Anand Raj was born in Dharavi and Asia’s second largest slum has been his home for fifty years. Kaala, he says, is Pa Ranjith’s fable constructed upon the core he has taken from real-life. “Karpanai than. Kadhai karu a eduthutu nalla panirukaru. (He has taken the core and handled it well).”
The problems that Kaala shows did exist several years back, he admits. But the situation improved gradually. “There are difficulties for people who live here illegally,” he says. There was no revolution but ‘paaka nala irunthuchu’ (it was good to watch), says Anand.
But when he watched Kaala for the first time on screen, it wasn’t Dharavi that mattered. It was all Rajini and that is usual business for Anand Raj, the Rajini fan. “The first time is always about Thalaivar,” says Anand with unmasked admiration. “The story doesn’t even reach me in its entirety as my eyes would only watch Thalaivar — his charm, his style, his energy. The story and the setting only come much later, after multiple viewings.”
So how many times does Anand watch a Rajinikanth film at the theatres? “7-8 times on an average,” pat comes the reply. And, the Dharavi resident says he hasn’t missed watching a Rajinikanth film on the first day in a very long time. “Up until Padayappa, Rajinikanth films didn’t have a release here on the first day. I used to travel to Chennai to watch the film,” he recalls.
Anand Raj also reveals that he was one of the first to register a fan club for Rajini back in 1988. Over the years, the love for the Superstar has not eroded even a bit. Anand recalls Priya as the first Rajinikanth film he truly enjoyed but confesses his unadulterated love for Baasha, the film that symbolises the summit of everything that is attributed to Rajinikanth. “I don’t remember the number of times I have seen that film,” says the Dharavi resident, with an infectious energy that is unique to a loyal cinema-lover.