The first Tamil film I saw at Aurora in Matunga was Kamal Hassan’s Thenali. It was a madcap comedy with the corny one-liners that Crazy Mohan (Kodambakkam’s own wacky Kader Khan) specializes in. For about three hours, you got the feeling you had been beamed into a small corner of Chennai: the familiar mix of jasmine flowers, coconut oil, vibhuti, lots of chatter in breakneck Tamil. A friend who migrated from Chennai decades ago tells me he heads for Aurora whenever he feels homesick for the experience of watching a Tamil film at Chennai theatres such as Sun (now a commercial complex, of course).
If you are picky about plush seats you can sink into with cup holders and tomato cheese popcorn, rule out Aurora. You could make yourself comfortable by putting your feet up on the seat in front. But the popcorn is pre-packaged and yellow. There is a balcony of the viewing gallery type, and if viewers feel enthusiastic about a scene, they let their feelings be known. Lots of cheering, catcalls, suggestions for the heroes on how to beat the villain to a pulp... regular movie watching as we knew it before the multiplexes came.
Till Shringar distributor Shyam Shroff found that good southern films had a decent market among expats in cinemas across the rest of the country, theatres such as Aurora were the only ones to show Tamil/Malayalam/ Telugu/Kannada films. In Delhi, when I was growing up in the 1970s, you had to head for Kamal at Safdarjung Enclave for your fix of latest southern films released some two years ago back home.
Today, you could grab a fairly new film from the South at a multiplex near you. Maybe one show, maybe just for a week, but you have the choice. But then, movie watching at a multiplex is a sanitized experience: It matters little whether you are watching a movie from Korea or Kerala. One reason why I would have preferred watching Rajnikanth’s blockbuster, Sivaji, at Aurora. But Aurora had been blockbooked by Rajni fans for more than a week. And I hear Rajni fans were flying across the country to grab the first show, so I had no business complaining.
So, I missed the puja, the drishti pooshnikai (the pumpkin that wards off the evil eye), the buntings and the milk abhishekham the audience had lined up for their hero. All you saw at Fame Adlabs were people clutching large tubs of fresh popcorn and pricey wraps and rolls and trooping quietly into the cinema. But, once the film started, even the plush fittings couldn’t keep the audiences down. As when Rajni/Sivaji does his stunt with the beggarly rupee coin that vile villain Adiseshan flings at him (flick coin to left, flick coin to right, flick coin straight into pocket). Or does his stunt with a peppermint (flick peppermint at distant object and it heads straight back at his throat). The lines, of course, are all worth several bags of chavanis, specially once Sivaji turns into “Motta” Boss (bald boss) to wreck the villain. It is hard to remain impassive when Rajni does a dramatic turn in slow motion, his jaw set for a fight, and you hear Rahman’s music pounding “Sega Fight-a/Sivaji Right-a”.
The Rajni Fans Association in Mumbai has promised to allow other adoring audiences into Aurora in a couple of weeks, once they have had their fill of the idol. I plan then to watch Sivaji again, and this time join in the full-blooded revelries.
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