It was Friday evening and I was winding up my day at office, after yet another hectic week. My wife phoned me to say that she had got movie tickets for Kaala, the latest Rajinikanth flick that had released in theatres today. It was a late night show, and she asked me to be on time for the movie. In spite of the unpredictable and killing traffic snarls in Bangalore, I managed to reach home well in time. A quick dinner and we all headed to the movie theatre very close to our home to watch the superstar in his latest movie.
Kaala was an archetypal Rajinikanth movie. It started with the customary introduction, which I have not seen for any other hero in Indian cinema… perhaps even the world over! It took a good ten seconds to show “SUPERSTAR” one letter at a time on the large screen, with the title track of Kabaali playing the background. The audience, as always, went into frenzy screaming and whistling and shouting as if Rajini himself was present in the theatre. I remember experiencing this right from the days when his movie Annamalai was released and even though I rarely display emotions, I cannot hide my glee every time I see this intro. For me there is something stupendously joyous about this introduction even after all these years. In Kaala, Rajini was the protagonist albeit an aging one with children and grandchildren. He stands up for what is right; he fights for his clan; he fights against evil and as always wins the battle. Even at this age, he was beating the shit out of the villains. Of course it is not realistic for someone to overpower a dozen other folks… but hey, if a James Bond or a Ethan Hunt or a Jason Bourne and many other such blokes can do it, why not our very own Superstar! The power dialogues and their delivery were quintessential Rajini. There is one instance where Nana Patekar [the antagonist playing Hari Dada] ends his meeting with Rajinikanth and starts to leave the place. Rajinikanth retorts with “Hari Dada Naan Unna Po Sollalaye” [Hari Dada, I never asked you to leave]. This to me was one of the best moments in the movie… so simple and yet so Rajini. The humour and the wee bit of romance added to the plot which overall was entertaining. A good movie leaves you thinking about it much after the movie is over. One even starts thinking how real it could have all been. This is exactly how I felt about Kaala, during the weekend after watching the movie. Superstar still rocks!
I am certain that Rajini does not have the acting chops required of a superstar. There are countless other actors who can really and truly act. I also don’t think the guy is anywhere close to being considered as handsome or a heart throb for women folks. His dancing skills can leave many people rolling their eyeballs in agony. There are many more such shortcomings and it is hard to imagine how someone attained super stardom with all these imperfections. How could someone become the nation’s only “Superstar” with all of these fallacies?
Now this blog is not a review about Rajinikanth as an actor. It is also not a review of Kaala. As a family we rarely go to the theatre to watch a movie. For the past many years we have been watching perhaps only one movie a year in a movie theatre and that too only movies starring either Amir Khan or Rajinikanth. My wife and I are not die-hard fans of either of these two actors and so I am not fully sure why we are following this routine. At least Amir Khan is able to deliver quality flicks which we can watch as a family. But what about movies starring Rajinikanth? Why do I so eagerly go and watch them? I am certain that if Kaala had any other actor playing the lead role, I would have hardly cared to watch the movie. And most probably I would not have liked the movie as well. Moreover I do not even bother to think of watching other popular or well rated movies at the theatre. Not sure how many would even know this, but I can still recollect watching the Hollywood movie Bloodstone, only because Rajinikanth acted in it!!! All of this got me thinking as to why, do I like to watch Rajinikanth movies. There must be some sub-conscious reason for this and this blog is an attempt to unearth that reason.
Every time we hear or read or see Rajini’s story in real life, we always get to hear about the fact that he was working as a bus conductor in Bangalore before he started his acting career. In an era where lineage is a deciding factor, here is a self-made man with his very humble beginning. An awe-inspiring and true rags-to-riches story. With this, it is only natural that we were introduced to him as ‘The Good Guy’ in real life as well. He stays true to this introduction in everything else we hear and see about him on and off the screen. Apart from a few movies in which he essays the baddie, he has consistently been playing roles which good guys would do in real life. I am not sure if he chose his movies or if his movies chose him, but looking back he has been very consistent in what he wanted to be known as. Among his many Avatars in the numerous movies, he is known for playing roles to uphold justice; fights for the downtrodden; fiercely protective about his family; revolts against oppression; and more often than not wins all the battles.
While his on-screen victories are something which many of his contemporaries have tried to emulate, his off-screen personality is what endears him and lends credence to his personality. Till date I have not seen a commercial or a product that Rajini has endorsed. A quick Google search reveals that he has endorsed only one long forsaken cola and nothing else thereafter. A person of his brand appeal and reach, could have earned millions in endorsements had he wanted to. Having chosen not to tread this path has clearly been a personal choice which he has lived up to all these years. Perhaps he had realized that stardom comes with certain responsibilities and hence he was willing to forgo the earnings for the larger good of the people who idolize him. When a rookie playing in IPL cannot resist the temptation of campaigning for muscle relaxants which he might not be using, it is commendable to see how Rajini has been staying away from this money spinner for all these decades.
I can also distinctly remember that he never celebrates his birthday. Perhaps he is the only popular film star not to be doing so. Yes, it can be a disappointment for his fans, but not celebrating a birthday in lavish ways is what a common man would normally do. So does Rajini. I had read somewhere that a couple of his fans met with a fatal accident a few decades ago, after greeting him on his birthday. And since then he has not only stopped celebrating his birthday with his fans, but has also ensured that he is away from his home on this day. This again speaks of how he shoulders his responsibility of stardom rather than just flashing it away with arrogance.
Like most common and normal humans in this country, Rajinikanth is also married to only one person all his life, come hell or high water. We can all rake the dust out of our brains, but we will not be able to unearth news of him having behaved inappropriately with women. In the sleazy Tinseltown where he earns a living, it is only natural that we regard him as a messiah of a lost or perhaps a non-existent clan. He has dutifully raised two daughters without any fuss, like what anyone else would do. Being liked by family was perhaps as equally important to him as being liked by his fans. I would like to believe that his humble early life would have made all of this easy and natural. Of course he is rich. Money and success do not change people; it only accentuates who they really are. Rajini could be as good an example you can get for this.
Let us get into other crazy things so to speak. Rajini has not shot harmless animals to impress his friends; he has not stashed arms of any sort; he has not driven his car over pedestrians; he has not created his own fashion line; no drugs; he has not started restaurants in his name; he has not produced movies; no drunken brawls; was never bailed out by politicians. On the contrary he flaunts his bald head; has done innumerable charities; pious & god-fearing and perhaps I can go on extending this list to prove that Rajini does not do what stars do and at the same time does what common folks do in their daily lives. Fan following is just so frail, flimsy and superficial when one practices something totally different from what he or she preaches. Rajinikanth does not belong to this cadre of stars, but instead has responsibly and consciously carved out a niche only for himself.
Once I put the above thoughts together, it was simple to deduce why I and perhaps thousands of others like me, look at Rajinikanth as more than an on-screen hero. I for sure like evil being kicked on its butt at all times, be it in real life or in the imaginary world. And when that is being done by someone who is genuine in real life, it is all the more triumphant. This is where I, without a scintilla of doubt, am convinced that Rajini brings unparalleled joy when doing what he does in movies. His unfeigned values and personality in the real world supplement his role on the silver screen. What many like me finally see is a smooth transition from the real world rather than schizophrenic personalities. Watching his movies are akin to giving me the hope that the world still has good guys who can rescue society from its villains. And ultimately, such good guys are difficult to hate.
Thank you Superstar Rajini for the entertainment… I can’t wait for more of it!