If there’s one celebrity that everyone across a country such as India, with its myriad cultures and languages recognises, it’s Rajinikanth. Not only is Rajinikanth a Thalaiva (Tamil term to denote “leader”) among his Tamil fans but also one for fans everywhere in India.
Rajini before becoming “Thalaiva”
A versatile actor, nothing in Rajinikanth’s life came easy to him. He made his Tamil film industry debut with a small role in K. Balachander’s Apoorva Raagangal in 1975. This set the stage for him as a newcomer who then went on to assume the role of an antagonist in several movies until 1977 when S. P. Muthuraman gave him his first positive role in Bhuvana Oru Kelvikkuri. The experience of playing an antagonist shaped how he saw such characters. While the industry made villains out to be dummies, Rajinikanth ensured that those in his movies were portrayed as powerful characters by power-packed actors.
In 2002, when Baba was released, there was much speculation of Rajinikanth’s future in the industry, as the movie has miserably failed, so much so that the actor repaid the distributors himself. But Rajinikanth was not one to succumb to such issues. He calls himself a horse that can rise easily from such troubles and not an elephant who is weighed down easily.
Three years later, he starred in Chandramukhi, the Tamil remake of the Malayalam hit Manichitrathazhu which put him right back at the top. The movie was an immediate success across the country, with many in other parts of the country still under the impression that the Hindi remake Bhool Bhulaiyaa came directly from the Tamil movie.
In a country obsessed with fair skin, Rajinikanth proved that his skills were far superior to the society’s standards, with the stardom he accumulated over time.
Rajinikanth, the Superstar
The actor has amazing foresight and strategic talents. He pioneered a class of superstardom that was interspersed with humility that no one else could quite replicate. He created a barrier of sorts between his fans and himself by denying meeting with the media, leaving his fans his movies as the only means to feel connected to him.
At the same time, he knew exactly where he stood in the industry. He did not take well to being compared to Amitabh Bachchan. He had earlier said that Amitabh is an emperor, and he himself was just a king.
When the Tamil film industry had found their next MGR in Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth realised that he needed to follow a different route, and pursued commercial films, which became his true calling.
Rajini fan craze
Every year, people across the country spare no expense in celebrating Thalaiva’s birthday. Here are a few glimpses of this year’s extravaganza.
A couple from Tokyo made their maiden visit to India just to take part in Rajinikanth’s birthday celebrations.
Wow Japanese couple visited Chennai, India for the first Time only to Celebrate Thalaivars Birthday. What a love they had towards our Makkal Thalaivar. They are die hard fans than us. feeling Proud @rmmoffice @SouthChennaiRmm #HBDSuperStarRajinikanth #HBDThalaivaaa pic.twitter.com/v2wqpYZOzc
— Gayathri Srinivas (@gagsshri) December 12, 2018
Many from the film fraternity also shared their wishes publicly. Actor Nani shared a video of him performing a classic Rajini move while Shankar Mahadevan posted an image of their meeting.
— Nani (@NameisNani) December 12, 2018
— Shankar Mahadevan (@Shankar_Live) December 12, 2018
2.0 and the future
This year saw the release of the costliest film ever made in India – 2.0, a sequel to Enthiran. While the jury is still out on whether the movie qualifies as a hit or not, considering the movie did well in the Hindi belt but not so much in South India, it was the most awaited movies for Rajinikanth fans.
On the occasion of Rajinikanth’s birthday, the teaser trailer for his next movie Petta came out today. Showcasing the star in his iconic sunglasses style, the movie is Hindi actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s Tamil film debut.
It truly is a great time to be a Thalaiva fan.