He is the omnipotent, the omnipresent power. He crawls faster than the wind and walks at a speed faster than light. He will blow you away with dialogues that are equivalent to Biblical verses and goad you with his orgasmic demeanor on the screen (See it for yourself here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igEhQyGndR4). The man called Rajinikanth… if I may correct myself is not a mere mortal but a force of nature.
Rajinikanth was born to a Marathi family as Shivaji Rao Gaikwad. After his mother’s death at an early age, he battled an impoverished lifestyle. In his brief stint with Mysore Machinery, he used to load sacks of rice into trucks at 10 paisa per bag. Thereafter, he appeared for an exam and took up his first formal job as a bus conductor in the Bangalore Transport Services. He was accompanied by the driver called Raja Bahadur. They used to be thrown in together for grueling shifts that began at 6:00 a.m. in the morning and stretched till 2:00 p.m.
Interestingly, his job proved to be the place that won him his first set of admirers. The style that has been Rajini’s hallmark is almost free of pretence for it is actually an integral part of his overpowering persona. His life stands testimony to this fact. As a conductor, he was the fastest in flourishing tickets to the passengers and would also return the money with an unparalleled panache. The passengers were so in awe of him that they would let certain buses go empty only because they wanted to wait for the bus that had the entertaining Rajini on duty. Drawing and entertaining crowds was perhaps a quality that was built into his DNA.
Rajinikanth made his debut in 1975 from K. Balachander’s National Award winning Tamil film Apoorva Raagangal. When Rajinikanth entered the industry, Kamal Hassan was at the helm of stardom and popularity. In fact Kamal Hassan was also launched by K. Balachander. Surprisingly Rajini and Kamal did not emerge as rivals but as partners where Kamal Hassan functioned like a rudder in Rajini’s voyage to becoming a superstar. In Naman Ramchandran’s biography on Rajinikanth (The Definitive Biography), the actor says “In the beginning, in 1975, just how big a star Kamal Haasan was, today’s generation does not know, he was an even bigger star in 1975 than he is now. Old or young, a new artiste had never shaken all of India like he did.” Rajinikanth also remembers the time when Kamal Hassan called him and said “Rajini, only if you act alone will you get your own space. If you say no, the cinema world will use us, and you won’t be able to grow”. After the incident, Rajini went on to make his mark himself.
Displaying sheer dedication to his work, Rajinikanth chose to work on the same hectic schedules like Kamal Hassan and performed in 36 movies in just 2 years (Kamal Hassan acted in 33 movies in 2 years). After his negative roles in several movies like Avargal, Moondru Mudichu and 16 Vayadhinele, it was S.P. Muthuraman who decided to cast Rajinikanth in a positive role in his movie Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri. It was Muthuraman who actually turned around Rajinikanth’s image from antagonist to protagonist on the silver screens. In his eminent career, Rajinikanth gained the number 2 spot in Asia after Jackie Chan to become the highest paid actor. His movie Chandramukhi became the longest running flick on the Tamil screens with a span of 800 days. The movie also went on to become a cult hit in Germany under the title Der Geisterjäger. Sivaji The Boss was another stellar movie which reportedly collected 13.5 million within first four days of its release setting a record of sorts for Tamil movies. South Indian actors have relentlessly looked upon Bollywood to achieve their ambitions but Rajinikanth is an irony. He’s perhaps the only Marathi actor to have achieved such fame in Kollywood. The story of his achievements does not end here. He’s also the only actor to have found a place on the pages of CBSE textbooks. A chapter named ‘From Bus conductor to Superstar’ showcases Rajini’s inspirational journey from being an ordinary commoner to becoming a worshipped figure. But wait…the most incredible thing is yet to come; the site that throws open Rajinikanth’s world to us works only when you switch off the internet (Untangle the ‘Rajini mystery here: http://www.desimartini.com/allaboutrajni.htm)
It is almost impossible to find a logical reason that drove Rajinikanth to zeniths of stardom. Neither does he own those prince charming esque polished looks nor the perfectly cut body. Yet his stature remains unchallenged. The action sequences in his movies and sometimes even the story plot would make little sense to sensible movie makers and audiences. But it is indeed the reason that makes him even more special and interestingly the subject of insanely ridiculous Chuck Norris style jokes (Read the jokes here: www.desimartini.com/allaboutrajinikanthjokes.htm). Given the odds, his charisma and his frantic fan following can be attributed mainly to his simplicity and humility. His fans love him for being the simple man he is. In a famous incident, Rajinikanth denied to stay in a luxury suite booked for him by AVM Studios (The most prominent production house of South) and asked to stay in a simple room instead. This is just one of the many stories. There are endless number of such tales that speak volumes about Rajini’s simplicity and philanthropy. Rajinikanth’s phenomenal success story is absolutely surreal but the fact that he’s been able to carry the fervor adeptly without any quotient of modern day glamour is something that intrigues and puzzles the actors and audiences equally.
Isn’t it a reason enough to say that “There is nothing that Rajini’can’t’?
Author: Prithu Gupta, Writer, Vishaka Communications