Sivaji Rao Gaekward is his real name. Rajinikanth is the name by which the world knows him. Down in Tamil Nadu the tittle ‘Super Star’ is synonymous to Rajini and Rajini alone. His popularity is maintained by a manic celebrity cult which cuts across Tamilians living all over the world. He has fan folllowing even in Japan. As he Rajini continues to suprise the world, here is a collection of my opinions on the Indian Super Star.
Rajini is a stylish, spectacularly larger-than-life facade created over the years through careful planning of a few intelligent minds. In the beginning, there was only one director called S.P Muthuram who created special characters for Rajini. These characters typically elevated heroism and managed to garner the attention of every average moviewatcher who had a weakness of hero worshipping heroism. But of course, the Rajini’s contribution to his image is the most important ingredient. The characters specifically created for Rajini somehow blended with his unique sense of timing, flamboyant style and indeniable screen presence. Soon Rajini got himself acquainted with the idea of the formula type hero whom the masses loved. What followed was nothing less than Succes. He now knows how to create same character with any director. He has the command over the director and often ghost directs his role.
The Recent Past and Present:
A few years before, Rajini’s popularity took a beating when Dr. Ramdoss and his party men took a snapshot at him and his addiction to cigarette. His morals were questioned and his image was attacked. Rajini, however, remaned silent. There were certain rumours about a rough up between Rajini and Dhanush (lover of Rajini’s daughter). The marriage of Dhanush and Aishwarya put the issue to rest. Then, Rajini’s pet project about spritualism ‘Baba’ flopped while there was the increasing popularity of Vijay (A wannabe RajiniKant) who acted in ‘Gilli’ which equalled a Rajini hit. There were discussions about the waning Rajini craze. But smash hit “Chandramukhi’ reduced the rumours to rubble. When the next biggie with Shankar – the most commercially successful director of Tamil Nadu was announced, it naturally became the talk of the town. The stakes on ‘Sivaji’ may be high and the expectation may be huge; still, it is doing business in the usually Rajini style. Its raking millions.
Rajini & Kamal – A comparison:
Rajini’s Rise: From a critics point of view, Rajini has nothing spectacular. His looks are average; he is an average actor and and a bad dancer . Somehow, his every weakness has worked as an advantage. His common man looks appeal the masses. His mannerism is adored by the audience. People feel entertained watching his movies. In real life, Rajini is known for his humility, hard work, family values (a good husband and a father), religious values and interest in philanthropy. These qualities increased the People’s love for Rajini. With power of this love, his other shortcomings were overlooked.
Kamal’s Fall: In utter contrast, Kamal Hasan (Rajini’s biggest contemporary rival) has everything including good looks and real acting talent. He was a professional dancer before becoming an actor. He makes quality movies. He has better sense of cinema. He is more versatile and has experimented a lot more. He has achieved a lot more than mere commercial success and is capable of achieving a lot more. Even in real life, Kamal is a better personality as he is a profound orator, a true artist, an original thinker, an individualist and a nonconformist. Interestingly, all these characteristics have isolated Kamal to to place where he is respected but not adored.
Rajini – The Megalomanic?:
Read the punch lines of Rajini’s hit movies.
“Naan solrathaiyum seiven, sollaathathiyum seiven.” -“I will do what I say, may also do what I don’t say.”
“Naan oru dharavai sonna nooru dharavai sonna maadhiri.” – “If i say it once, it’s akin to having said it a hundred times.”
“Naan eppa varuven, eppadi varuvennu yarukkum theriyadhu, aana varavendiya neratthil correct-aga varuven.” – “When I will arrive, or how I will arrive, nobody will know, but I will arrive when I ought to.”
“Andavan solran. Arunachalam seiran.” – “God commands, Arunachalam executes.”
“En vazhi – thani vazhi.” – “My way is a unique way.”
“Sivaji pera ketale chumma adhurudhulla” – “As soon as you hear my name you will feel the tremors”
“Kanna panninga dhaan kootama varum, singam single-a dhaan varum” – “Only pigs come in a gang, lion comes alone”
“Sixkku appuram seven da, Sivajikku appuram yevenda” – “After six there is seven, after Sivaji there is no one.”
“Kuzhanthaigal paakurathu pogo, sivajikita vendaam go go”
They all goad ego, proclaim superiority and underline a sense of self-importance. In terms of the amount of self appreciation, Rajini is times ahead of Amitabh Bachchan. Yet, in every interview (if at all), he adjuncts to the pretense of humility. Is there a hidden megalomaniac behind the image of the ‘Super Star’? Only the media can expose.
