I don't think that the popularity came to Tsoi because of The Needle, or the street cred he created in it, of course. It was his deep, intellectual, and simply genius songs that wrote his name in history. 1988 was the moment when he became crazily famous and the movie just enhanced the clamor. Besides, he already had a valiant and mysterious public image after Assa.
The movie had a box-office success, which was a huge surprise for its creators. They thought that The Needle would be forced onto the back burner just as it always happened but instead, it was shown all over the country. That was the impact of the "glasnost'." Before, the Soviet officials were afraid to allow something. During Perestroika, they were afraid to ban.
The legends about an underground musician from the KGB`s black-list named Victor Tsoi were everywhere. Scandal stories about Pyotr Mamonov were all over. And suddenly the movie was released! No one knew whether the film would make it to the Soviet screens or not. Youth hankered after the forbidden fruit, and so many people came to the movie's opening night in Kazakhstan, that the cinema couldn't fit everyone so the crowd broke open the door. Some phrases from the movie turned into passwords to recognize "the insiders":
"In this world, there are two kinds of people: those who sit on pipes, and those who need money. You are sitting on a pipe."
Victor remained resistant to fame. He was always described as a very reserved and withdrawn person but very warm, tender, and lighthearted towards his close ones.
Victor didn't fully believe that he was talented. Even after The Needle's success, Victor said again and again: "Guys, it's so strange that people like me." He was very decent, even blushing.
— Joanna Stingray for Colta
In January 1990 we were invited to the Sundance festival with The Needle. It was located in Park City, Utah, United States. The Needle's exhibition was sold out. Ed Pressman (film producer) acquainted us with the writer William Gibson. I visited him in San Francisco. We got wrecked drinking gin and tonic, and by morning sketched the script for the sequel. It was about Moro's adventures in futuristic Leningrad after the Soviet Dissolution."
— Rashid Nugmanov
Serezha Soloviev at the end of his movie perfectly imagined Tsoi as the new messiah. And messiahs don't live long."
— Boris Grebenshchikov to Esquire
The Needle just formed Tsoi's iconic impression altogether. He gave the Union of Perestroika times (a messy place with a huge increase in crime and new obscure events like drugs, political opposition, and the first manifestations of capitalism) the hero it was craving for: a dark knight, who was fearless, gloomy, and capable of reaching out for the moon. Kino's popularity suddenly went abroad, which was a total miracle.
At the beginning of the 1980-s, no one could imagine that soon the Iron Curtain would fall, the nationals would travel abroad and an underground rock band would perform at Luzhniki Stadium singing We Are Awaiting Changes. In 1990 Victor Tsoi was already a superstar, Assa and The Needle were overwhelmingly successful. Kino started to receive different offers from foreign agents, musicians, filmmakers. It seemed like the golden years came for the band and its frontman. Everything came to an end in August, at the fatal crook on the high road.
"For me, it seems like for the last 2-3 years he felt awry psychologically. When he sang about the early death, it was a part of the heroic image, of course – you know, "live fast, die young," and all that stuff, but now those entries – "who lives by different laws, and who will die young" — sound like a prophecy…"
— Alexander Titov, the former bassist of Aquarium and Kino