That a movie in South India can grip not only popular fancy, but also the imagination of corporations is bemusing to many of us in other parts of the country where star mania does not reach as high a pitch.
When the much-hyped Tamil movie Kabali was released last month, several companies in Chennai and Bengaluru declared a holiday for their employees, ostensibly in a gesture of solidarity with Rajinikath's worshipful fandom. A certain frenzy gripped that part of the country. A Maruti Suzuki car dealer in Tamil Nadu even launched a special Kabali edition of the Maruti Swift. The car is painted with movie posters featuring Rajinikanth on all its sides, in an obvious attempt to cash in on the Kabali fever.
Now, back to the matter of the Kabali holiday.
Scratch the surface and the whole rigmarole smacks of commercial interests...
In the popular imagination at least, the private sector stands for a focused work culture, it is believed that they mean businesss. In contrast, government offices and employees are viewed as slow, lazy and unfriendly with less interest in their work than under-the-table payoffs. Government employees are also envied for enjoying far more holidays each year than their private sector counterparts. But while they may get offs for a greater number of festivals and national holidays, the very idea of work ceasing on account of a movie is unthinkable. Not even a casual leave application on that ground can be entertained.
So, what's with the Kabali holiday? What happened to the much-applauded work culture and business-focus of these corporate houses? Has any business house ever declared a day off when the nation mourns demise of a major leader? Do they not often ignore government holidays when it comes to religious festivals and days of observance? The media have spared these corporate houses any criticism, and have instead run headlines with explicit admiration for the roaring passion of Rajinikanth buffs. Scratch the surface though and the whole rigmarole smacks of commercial interests and not so much a concession to employees' sentiments.
It is a kind of subtle, low-cost advertisement that panders to a market comprised of dedicated fans... after all, won't a brand that shares the star-struck public's feelings resonate with them? Will they not be warmed towards a corporate entity that shares the same values and passions as they do? It's smart psychology and to me it suggests a deliberate strategy.