The influence and hold superstar Rajinikanth has over India, and especially its southern states, is unquestionable. It is not simply the admiration that puts him on that pedestal, it is the hope and optimism he provides the people with. With each film of his being hit after hit, the Rajinikanth fame train is not about to slow down any time soon.
While we are all aware of the popularity of the great man in India, it is worth it to point out that he receives the same adoration from many other parts of the world, and Japan is at the forefront of that. I know what you must be thinking –– Japan, how?!
It all began back in 1998, when his film Muthu – The Dancing Maharaja (starring Rajinikanth and Meena) was released in Japan. The movie took to the people like no other –– it became one of the country’s highest grossing films of the time (earning over 1.7 million USD), and ran in cinemas for over a 100 days. Following this success, Rajinikanth’s charm knew no boundaries, quite literally. The love he receives here translated into a new language in Japan, and the people turned him into a phenomenon. Muthu became no less than a cult classic, and chances are if you come across anyone of an appropriate age in Japan, they will remember Muthu fondly.
From here began a phenomenon that we welcome with open arms –– Japanese renditions of Tamil (and other Indian) film posters! A confluence of visual compositions from both countries, these posters are an overt product of the coming together of separate identities –– Tamil and Japanese, who would have thought?
Funnily enough, post the successful year of Muthu, the decision to release a sequel was made. Thus, Ejamaan — Dancing Maharaja 2 was born. Surprisingly, this film absolutely flopped at the box office, but that did not stop the creatives of Japan from creating a Japanese-inspired film poster for it.
The Tamil movies may not have remained fan favourites in Japan, but the Japanese poster replica fad spread across the country, and also across Indian films. Gradually, posters of mainstream Bollywood movies began being made. Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit starrer Anjaam (1994) screened at the Tokyo film festival in 1999, and its poster is best described as drama-meets-psychedelia.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Om Shanti Om (2007), English Vinglish (2012), Hindi Medium (2017), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Go Goa Gone (2013), and Gully Boy (2019) are only a few more examples.
The Japanese posters for a range of Indian films stand testament to the fact that art and the taste for it is not determined by region. Film is a powerful tool for storytelling, and the Japanese audience seems to agree!
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