Chennai/Bengaluru: Far from the fanfare associated with superstar Rajinikanth movies, the Tamil filmstar’s movie Kaala saw muted response on Thursday in many parts of Chennai and Bengaluru alike, mostly due to the controversial statements made by the actor-turned-politician on issues like the recent Thoothukudi violence as well as on the contentious issue of Cauvery river water sharing.
Kaala which recorded one of the lowest advance bookings for a Rajinikanth movie, is the first film after the 67-year old announced his political entry on 31 December, last year.
A day before the release of Kaala, two theatres in Chennai— Kamala Cinemas and Udhayam, announced that they would screen Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom instead of the Rajinikanth starrer.
As Kamala Cinemas claimed that they were forced by the distributors to sell tickets for a higher price as against the government norms, Wunderbar Films that has produced the film, responded on Twitter, “Kamala & Udhayam theaters have not expressed their consent to the similar terms that’s been agreed by other cinemas. News going around saying huge demands put forth is absolutely false & baseless."
Rajinikanth’s recent statement that “anti-social elements" were the reason for violence in the protests against Vedanta’s Sterlite at Thoothukudi where 13 people were killed in police firing, did not go well with the people of the state.
Ironically, the movie Kaala directed by Pa. Ranjith set in Mumbai’s Dharavi, talks about the politics of land and celebrates protest.
On Wednesday, the Madras high court refused to stay the release of Kaala based on a plea that claimed that the film projected Thiraviyam Nadar and his family in bad light. Nadar moved to Mumbai in 1956 and was a leader for a section of Tamils settled in the slums of Dharavi.
Most theatres in Bengaluru also chose to heed to the call made by pro-Kannada organisations and Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, asking distributors and theatre owners not to release the movie.
Despite the Karnataka high court’s direction to the state government to provide security to theatres screening the movie, Kumaraswamy had backed the protesters and requested the makers of the film not to release the movie.
“If they forcefully release the movie they will have to face the consequences. I am not saying this as a chief minister. However, personally, speaking as a Kannadiga, I will say that considering the situation in the state, the makers should themselves not release the movie," he said on Tuesday.
Pro-Kannada organisations continued to protest against the handful of multiplex that did decide to screen the movie. However, most single screen theatres did not play the movie. “We called for a ban after his statements on Cauvery. There is no question of seeking an apology but the actor should state that he will help resolve the Cauvery issue," Sa Ra Govindu, president of the Karnataka Film Chambers of Commerce (KFCC) and pro-Kannada activist said. Kaala’s release seemingly more impacted by politics than even Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavat, that was released after the Supreme Court’s directions. On Wednesday, Rajinikanth had appealed to Kumaraswamy to provide security at theatres that wished to screen the film. He also appealed to the state film chambers in Kannada.