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'Every Rajni film is a holiday!'

Milk rained down on me, splashing my notepad and obscuring my writing. I tried to exit the frenzied crowd, but they kept pulling me back by my shirt, by my bag, by whatever they could grab.

It was 7:45 in morning; I stood outside a movie theatre in Matunga called Aurora awaiting the opening of Sivaji with Rajnikanth, the lone firangi amid hundreds of excited Tamilians.

Businessmen in suits, taxi-wallahs in brown uniforms and workers from a steel-factory gathered in adulation of their favourite superstar. They joined arms and danced together, encircling mammoth posters of Rajni's image.

Some wore oversized badges proclaiming allegiance to their idol; others adorned themselves with ribbons and caps; still others boasted giant placards featuring the star's countenance imposed on a multi-coloured flag.

If the crowd wasn't drunk, it was certainly intoxicated with ecstasy. Several revellers pandered for the camera, shaking their bodies and rolling their eyes into the back of their skulls. A chorus of chants rose, climaxing in shrieks and wild clapping.

If I hadn't known my assignment, I would have assumed I was covering a religious festival, so reverent and joyous was the atmosphere. Firecrackers banged behind me; elaborate poojas were conducted in front of me. Fresh milk poured over the various Sivaji posters, banners and signs.

In the picture: A Rajnikanth fanatic dyes his hair in hopes of looking like his favourite superstar

Text: Matthew Schneeberger | Photographs: N V Reuben

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