Friday, June 22, 2007

Bollywood fans line up to see the 'Boss' in Bloomingdale

Hurray for Bollywood in Bloomingdale!

That was the sentiment of thousands of Tamil-speaking moviegoers who turned this weekend's Chicago-area premiere of the South Indian action movie "Sivaji: The Boss" into a party that drew fans from as far away as Seattle.

As "The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," enjoyed a meteoric opening, singing, chanting and clapping patrons queued up outside the Bloomingdale Court Theater to see "The Boss." If the buzz continues, the film released worldwide Friday could become south India's version of a summer blockbuster.

Members of Chicago's Rajni Fan Club showed up wearing black shirts bearing a likeness of the film's star, Rajnikanth, who has appeared in more than 150 films.

After hoisting a watermelon with a flaming candle above their heads, club members smashed it to the ground as a gesture of celebration, eliciting cheers from the waiting crowd.

"This is like seeing a movie with Brad Pitt or watching something like 'Pirates of the Caribbean'," said Apoorva Anandan, 14, a freshman at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. "I got my tickets for this film a month ago, and I plan to see it a couple of times. I love films from my culture and American films as well."

About 3,500 to 4,000 families in the Chicago area speak Tamil, said Rajhu Raghuraman, a spokesman for Chicago Tamil Sangam, a non-profit south India cultural group.

"This is a huge event. The film's production costs were $15 [million] to $20 million, making it the most expensive film in India's history," he said.

In the film, Rajnikanth portrays a software architect who returns home from the U.S. intending to set up a charity medical college and hospital, but loses his seed money to an unscrupulous businessman.

Soma Subra, a marketing manager for film promotion company, said the Bloomingdale theater's 12 weekend shows, each seating 300 people, were sold out. There also were U.S. openings in four other cities.

"We worked on arranging this [premiere] for about six months, and there are people from all over the country who are flying to Chicago to see this," Subra said. "We have 40 people from Seattle coming in, even though the movie is being shown in their city. They just want to be a part of the group here."

On Friday, patrons of all ages stood in line for the 10 p.m. show as hundreds poured out from the 7 p.m. viewing.

Karthik Mathan, 25, of Elk Grove said Rajnikanth's films are the second most popular in Asia.

"Jackie Chan is the biggest star, but Rajnikanth is No. 2," he said. "The films are usually action and comedy. Rajnikanth is known for his style and mannerisms. He flips his glasses around in a circle before putting them on, or turns a cigarette from front to back to front again before putting it in his mouth."

Mathan said Indian films "always last 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and have five or six songs in them" even if the movie is an action film.

Boardwalk for $500? In 2007? Ha!
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