Post- Enthiran, Kollywood star Rajinikanth has reached demi-god status in Bollywood
He won hearts right from his first major film in K. Balachander’s Award-winning Apoorva Raagangal (1975) forty years ago. In August this year, Rajinikanth cut a cake to commemorate his 4 decades in Indian cinema. Winning several awards, doing over 150 films and being the first Indian actor to have appeared in four different forms of cinema: black-and-white, colour, 3D and motion capture, the 63 year old is almost like a god to his fans.
What hgave Rajinikanth this demi-god status was the Tamil film Baasha (1995), which emerged as an industry record.
The unique style icon is said to have a heart of gold. His one of a kind dialogues and idiosyncrasies, as well as his political statements and generosity make him stand out. In his films, he often has a larger-than-life super-hero image, complete with gravity-defying stunts and charismatic expressions; contrasting starkly with the modest, down-to-earth man fans see in real life. Rajinikanth is a star who is not afraid to age, to appear in public with a bald patch or two and the hints of a sagging jawline. He is seen off-screen in a simple white veshti, thinning white hair and no make-up. His lack of off-screen grooming is one of the reasons he wins the audience’s hearts even when not on-screen.
With an inspiring rags to riches story, where Rajinikanth went from being a bus conductor named Shivaji Rao Gaekwad to a Superstar who still hasn’t forgotten his roots; Rajinikanth’s life story makes him a character on as well as-off screen. He is a reminder to the aspiring actors about what they can do if they really try. The versitile actor has acted in Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali apart from other languages.
Possessing that style element—for example the way he flicks his messy hair or tosses a cigarette, the way he dances at the age of 63, the aura of indestructibility as well as those Chuck Norris style jokes about him: like injuring a bullet that hits him or knowing Victoria’s secret sets him apart as a brand in himself. And, talking about brands, Rajinikanth has never endorsed any product or service, making sure fans only know him for himself.
Seven years from his debut and 85 movies later, Rajinikanth started off his Bollywood career in 1983 with Andha Kanoon, alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, making it one of the highest grossing films of that time. He also acted with super star Aamir Khan in the Hindi movie Aatank Hi Aatank. Rajinikanth had done around 29 Hindi films till then.
But Rajinikanth really took off in Bollywood in 2010 with the tri-lingual sci-fi film Enthiran, releasing in Tamil with dubbed versions in Telugu released as Robo and in Hindi as Robot. The film was released worldwide as the most expensive Indian film ever made, ultimately becoming the second highest-grossing film in India of its time. Directed by Shankar, it told the story of Dr. Vaseekaran (Rajinikanth), a scientist, who makes a robot called Chitti (Rajinikanth) in his own image as a weapon for the Indian army. The robot is later given human feelings and becomes destructive. Packed to the teeth in special effects and visual editing and computer enhancement, the film brought Rajinikanth to a large section of the Indian audience. The aims of the filmmakers was clear: to make as many people be able to access the film in terms of language as possible.
Four years later, on Rajinikanth’s birthday this December, filmgoers are all set to receive Linga in Tamil, with dubbed versions in Telugu and English. The fans’ reactions to the teaser of Linga has been thunderous. It received a million hits on YouTube and has provided every indication that it will be an out-and-out commercial entertainer.
With Enthiran, Rajinikanth reached a peak of popularity unmatched in the Indian film industry. He had already beat the Badshaah of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan in 2007 when he was chosen to receive the Indian Entertainer of the Year award by NDTV, also winning the Raj Kapoor award the same year from the Government of Maharashtra. What really proves he became popular in India and especially in its northern states with the release of Robot is the 2011 award for Entertainer of the Decade by NDTV and Forbes India naming him as the most influential Indian of the year in 2010. Also, in 2013, he was listed as one of the 25 Greatest Global Living Legendsby NDTV.
Rajinikanth has a lot riding on Linga, with advancing age and the problems it brings catching up to the invincible superstar. At the peak of his career, at one point he had done 50 films in 4 years, but now, he can manage only a film once in four years or so. Linga will answer the question on everyone’s mind: has the superstar still got it? We feel he still does.