While the paal abhishekam (offering of milk) has been synonymous with true devotion for any film star, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth gets a special dose of milk even before his films release. Where is it souring? At the Milk Federation of Tamil Nadu.
“The wastage is what worries us,” says SA Ponnusamy, head of the Tamil Nadu Milk Dealers Employees Association. He also met with associates of Rajnikanth, putting forward their demands - asking fans to stop paal abhishekams and donate blood instead.
“We have 1.5 lakh distributors of milk who work day and night, through rain or shine dropping milk packets across homes. During Vijay’s ‘Their’ release, many fans stole milk for his cut-outs. Stars should discourage behaviour like this from fans.”
Idol worship, or rather, cut-out worship is common here. Every time any big hero’s film gets released, his ardent fans erect banners, paste posters all over Tamil Nadu.
But rabid fans are in their natural habitat when they sniff out a cut-out. By natural instinct, they pounce to perform ‘pal abhishekam’ anywhere they spot one. This involves quite an investment - large cans of milk, a massive garland and several rolls of fireworks. The cut-out club is an exclusive one – only Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Ajith, Vijay, Suriya and Dhanush hit the marquee. A newcomer occasionally joins in, Karthi for instance.
This is no Chennai phenomenon. When Rajnikanth’s “Enthiran” was released, fans performed the ‘paal abhishekam’ for the actor’s cut-out at a theatre in Seattle, USA. Vijay’s fans also performed one for on his cut-out in Mumbai for “Nanban”.
Ponnusamy’s ire is not new either. In 2015, an injunction suit was filed against actor Rajinikanth over the wastage of thousands of litres of milk by his fans during his film releases.
The injunction suit was filed in Mayo Hall Court by IMS Manivannan. His argument? “While thousands of pregnant women and infants are unable to get a cup of milk a day, Rajnikanth's fans waste milk. The superstar should urge his fans not to do so,” he added.
PC Balasubramanian, a veteran fan who has authored books on Rajini's brand management is on the fence about it. "While core fans feel it is the right way to celebrate. While it's not with the intent of wasting milk, I can't say it is wrong either. It's a symbolism of devotion. They could however be doing other things that actually help distributing milk to BPL homes, because Rajini has always believed in social service," he said.
Rajini fans hope for a change too. "We're wasting so much milk that could go into better friends. I understand the need to worship him, but why can't we just garland his cut-out? "asks Senthil, a former rabid fan and now a sober family man.
Well, apart from Ponnusamy and his coterie, nobody’s really crying over spilt milk.