The numbers game

Suddenly, a lot of random statistics are being celebrated in Tamil cinema. When Kamal Haasan was felicitated at a grand event six years ago for completing 50 years in the Tamil film industry, you understood why. Most people don’t even live that long. For instance, the life expectancy of Chad — yes, it is a country — is 49.44 years. So, Kamal spending half-a-century in cinema and still remaining more than relevant was cause for celebration. But in recent years, it appears that the standards for celebration have plummeted. Every number now, has become crucial; every film, a potential milestone.

Vijay’s films, for instance — like Ajith’s — are now referred to by their numbers.

Mankatha being promoted as ‘Ajith 50’ was understandable. It was a rounded figure, and even made for a catchy title. But what of promoting, say, Puli as ‘Vijay 58’? The only notability of the number, incidentally, is that it is the sum of the first seven prime numbers. I think it’s safe to conclude that this didn’t play a part in the term’s coinage. And it isn’t as though the actors are working on too many films at once, that we need to track them with numbers. Vijay’s next film could just as easily be called his ‘untitled film with Atlee’, but no, ‘Vijay 59’ it is. Not 50, not 60, but 59, as though every film that the actors do is a glorious landmark worth holding your breath for. In a few years, you’ll probably have to use these titles to refer to the past. “I got married in… wait, when was ‘Vijay 53’?”

Another rather perplexing celebration was Baasha completing 20 years. There’s little doubt that it is, perhaps, one of Rajini’s best, in terms of the sheer entertainment it has to offer. But let’s face the truth: it is no The Shawshank Redemption , which, incidentally, completed 20 years last year. It’s no Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge that actually ran for 20 years, a monumental statistic. Tamil cinema itself has loads of better films that could do with the publicity, including some of Rajini’s own; those that flopped at their time but deserve to be revived, even if by invoking a random statistic. Baasha being celebrated, however, isn’t as irksome as something that happened last week.

Ajith, last week, seems to have completed 23 years in Tamil cinema, and social media was besotted. The hero’s fans were cutting cakes and putting up posters. Leading news outlets traced his origins and spoke about the evolution of his career. I was probably among the very few, completely befuddled by all the frenzy. It took quite some time for the revelation that the hashtag ‘23 years of Ajithism’ had started trending, to sink in. Yes, ‘Ajithism’ — you read it right.

Maybe, in a few years, we’ll also be introduced to ‘Sivakarthikeyanism’ and newspapers will have to hire more proofreaders just to ensure that the tongue twister isn’t wrongly spelt.

You still have to wonder why an actor completing 23 years is a landmark.

Can you imagine the celebrations two years later when he completes 25 years? They’ll probably figure out a way to plant a placard that reads ‘25 years of Ajithism’ on the moon. And aliens will have more reason not to contact us.

But all of this could be a lot worse. Can you imagine if somebody like Barbra Streisand had such fans? Upon hearing that she would star in Meet the Fockers in 2004, they’d have jumped in excitement and called it ‘35 years of Barbarism’.

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