Rajini – The Political Avataar:
A lot of his punch lines have subtle Political undercurrent. A lot of other stars like ‘Vijaykanth’, ‘Sarath Kumar’ and ‘Karthik’ who have spoken such dialogues have done what their dialogues had hinted. They entered politics. Not Rajini. Sensible people can tell you that he is gathering the required money and man power while awaiting the right oppurtunity to jump in. Rajini had already missed one oppurtunity, after Jayalalitha’s first tenure as CM. That was a time when the anti AIADMK wave was on and people desparately wanted a Saviour. Only Rajini had the guts to oppose tyrannical AIADMK government. When the elections were announced, people hopefully looked upon him. Instead of utilising the chance, Rajini chose to offer his support for alliance of DMK and Congress. The chance got amiss. If at all Rajini has any Political ambition, now is the right time to enter politics as he is already riding the Zenith of popularity with the monster hit ‘Sivaji’.
Rajini – The Recluse:
Rajini is known for his reclusive streaks. The reclusive Rajini is a pious follower of Shri Raghavendra. It is beleived that Rajini used to very materialistic, before he received ‘The Calling’ from God in the form of a chance to portay the role of Raghavendrar in a devotional movie with the same name. He claims that the movie had changed him. He often embarks on a pilgrimage to Himalayas. He believes that he has met immortal sages living in deep caves of the sacred mountain where he was given the ‘Manna’ that made him forget time and space. Rumours, say that the ‘Manna’ is some of a narcotic (hashish) used commonly by sadhus. In anway, the image of Rajini – the sage contradicts with the other Rajini who posseses the acute business sense to manufacture his brand of movies. Its known that Rajini either claims overseas distribution rights of his films or a lion’s share of the profits.
The SSE (‘Super Star’ Syndrome):
Like Rajini, there has been several other actors who have established themselves as ‘Super Stars’. It starts with the actor enacting a role which endears the audience. The actor then graduates to a star and the character becomes his image. The star continues to act in accordance to the image for the rest of his life. In short, the actor becomes a slave to this image. In the past, Tamil Nadu had M.G.R; Andhra Pradesh had N.T.R and Karnataka had Dr. Raj Kumar. Now, south Indian actors like Chiranjeevi, Vijay, Ajith, Balakrishna, VijayKanth and many others are on the race to being called Super Star. You have ‘Mega Star Chiranjeevi’, ‘Elaiya Thalapathi Vijay’, ‘Thala Ajith’ and ‘Captain VijayKanth’. All these actor’s act only on larger than life kind of roles. Apart from that, these people interfere in all aspects of movie making, to ensure that it follows the latest norms and formula’s to success. They stick to a safe entertaining formula. However, with the advent of the media, the ‘Super Star’ Syndrome (SSE) is on decline and the only person who seems unaffected is ‘Rajini’.
The SSE in north India works in a totally different way.There are Super Stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan(He is almost there) who have managed to create a recursive food-chain like relationship with the media. While on one side as the overexposure is killing stardom, on the other side these stars are making money . And these new age Stars know that stardom is shortlived. Hence they are out in a healthy race to make the most of it. They flaunt their achievements and awards. They make money in public apperances, stage shows and product endorsements. They are all over Media. Be it commercial success, prestegious awards or head count of fans, they shamelessly hunt for success and adulation. Rajini has again been different. He consciously stays away from the media. He rarely gives interviews. He never endorses products. And manages to create the necessary hype, even without the media’s help. Rajini is not media created.
Rajini Vs The Age of Cynics:
They call these times as the Age of Reasoning i.e. a time when Information is considered God. Now- a-days every piece of new is viewed skepically. Breaking News, Sting Operations, Exposing truth by uncovering scams and scandals are the USP’s of this age. ‘Media cult’ is a bigger cult than the old ‘celebrity cult as media has already barged in to the dubious world of celebrities. With candid interview questions, tabloids exposing dirty scandals, view points of balanced critics and most importantly Over exposure the ‘Star system’ is dying. No matter how many times Aamir Khan confirms to the media that he is a farmer by birth, and the farmland was rightfully alloted to him, the people know better. Media has already exposed the forgery. To err is human. So people might forgive him. But, he will no longer be looked upon as a ‘Human Welfare Activist’.
In spite of all this new found quest for truth the ‘Rajini cult’ has managed to survive. In fact, that is the only cult that remains undisturbed by the Media. The followers of this cult resist the media. Any bad review the reviewer will get bashed up. Its phenomenally followed with suprisingly fervent loyalism. It might as well be the last of such cults. Only because there has been a relative ignorance about the existence of this kind of craze for Rajini. But the hype surrounding ‘Sivaji – The Boss’ has gathered media attention. There are already media reports about the layers of makeup and morphing techniques used to make Rajini appear fair, young and handsome. A TOI column discussed about Indian Obession towards Fair Skin using this incident as example. So, I believe the ripping of the facade has started. Only the extent of percolation to the soceity of Tamil Nadu remains a question.
Rajini is a hardworking man who deserves the success showered on him. But that is no reason to equate him to a saviour of public. His movies are entertaining. And that doesn’t mean that he is the greatest actor in the world. He is only a huge star and an average actor. Its time that the people realize that Rajini is no God. He is merely an on-screen ‘God Player’.