Saturday, August 28, 2010
All about Rajini.. Once a super star... Always a super star
I am a ardent fan of Rajini...
My tryst with Tamil cinema began when I frequented my aunt’s place at Sillarahalli (Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu). Summer holidays simply meant a month-long stay at Sillarahalli and everything Tamil. This little village had one TV meant for public viewing and the evenings never once had a dull moment for all residents, the young and the old, the restless wife-beaters, alcoholics, parents as well as lovers who perhaps got free entertainment during their precious courting time.
A black & white TV (the one with wooden shutters) under a banyan tree fitted with loudspeakers made sure all village folk were thoroughly entertained with Tamil film songs, news and movies. At times, a VCR or a VCP (Video Cassette Player in case people have forgotten them) reduced reliability on Doordarshan. This, coupled with frequent visits to nearby towns to catch a Tamil film got me hooked to, well, Tamil films. To me, Tamil films simply meant two individuals – Rajnikanth & Kamal Haasan. Nothing else really mattered. As I look at Endhiran, Rajnikanth’s next magnum opus out on September 10th, I pinch myself and wonder how this man has held fort as THE superstar down south for 35 long years.
Padma Bhushan Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known to all of us as superstar Rajnikant’s rise to superstardom is a classic rags to riches story. His style and mannerisms got him an entry into Tamil cinema when K. Balachander took note and gave him a break in Apoorva Ragangal (1975). There has been no looking back ever since.
Rajni’s rise to fame has largely been his mass appeal. Pretty much all of his hits in the 80s were a rip-off of Amitabh Bachchan classics. These include films like Padikkadavan, Mr Bharath, Thee, Billa, among others. Each of his roles was something the common man could relate to. My father made sure I never missed even one film of his in Bangalore. A regular worker in the industrial sector, a bus conductor (which he really was when he worked in Bangalore), an auto driver, the village brat and a plethora of such like roles made Rajni an instant hit with the masses. Of course, this came with all the attitude and mannerisms that no one could replicate, be it the way he lit his cigarette or his stunts with guns and knives. Rumour has it that Aishwarya Rai, who stars alongside the superstar in Endhiran deliberately ensured that there were several re-takes for a particular shot, only to keep watching Rajni pop a cigarette into his mouth effortlessly.
Rajni’s philosophy on giving back to the society through philanthropy, his take on life and lessons to be learnt on simplicity and humility have always given him a cult-like status. Almost every time he is given a chance to speak, fans scream loud enough to make sure you don’t understand what is being said. More importantly, modesty acquires a whole new meaning when he starts uttering those first few words, be it on-screen or off it. His noble acts like compensating the producers of Baba & Kuselan for the losses they incurred, as well insisting that he won’t charge a penny for Endhiran until it is declared a superhit (as claimed by the producer who recently went on record) indeed catapults him to superstar status.
When Muthu was dubbed in Japan as Muthu: The Dancing Maharajah, Rajni even became a rage in Japan. Such is his fan-following that people even travelled from Bangalore to a nearby town in Tamil Nadu when Sivaji did not release on time in Karnataka. When they did make it to the theatre on time, the theatre owner first displayed a picture of the superstar on-screen, much before the censor board certificate appeared. This is purely for the benefit of the fans who actually performed a full-fledged pooja (along with a priest seated in the front stalls) before the projector rolled. If the audience immensely appreciates a song, especially the classic Rajni entry songs that are common to his films, the audiences even ensure that it is repeated. A friend even narrated an incident where this die-hard fan made it to Chennai, all the way from Australia, only to make sure he caught the first-day-first-show. Most single theatres in Tamil Nadu began the first show as early as 5 am in the morning. Several single theatres thus ran over 10 shows in a day, all booked to the last seat.
At the recent launch of Endhiran’s music in Kuala Lumpur, ace Tamil lyricist Vairamuthu summarized the life of the superstar stating this was the only actor who has managed to connect with all four generations of moviegoers. In Vairamuthu’s own words, Rajni sang for his first song as a lyricist. Rajni continues to do that 35 years later. Only this time, Vairamuthu’s son debuted as a lyricist for his first Tamil film – Endhiran.
Although Rajni has clearly indicated that he will no more play a hero and rather don roles that are more attuned to his age after Endiran, he is and shall always remain the quintessential superstar.