Travails of an Ajith fan
The Ajith admirer had patiently bided time, trusting in a project that they knew little about... Finally, the film has come to the party
It isn’t easy being an admirer of Ajith Kumar in the age of social media. With stars getting hailed for diplomatic tweets that often communicate little, it can feel difficult to be the admirer of someone who has ZERO social media presence. Following his self-imposed sabbatical from the media glare in the 2000s, the only place the actor’s fans could see him was in the theatre, on the big screen, and we had all made peace with it until the juggernaut of social media exploded into being. Even stars who did not have a strong social media presence made sure that they succumbed to the pressure of sharing ‘updates’. However, this actor continued not to pay heed to such pressures. We got a rare photo here and a random sighting there, but you could see that social media demands didn’t result in much. Sure, you could blame fans for seeking these updates, but there’s no denying that such admiration is essential for the existence of stardom.
If you are a fan of Ajith, you have to make peace with the realisation that he is a social media recluse. Imagine the delight then when this actor came out with two very decent films in the form of Viswasam and Nerkonda Paarvai, and in the same year, no less. It allowed you to sample both the star and the actor in him. Being a fan means being able to justify, at least to yourself, that the star you support gives you enough reasons to be fond of him/her. Viswasam and Nerkonda Paarvai provided enough justification.
And then came Valimai.
This film that had an explosive beginning tapered off and became a prominent presence in memes, with the ravenous need for ‘updates’ turning into a gag. The pandemic was a big reason, and as the latest making video shows, it put paid into what seemed like a well-oiled plan. Yes, many other films were affected too, but rather strangely, perhaps inspired by the star at the centre of the film, the makers of Valimai offered no explanations, made no promises. The film turned into troll material. You saw fans screaming for “Valimai updates” at the unlikeliest of places, including at sporting events. The trend turned into a funny aside in national news for the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, the patient admirers among us waited… and waited. Ajith, understandably displeased over the toxic demands for updates, responded with a strongly worded statement asking fans to rein in their emotions. We waited more.
Was the film even getting made, some wondered. And all that the polite Ajith fan had in response was conjecture. We knew the cast and crew, but not one had come out to share any ‘updates’ about the film. The social media pages of producer Boney Kapoor were bombarded with comments from fans. The trolls, meanwhile, kept at it.
Then came the first update. And then, the second. And then, a song. And then, another song. And then, a glimpse. With each update, the excitement rose. And yet, you couldn’t shake off a feeling of trepidation. Nothing had come directly from the reclusive actor. Too much wasn’t let out either, understandably. And yet, the Ajith admirer had patiently bided time, trusting in a project that they knew little about. The promotional plans didn’t really cut it either.
And now, finally, a month before the expected release date of January 13, 2022, the makers have come out with a ‘making video’. It feels not just like a promotion but a letter of apology even. It acknowledged the delay. It spoke of the agonising wait. It provided an explanation; it showed evidence of the work. The makers of most films ensure that even trivial updates are shared to keep the excitement alive, and yet, with this film, that hadn’t happened. Perhaps such excitement over a film, over a star, might seem silly to some. But there’s something beautiful about such admiration for an artist, such expectation for an artform. The fans ensured that Ajith Kumar and Valimai remained in trending topics, even without the ‘updates’. It reinforces, on some level, the power of cinema.
The latest video shows that he’s more invested in the process than people imagine him to be. We see how ‘real’ the film feels. We realise that sometimes, work happens even if the smallest developments aren’t shared on social media. And in true Ajith style, you see not people standing around him, clapping and cheering him on. You see him fall, and you see him rise.
If that’s not a metaphor for Valimai and its reputation on social media…