Video Editor: Smitha TK & Deepthi Ramdas
It was 3.30 am and the chenda melam beats were echoing from Kasi theatre in Chennai. This was not a Superstar release, but Thalapathy was dropping a mass entertainer -- the biggest Tamil movie release in cinema halls since the coronavirus pandemic.
After a long wait of over one-and-a-half years, Vijay’s Master hit the screens on 13 January and was received with fanfare, drum beats, massive cutouts, milk abishekam, dance and drama. Directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj, the film also stars Malavika Mohanan, Arjun Das, Andrea Jeremiah and Shanthanu Bhagyaraj and is produced by XB Film Creators and Seven Screen Studios.
“To forget last year, I've decided to watch Thalapathy's film first thing this year,”said 40-year-old Ramesh, who has been a member of the Vijay fan association since he was 20.
32-year-old Guru from Kerala has never missed an FDFS (First Day First Show) and was at the theatre by 1.30a.m. on Wednesday.” I have been an ardent Vijay fan since childhood. I've even named my child Vijay,” he said, sporting the tattoo of Vijay on his arm.
Director Lokesh Kanakaraj, music director Anirudh Ravichander, actor Malavika Mohanan had watched the first show at Rohini Theatre.
Strict 50% Occupancy Rule Flouted
The film met with controversy earlier this month. Actors Vijay and Silambarasan had met with Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami ahead of the release of their films for Pongal, following which the Tamil Nadu government issued an order on 4 January, allowing theatres in the state to open with 100 percent capacity. The government had stated that citing decreasing COVID-19 cases, theatre owners associations in the state made a representation seeking an increase in seating capacity in cinema halls and multiplexes.
The move already garnered criticism as theatres are closed and air-conditioned spaces, which could lead to the spread of the virus.
Later on 8 January, the Madras High Court directed the state to reconsider its order, stating that it is imperative to factor in the risks posed by the pandemic while trying to prioritise the livelihoods of people in the entertainment industry. The state then retracted its order.
Several theatres were reported to have flouted the rules.
Chennai police on Wednesday booked owners of the Kasi theatre, under section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease and causing danger to life) of the IPC, for allowing more than 50 percent occupancy.
However, the fine levied on the theatre is just Rs 5,000 and this led to many people on social media questioning the efficacy of rules.
Masks? No. What's Social Distancing?
The state government had directed all theatres to strictly adhere to coronavirus guidelines, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. However, in most of the single-screen theatres and multiplexes, there were massive crowds and very few wearing masks.
The Quint spotted many people not wearing masks and when asked they said they didn’t want to because the majority of the crowd was anyway not wearing one.
“Wearing a mask is useless. The government had imposed lockdown for eight months and everyone was inside their homes. Then why did corona still affect us?,” asked a Vijay fan, who strongly believed that the pandemic was just a myth.
An interesting billboard spotted at Rohini Screens, Chennai read, “Mask pottu Master paaru (Wear a mask and watch Master)“ but even the men leaning against it were not wearing masks.
An ardent fan Abhishek told, “After such a long time, we are all coming to watch a movie in the theatre. Among my friends, there is are Thala (Ajith), Thalapathy (Vijay) and Thalaiva (Rajinikanth) fans and we all are enjoying this mass entertainer. So we don’t want to worry about a mask when dancing to songs,” said Abhishek, a fan at
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