Little is known of the south Indian cinematic culture, which is as prolific and bears many of the same narrative and elements as its northern cousin. The southern industry though bears one significant difference - the cult of superstar. While the major movie stars in Hindi film industry enjoy the adulation of fans and tabloids alike, they cannot hope for 50-foot cardboard statues bathed in milk and honey on the day of a film release. They cannot hope that fan club members will hold a knife to the projectionist to ensure the film is paused at the first appearance of the beloved star, so that the theatre audience gets an uninterrupted cheer at the freeze frame, and the front row has the chance to conduct a short prayer facing the image of the deity of the day. Nor do they expect that fans will riot if their favourite star’s songs are not replayed, mid-movie.
What is “For The Love of A Man” about?
Our film is a documentary that explores the fandom of megastar Rajnikanth through the lives and works of a few fans who have been avowed followers of Rajnikanth. We follow fans such as Ravi- a politician in a small town, Mani- a peanut seller and former gangster who turned legit thanks to Rajnikanth’s films, Kamal Anand- who feeds his family by imitating Rajnikanth on stage, and finally Gopi- a wage labourer at a gas company.
Film stars in South India have explicit titles – ‘Mega Star’ Chiranjeevi, ‘Ultimate Star’ Ajith, ‘Mega Power Star’ Ram Teja, and even ‘Little Super Star’ Silambarasan. The buck stops, however, at the granddaddy of them all, the one who retains just ‘Superstar’ the indomitable Rajnikant.
Why are fan clubs the center of the plot?
It is easy to dismiss the fan clubs of south India as a cultish parody of misplaced testosterone. But for the vast majority of the young lower-middle class men who dominate these, the club is a manifestation of their cultural and political belonging and a means for them to assert themselves in society. The fan club for some viewers could be the ultimate manifestation of a tribute to cinema, and for yet others, a scary specter of the incredible power the film medium can invest in its stars.
What inspired you to take up this project?
Our intention is to make a film that captures two important and parallel issues. First, our film explores the unique importance of popular culture in the lives of people in South India. Rajnikanth fans do not just stay overnight waiting for a film, they dedicate years of their lives for the star. Fan club members who are not a fringe group, but a very sizable population, enough to make large blockbuster films recover their entire multi-million budgets through fan spending alone. The second issue we cover, by following the fans in their daily lives, is understanding fan culture from a socio-economic perspective. Who are these fans? What are the consequences of their actions? What does this all say about the “India Rising” discourse of a growing, inclusive, economy? The goal at the end of the film is to tell a human story of passion, devotion, and expression.
How did you go about executing this documentary?
Our primary narrative technique is interviews and observations, but we also use archival film, artwork and music in the film. Some of this archival footage describes some of what we discuss – clever innuendo hidden in song lyrics, lines that are aimed at pleasing fans, and the ubiquitous, thinly disguised social and political swipes peppered through the films. A major objective of the documentary is to recreate the look and feel of Tamil cinema, the visual culture of South Indian cinema is unique, and something we hope do authentically and sensitively. Our film is shot on location in the metropolis of Chennai, and the small town of Sholingur, both in Tamil Nadu, India. We also cover the release and aftermath of two Rajnikanth films – "Enthiran" and "Sivaji 3D", to highlight the frenzy around a film release, and cover the birthday celebrations of the star throughout the two cities on 12.12.12, deemed an extremely auspicious date by thousands of his fans.
Everyone who participates in our fundraising campaign will be considered part of the film, and acknowledged online or in the film. Some of our top funders will be especially invited to be a part of the core crew of the film.
Rs. 100000 in Music composer
Rs. 50000 in Sound Design
Rs. 50000 in Color Correction
There are two major risks with the project. Our documentary is entirely self-funded, and its narrative is driven by the characters themselves. Such films need a great deal of footage to tell a cohesive story on one hand, but on another, also frequently tell a story that the audience must interpret as it resonates with them. The risk herein is that documentary filmmaking is still a fairly under-appreciated line of work and does not have the kind of commercial draw that would make such a project stand on its own feet.
The second major risk is around the subject matter itself and what people expect from a film about it. Since starting production, we have been approached several times by the media, by people in the film industry, and by fans themselves who want to learn more about the film. However, each of these groups of people have their own ideas and interpretations of what a good film on Rajnikanth fans would be. For some viewers, the phenomenon of fandom represents a form of irrational behavior, for others, it is a fun, quirky element of cinema culture, and for yet others, it is something deeply sacrosanct. In the end, the film is going to present a vision that may please one or another constituent at the expense of another.
If we don't make the target amount, we will likely be delayed in the post-production work, but the film itself will not stop. We will try and seek out funding from other sources including friends and family and production houses to raise the money.
We are serious filmmakers and have been working on this film for over four years now. Our website is online with a lot of the clips from the film, which has in all cost us multiple times the amount likely to be raised from Wishberry, therefore we see this as assistance for the last phase of our film and have much to lose in terms of credibility by taking off with the funds.