 cap who was jostled out of the crowd landed on the seat next to me with a thud. “I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s too much pushing. I’m actually the victim here,” he explained, as he moved his tricep out of my face and jumped right back into the crowd. I felt his pain.

If you’re attending a Rajini event for the first time, like I was, you should know that these things should come with a manual. Years of attending vanilla Bollywood trailer launches is not enough training for this, and fellow journalists who had flown into Chennai straight from the Zero trailer launch would attest to this. For starters, by 7.30 AM we were all dressed and ready to head to the venue to claim front row seats to the spectacle. Unless you’re interviewing Akshay Kumar (also in 2.0), I have not known this to happen in Mumbai.

Preparation for trailer launch of Rajinikanth's 2.0

When I reached Sathyam Cinemas at 8 AM I already felt like I was late to the party. There were cops, bouncers, dhol wallahs, fans of every possible age, and countless miniature Chittis (the robot in the film) on the red carpet. Inside the theatre were hundreds of film journalists from across the country who were flown in by Lyca Productions (producers of 2.0) to witness the show. Later while giving his speech, Rajini sarcastically scoffed at rumours of producers not wanting to spend on promoting a film that’s already cost them Rs 600 crores. The amount spent on this trailer launch alone could have probably funded a small indie film.

The moment I will file under ‘Things To See Before You Die’ is Rajini’s entry. It took him a while, and understandably so, to make it from his car to his seat in the theatre under the protection of the police and the sturdiest human chain I’ve ever seen. The moment word of his arrival spread there was an uprising around the venue with people losing all sense of sanity and decorum to greet him. The men were hooting, the women were screaming, and some of us were holding on to our chairs and 3D glasses like dear life. Rajini glided through this madness without a grimace.

He finally spoke almost at the end of the event, after the cast and crew members, including composer A R Rahman, sound designer Resul Pookutty and stunt director Silva, had each narrated their favourite stories of Rajini’s legendary generosity and dedication. When the superstar took to the mic, there was pin drop silence and everyone sat up in reverence. You do not want to be the person whose phone beeps when Rajini is speaking. He spoke a few lines in English to greet journalists who had flown in from other states and casually declared 2.0 would be a “super duper hit” and that his director Shankar was the Steven Spielberg and James Cameron of India. “This is a picture not just for the mass and intellectuals, but also for the pseudo intellectuals,” he said. The man gave his speech and walked out, leaving a trail of screaming admirers behind him. Once again, I was reminded of a video I saw on Instagram of Shah Rukh Khan merrily dancing to one of his songs at the Zero event as journalists cheered on. This was the total opposite of that scenario.

I heard a voice say, “This was nothing. In the Lingaa trailer launch I got to see Rajini cry.” Another recalled a time years ago where the cops had resorted to a lathi charge. And a Kamal Haasan fan meekly added, “Kamal movie events have more madness.” Be that as it may, the Rajini experience is one you should have at least once in your life.

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