Rajnikanth’s XX movie is releasing now. XX because I have honestly no idea how many movies the man has made.
I have perhaps watched a handful… The most memorable being… Padiyappa (?), and his stint with Amitabh Bacchan – Hum. I loved Hum, mostly because of AB. I don’t remember much of Padiyappa, except for a scene where he does the typical Rajnikanth style whipping of the shawl and kills some bad guy by splitting the knife into two or some such thing.
I have watched other movies, but none remained in my memory, maybe because I do not completely understand Tamil or maybe I just found this… funny.
I mean splitting a bullet into two, turning a shawl into a lethal weapon? Come on! I grew out of that when I was 7. After that, I neither found him attractive or considered his movies to have enough acting talent to actually put effort into watching them. When it comes to Tamil movies, I am more of a Mani Ratham, Madhavan and yes, Kamal Hassan fan.
Call me shallow but I expect my movie stars – particularly the ones in commercial cinema – to be pretty, or charming. It is a fantasy after all.
So when a friend of mine, who I consider intelligent, talented and all that jazz, said Rajnikanth was more handsome than Brad Pitt, I paused. Well, stopped like I slammed into a stone wall, actually.
What makes him so popular? You cannot call him a mere actor anymore. He is a phenomenon.
Someone once told me that he is simply bred into the Tamilian mindsets, like their idli sambars or the vibhuti that is so associated with Tamil Iyers. Perhaps it is true. I mean we grew up watching Hindi film stars wearing shiny clothes, white shoes and doing pelvic thrusts and we not only find it perfectly normal, we also love it. So the north had its Jitendras and Dharmendras and the south had its Rajnikanth (NOT comparing the two at all!)
But how does one explain his popularity in Japan? Their love for weird-ass martial arts? I mean… I do love those kungfu movies that make the most impossible acts possible. Isn’t that similar to what Rajnikanth does?
But how does ONE man inspire such love in people? Masses and masses of people, and it isn’t just the lower and middle class, like in the case of some Kannada actors. Almost every Tamilian I have met unanimously loves Rajnikanth and his movies and they will defend him to the point of death (true story!).
I find his movies comical but they find it… captivating.
When Shivaji released, even in the distant shores of Australia, tickets were sold out a month before and for the first time I witnessed scalping. Tickets were sold for as much as $180, someone told me. I know someone who paid $75 for a ticket. That is a week’s rent. No other person in the entire world could command such devotion. Additionally, someone requested fans not to upload copies of the movie or pirate it. And seriously, there wasn’t a single torrent to find or a Youtube non-authorized clip for over a month. A month is as good as a year in online time.
For a man who started off as a bus conductor, he has come a long way. I don’t know much about him… what I mostly read about him is the stuff that appears just before his movies appear. But I do mostly like what I read about him. The superstars aren’t those men who command a million people’s attention. It is those who command the attention, the love and manage to keep it.
That is where AB differs from Rajnikanth. AB did not grow old gracefully. Rajnikanth did. True, he still plays a 20-year old in his movie, but his off screen antics are more… mellow, as far as I know.
And this is a guy who wouldn’t make you blink even when he is shooting or doing the most outrageous things. I didn’t expect to see Aishwarya Rai beside him in that… costume. She looks more fleshy, like the way South Indian men prefer. But I guess she would’ve been accepted and dismissed no matter how she looked because she was beside Rajni Sir.
And I might just go watch Ethiran… Rajnikanth apart, the movie looks quite fascinating for an Indian movie. You gotta admit… the guy never does anything halfway.
Edit: Apparently all his movies must bill him “Superstar Rajnikanth” Lol!