Revisiting ’90s Rajini in 2017.
“Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna madhiri” (If I say it once, it’s as good as having said it a hundred times) is an iconic line from Suresh Krissna’s Baasha (1995) starring the one and only Rajinikanth. While the superstar was already well-established in 1995, Baasha helped the actor scale even greater heights of stardom. Now, 22 years later, the film has been re-released and remastered after digital restoration. And Mumbai, along with the rest of the country, gets to watch the film at the iconic Aurora Cinema in Matunga. Yes, times have changed. Single screen cinemas are dwindling and struggling for survival, while multiplexes have firmly established themselves. The digital revolution has completely shaken up production, distribution and exhibition of films. But some things still remain intact; the stardom of Rajinikanth is one such thing. The joy of watching any of his films, whether it’s the recent Kabali or the re-released Baasha, at a nostalgic place like Aurora Cinema remains undiminished.
Rajini’s still got it
While watching Baasha this weekend at Aurora, I was transported back in time. Nothing much seemed to have changed. People were happily dancing to the songs and cheering for the punch dialogues and “mass” moments all the way. And in addition to India, the film managed to get re-released in a few other countries, including Japan, where the superstar apparently enjoys a substantial fan following. For Nambi Rajan, a popular distributor of South Indian films for the North India territory and the proprietor of Aurora in Mumbai, it was déjà vu. After all, he originally distributed Baasha in North India in 1995. It went on to complete a hundred days in Aurora. A die-hard Rajini fan himself, Rajan does feel that it’s a little too early for Rajinikanth films to enjoy the success of re-runs.
And he justifies this by mentioning a very valid reason: Rajinikanth and his films continue to remain fresh in the memory of his fans. Even today’s youth, who were probably not even born when Baasha was released, are well aware of and exposed to the film. This is the reason why he did not re-release Sivaji (2007) in 2012 when a 3D version was unveiled. For that matter, even a classic like K. Balachandar’s Ninaithale Inikkum (1979), which features Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, only got a lukewarm response when it was re-released in Tamil Nadu in 2013.
More than mass appeal
But Baasha seems to be a different ball game altogether. Not only is director Suresh Krissna pleased with the response of the re-release, it seems to have taken the trade by surprise as well, especially in Chennai. Most multiplexes in the Tamil Nadu capital saw that Baasha did much better at the box office when compared to this weekend’s film releases.
In Mumbai, while the first two days (Friday and Saturday) did not see much crowd in the 700-odd seater Aurora, Sunday seemed to be a different story. First, the theatre witnessed more than 50 % capacity, something that not many new releases manage of late. In addition, the audience seemed to be totally in love with not just Rajinikanth, but almost everything about the film. There were a few people who seemed to have come all the way from across the city, only to relive their 1995 memories. Those expecting the frenzy associated with a new Rajinikanth film at Aurora, as seen recently during the time of Kabali, could be in for disappointment. The superstar’s fan club hasn’t really decked up the theatre and one did not witness a plethora of OB vans from various media houses outside it either.
And as for the film’s digital restoration, Baasha seems to have has received a rather good makeover. Apart from the strange inclusion of Ola’s brand placement, there hasn’t been any other tampering to the film’s original look and feel, even as you appreciate the visual and audio quality.
Will this see more Rajinikanth films getting re-mastered and re-released any time soon? Well, it’s too early to say that. Amidst all re-released Tamil films we’ve experienced, Karnan (1964), Aayirathil Oruvan (1965) and Veerapandiya Katta Bomman (1959) are the ones that have stood the test of time and also catered to a whole new generation of audience in the rerun. Before mulling over the future of re-mastered Tamil films, it’s great to get nostalgic by revisiting Baasha now. Long after I exit from the show, “Naan oru thadava sonna, nooru thadava sonna madhiri,” is still resonating in my ears.
Baasha continues to play this week at Aurora Cinema, Matunga, at the 12 p.m. slot.