The video is astounding. A group of men are at the top of a flimsy ply structure – a cutout of their idol, ‘Thala’ Ajith. Some of them are arranging a garland around the neck of the cutout, while one man is spraying Ajith’s face with milk. Several others are crawling up the cutout, like real life Spidermans. Except, their spidey sense was clearly off – along with their sense of risk. The cutout came tumbling down, and the men who had climbed it to worship their idol came crashing down along with it. And for the bystanders and the cheering crowds, this posed a risk as well.
This scene played out at Villupuram, outside a theatre playing Ajith’s latest, Viswasam, which released on Thursday. Three people have been injured in the incident, at Srinivasa Theatre in Thirukkoilur near Villupuram.
Tamil Nadu is well-known for over-the-top idolisation of cinema actors and any new movie release is reason for fans of the lead actor to celebrate. As Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith’s Viswasam hit the screens on Thursday, in time for the Pongal festival, fans of both stars are in a frenzy, to the extent that a several other mishaps, too, have occurred during the fanfare across the state.
Thirukkoilur police told TNM that three men were injured in the accident and have been taken to a nearby government hospital.
Despite criticism about the dangers of the flimsy structures and the amount of milk wasted on paalabishekam (pouring milk on something in an act of veneration) in the name of fan worship, the trend of erecting huge cutouts of actors and decorating it has been a regular affair for actors like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan in the past, continuing with Ajith and Vijay, and in recent years for almost every actor. This practice of erecting huge cutouts exists even today, despite a ban on erecting cutouts and hoardings of living persons put by the Madras HC in 2017.
Viswasam, directed by Siva, has Ajith and Nayanthara in the lead roles. The movie also has Thambi Ramaiah, Yogi Babu, Bose Venkat and Robo Shankar in supporting roles.