Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) is probably the easiest location to find in
My wife and I were there last weekend because it was the venue for the audio launch of the upcoming Tamil film Endhiran (The Robot), with soundtrack and background score by A.R. “I brought back two Oscars” Rahman, starring superstar Rajinikanth and former Miss. World, Aishwarya “I can’t act but am still in business” Rai, and directed by Shankar. The film is touted as the most expensive ever in
Anyway, PICC is a monstrosity of a building that looks like a cross between a flying saucer and gigantic monochrome Big Mac. Built too recent to achieve heritage status and too ugly to be featured in the background of a Bollywood dance sequence, it stands perched on a hill ready to become a victim of landslide. Driving round and round the building, we finally reached the parking spot, there were already scores of poor minority and government oppressed Malaysian Indians parking their cars, most of which easily cost double of mine, with the female specie decked in jewellery and all set to compete with Aishwarya “I married a Bachchan” Rai in the costumes department.
The show was to begin at 7.30pm, and we were there at 6.30pm, and there was already crowd and that made me worry. I had been avoiding Indian concerts for more than a decade now, and though this was an audio launch I learned that there will be singing and dancing in it and the presence of the crowd did not make me feel better. Not only I would have to sit through the dreg showcase of dances and music that are most likely not A.R. Rahman’s, but there was an Spider sense within me that there could be other potential visual hazards like the sighting of another Bachchan. All these because of my wife’s hardcore fanatic love for Rajini and admiration for A.R. Rahman (wonderful for someone who, most of her life, never listened to anything other than English and Malay); and my own fascination with them, especially for Rajini who has in the past gave us some of the finest performances in Tamizh film industry. Plus if my wife is fascinated with a dark skinned older bald man, than my marriage is in safe hands.
At around 7pm they allowed us to go up to the third floor where the Planery Hall, the launch site, is and thankfully the crowd was not unruly…that’s because the folks in charge made sure that it didn’t, making sure everyone carried his or her own invitation cards. The escalator to the three floors took forever to reach, and there was nobody to check our invites. So, this mean anyone could have reprinted the invitation card and walked in. Probably they had, because we found a couple sitting in our seats, and I am sure they are not our stand-in. Plus when the show started, there were many standing at the side and behind the last row. So much for limited seating/ticket/invite crap.
Our seat was at the left side of the hall, 8th row from the stage. It was then 7.30pm and the red carpet moment supposedly began. You know the part in award shows where vanity soar sky high and fans forgive the recent turgid turns by the starlets because they wore an awesome dress and display ample cleavages. We the hall audience could only watch on the big screen on what’s happening outside. There were apparently the usual showcase of multi-cultural showcase, which to Malaysians is the moment where we go, “Oh no, here we go again”. I swear it was the same shtick they used when they landed the first Airbus A380 four years ago. But if it sells few more Ringgits for the tourism industry, why not?
The red carpet thing was highly forgettable as the hall audience did not receive audio in some parts. I suppose it was best, at least for my blood pressure. Soon, the stars started arriving, including the highlights of the evening, Rajini, A.R. Rahman, lyricist Vairamuthu and director Shankar. Aishwarya “I lost my makeup kit earlier” Rai was probably still blowing her nails dry. Expected bad news came in form of guests who got nothing to do with Endhiran The Robot except their acting talent in relation to the title, like Sangeetha, Simbhu and Jayam Ravi & Ramya Krishnan. Comedian Vadiveloo appears too and though he got nothing to do with the film he has the right to be there simply because he’s a comedian. No sign of Aishwarya “I follow North Indian Stars’ punctuality” Rai.
The stars themselves walked one by one down towards the front rows, with cheers and applause differing depending on who was coming. Vadiveloo walked by the aisle I was sitting, interestingly requiring assistance walking down the steps – either creaky old age or good beverage age. Rajini and A.R. Rahman got the loudest welcome, and it was not surprising. Though a quarter of that crowd did the same for Simbhu and Jayam Ravi that made it a suspect. The former beauty queen turned bad actress made almost an hour after the show was well into its way. Bravo, madam, you are the epitome of “Showuplateforattention” strategy of extending the lifeline of your career.
