Speaking Through Riots and Rituals:Tamil Cinema Fans in India and Malaysia
It is not uncommon for fans of Tamil stars and superstars to indulge in religious rituals such as lighting camphor, breaking coconuts and pouring milk (over the cut outs of stars) on the eve of the inaugural screenings. The fans of MGR pioneered the act of subalterns speaking through such rituals. During 70s, I had seen MGR fans throwing coins and notes as offerings before the screen and doing elaborate poojas inside theatres. The fans of Rajnikant were also speaking through some of these rituals on June 15 when Sivjai:The Boss had its world premiere. But there were no riots on the first day of Rajnikantâ€™s film Sivjai:The Boss in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere, except in Malaysia. The early news reports only referred to the record breaking first day collections in the city of Chennai. The filmâ€™s Chennai rights were sold for nearly Rs.7 Crores (1 Crore=10 million) and the film grossed Rs.1.75 Crores on the first day in 19 theatres. Reports from Malaysia also referred to the record breaking collection of Sivjai:The Boss. The first day collections touched US$ 165000 in 52 screens in Malaysia. But the day also saw riots in theatres across Malaysia, thanks to the technical glitches which disrupted the inaugural screenings. It has been reported that angry fans turned violent in many cities. They broke glasses and torched properties of theatres. Film screening related violence of this nature is the first of its kind in Malaysia. Acts of rioting are commonplace in India and are seen as a part of unorganised protest cultures. Riots are violent expressions of mobs and social groups and are often spontaneous. But they also sport the characteristics of rituals in some contexts. Rioting probably has become yet another ritual for the subaltern film fans in diasporic contexts to give vent to their other anxieties.