A great cinematic experience isn’t just a byproduct of a film’s artistic merits or the format in which you watch it in. At its best, cinema is a communal experience. The audible sounds of the crowd scurrying to pick up their jaws from the floor after witnessing The Avengers assemble for the very first time. The tears I shed as dozens of Star Wars fans raised their lightsabers during the credits of The Last Jedi as the words read “In loving memory of our princess Carrie Fisher.” It’s the mixture of curiosity, confusion and excitement I felt walking into Padayappa for the first time when I was six years old, holding my parents’ hands tightly, wondering why there were unusually a lot of people. It’s the gooseflesh I have when a packed theatre erupts like a Hawaiian volcano every time the “SUPER STAR RAJNI” title card appears on the screen. It’s also the chilling quietness of a hall full of people who were afraid to even let out a breath during A Quiet Place.
What does any of this have to do with Bigil, you might be wondering.
You see, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Vijay. I admire his charisma and have watched all his movies post-Thirumalai but he has never given me the same overwhelming adrenaline rush I get when watching Rajinikanth on screen or in recent years, Dhanush. There something missing. I’m talking about the unexplainable and peculiar magical connection you have with an actor that makes you a red-blooded veriyan. I’ve never felt that connection with Vijay.
But the day before yesterday, on a rainy Deepavali night at Blockbuster Perling Mall, I found myself lost in the mad, wicked intoxication of Thalapathy Vijay. I was drunk. Drunk without alcohol. Drunk off the molecules of passion emitted by the diehard Vijay fans of Johor Bahru — collectively known as Ilayathalapathy Vijay Rasigar Mandram (IVRM) and KTRM — who surrounded me. Drunk of their untamed excitement. Drunk off their unbending love for the man.
When Vijay made his grand entrance during the hero-introduction sequence in Bigil, the packed theatre of close to 290 people cheered vehemently, hands raised high in the air, either to burst poppers (yes you read that right!) or stretched out as if to welcome him into their soul.
They chanted ‘Verithanam! Verithanam!’ in unison along with the song. At one point, a few people got up from their seats and danced along to the beat.
Prior to the film, there were memes circulating the internet that poked fun of the admittedly funny “Bigileeeee” line from the trailer. But in the theatre, the Vijay Veriyans roared BIGILEEE so fervently to the point of drowning out the sound blaring through the speakers, that I couldn’t help but feel my spine tingle a little. They made something objectively silly into something subjectively cool. I roared along too!
The fans were eating out of the palm of Vijay’s hands and I was eating out of theirs. And for three hours, the day before yesterday, on a rainy Deepavali night, maybe, just maybe, my heart stopped beating dub-dub-dub-dub and instead rang tha-la-pa-thy.
Thank you IVRM for throwing this massive, Verithanam, goosebumps-inducing event.
Venue: Blockbuster Cineplex, Perling Mall, Johor Bahru
Date: 27 October 2019
Organizers: IVRM + KTRM
Check out the video and pictures from the event:
Bigil is currently playing in Malaysian cinemas.