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January 6, 2000
They'll Bleed for Rajini
Prakash M Swamy
When Marakkayar of Kizhakarai donated blood at the Elmhurst Hospital last week he did not have the Red Cross in mind. He was celebrating his "thalaivar's" birthday and 25 years in the movie industry.
The thalaivar is Rajinikanth, one of the most successful movie stars in India. To his die-hard fans, there is no greater idol.
"He is in my every blood cell and by donating blood, I know he will be everywhere," said Marakkayar, who lives in New York.
Bulundi, toplining Anil Kapoor, is one of the most lavishly advertised of Indian movies but many of the ads focus on Rajinikanth. Though Rajinikanth has acted in several Hindi movies, his Tamil fans hope Bulundi will make him a national star.
Mani of Mani Grocery in Junction Boulevard of Jackson Heights in New York is a devoted fan of Rajinikanth and he hopes the movie is going to be a huge hit.
But he was not waiting for its release.
He began celebrating a month before the film was to open.
He distributed over 300 laddus to those who visited his shop on December 12 and gave a special rebate to his customers on audio, video and CDs of popular Rajinikanth movies.
He is among thousands of Rajinikanth fans across America marking the silver jubilee of the star's movie career.
Native of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Mani said that video movies and CDs of Rajinikanth movies sell very quickly.
"I am not surprised that not only non-Tamils but many Americans and other nationals are addicted to Rajini's movies," he said.
Being a smart businessman, Mani is promoting Rajinikanth movies to non-Indians who visit his store to buy grocery by giving them videos and CDs/tapes at a discount.
"They are now hooked to thalaivar's movies," he said with a smile.
"I know several die-hard fans of Rajini who come and check with me for his latest movies. However, I don't sell pirated cassettes as a mark of respect to my thalaivar," he said.
Several Rajinikanth fans associations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in particular, have tied up with other Tamil groups like the Sri Lankan Youth Association and Tamil associations for the month-long celebration. The celebrations began on December 12, his birthday.
Jeffery Sachs, a schoolteacher living in Queens, said he was first introduced to Rajini's movies by Mani and now he watches them regularly.
"Although I don't understand the language, I like his mannerisms and style. He must be a good dancer, I guess... Our family liked Padayappa and Muthu," he said, smiling widely.
Chidambaram and his friends in Edison, New Jersey, had a big birthday bash for Rajinikanth last weekend in which a large number of Tamil youth, especially computer professionals from Madras, attended.
"There were birthday cakes for thalaivar, a lavish dinner and playing of his songs, not to talk of dancing the whole night," he said.
"It makes no difference where we are. December 12 has always been an important day in our life and this year happens to be the silver jubilee year too. We never felt that we are thousands of miles away from Madras and our favorite hero," said Arunachalam, a software engineer working in Piscataway.
In Boston, a group of friends led by Krishna Kumar and Ramanathan, celebrated the birthday of their favorite hero by distributing sweets and audio cassettes of his latest movies to friends and well-wishers.
Devika Rani of Madurai and a resident of Sunnyside, New York, decided to screen video films of Rajini movies like Moondru Mugam, Muthu, Badshah and Mullum Malarum for one week.
"It was like a virtual cinema house watching his movies on a 60 cm console television and many of my American and Spanish friends enjoyed it. My only regret is that I couldn't make it to the celebrations in Madras," she said with a tinge of sorrow.
Many Rajinikanth fans had sent birthday and new year cards from New York and more than a dozen of them had used online services to send bouquets to him at his Poes Gardens residence in Madras. Commenting on the celebrations, actress Gauthami, a resident of New York now, said it was nice to see how a Tamil hero is being revered in a faraway place like New York.
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