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A mere public appearance by the superstar, whose staying off the media is legendary, has more box-office draw than many Friday releases. It was not just the paparazzi that turned up in numbers, as news spread of his appointment fans milled outside the venue, the Rajnikant-owned Raghavendra Kalyana Mandapam in Chennai's Kodambakkam area, for a glimpse of the reclusive star.

Inside, the scene was no better. A large gathering of reporters, photographers and television cameramen were assembled inside hall, each jostling for vantage position and shouting down the other.

If you are a star, either in politics or cinema, punctuality is the first casualty. But not so with Rajnikant, who walked in at the appointed hour, 11 am, and in style.

He was clad in his favourite white pyjama-kurta, his white beard and moustache and unruly hair belying his popular appeal, but he appeared calm and cheerful.

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Also see: Battle for Maharashtra

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