In the meantime, with comedian Vivek hosting, the non entities were called upon stage and predictably showered praise on the stars of the show, especially Sun Pictures and its owner Kalanidhi Maran who produced the show. Simbhu danced to a medley of Rajini songs, reminding me of the time back in 1999 when as a new actor he danced to Rajini’s song, proving very well that very much a decade since he started out, he will be doing just that, dancing to Rajini songs. In fact, speech by Vadiveloo and Maran later not so subtly hinted that there will never be another “superstar”. For those in the blur’s information, Simbhu called himself “little superstar” and now “young superstar”, that’s how pathetic it is.
The medleys were arranged for Sun Pictures and Director Shankar and their respective films. The dances made me realise the importance of an editor in a film. Tribal dance tribute for Aishwarya (no more middle name, I thank you) Rai baffled me in its relevance, and later, a bunch of Shaolin monks, having lost favour in Hong Kong films, did their stuff – one was so impressive (back flip with mili-second stand on the floor with head, whoa!) that Rajini gotup and clapped.
Speaking of whom, as it was difficult to see the superstar eight rows behind, wife asked how we can spot him. I said, “oh, easy, look for a baldy.” My arm is still aching as I type this.
By now, boredom was creeping in, and only Vivek’s easy rapport with the audience helping a little bit, a harmless chuckle here and there, knowing very well that comedian’s once rip-roaring, thigh slapping jokes are now reduced those eliciting lots of cringes and groans.
Then, things brightened up when audio launch was announced. The luminaries were brought to the stage, and some gimmick was prepared where they were supposed to plant their palms on screen and once complete, launch a CD. The usual blast of music, followed by firecracker thing and and the CD came out. Photo op moment, then the stars back to their seat. And this was only half the event.
Later we were shown the first worldwide release of trailer. It looked part awesome (scenes with Rajini), part troubling (all visual effects ones) as images of past
The songs were introduced one by one, and except for Arima Arima, I was impressed with none. More dancing, speeches by AR Rahman (short and sweet), Vairamuthu (luckily, not overboard), Shankar (pre-Oscar thanking that would have made Cuba Goodings Jr. proud). He was followed by Aishwarya who thanked everyone except Rajini. Oh wait, she ran back giving a lame excuse of “saving the best for the last”. Gee woman, you said thank you already and was sighted by the hall audience and the TV viewers leaving. Best for the last, my ass!
More songs and finally the moment we have been waiting for, Rajini himself on stage. Looking resplendent in blue striped shirt and black pants (as opposed to the usual dull white & white), he took time to start waiting for the cheering, whistling and the restless audience to settle down. Then, the typical Rajini stage persona takes over. Brushing aside his contribution, he praised everyone else, but he must have been surprised that the folks were only interested to see him and hear his voice. Why? At one part where he gave his trademark laugh, the crowd went wild!
My wife said she had goose bumps watching and hearing him. I would probably feel the same when it comes to the late Sivaji Ganesan or Clint Eastwood. But watching the man who gave countless hours of fun on big and small screen, I suddenly realised that he was there all my life. Second year into my life he made his debut and here he is, still in top position in Indian cinema, and still is entertaining kids and adults alike, aiming to give the best entertainment possible to audiences world over. I can’t explain this feeling, which I suspect, would resurface if I get to see Kamal Haasan in person. After almost more than four hour plus of boring dances, pathetic jokes, droning speeches, clichéd launch (was a trade/business journalist, I’ve seen a lot), and overdone backslapping, Rajini’s short appearance calmed me down, energised me and made me pardon all the downside of the show, except Aishwarya.
Once the show was over, we had difficulties getting to our car park, and found ourselves outside where the VIP cars were waiting. Only when the big shots are wheeled out of the PICC would they open up the doors to car park, and this totally ruined my mood. So, we waited and lo and behold, another Rajini sighting. This time, he walked exactly like how he did in the films, brisk with some followers trying to catch up, only, instead of heroic frown, he smiled and waved to everyone. That image stuck in my mind. Driving way past midnight back home, not even wanting to stop by for a quick bite despite the fact that we were held inside the hall for almost five hours without food or drink, I said to my dazed wife, “Okay, it was worth it”.