Thamizh Talkies: The enduring legacy of two legends
With Rajinikanth's birthday around the corner, the writer talks about her two matinee idols, Superstar and Ulaganayagan
This December, the posters on the walls of Poes Garden bear additional vibrance. They herald Superstar Rajinikanth’s birthday on December 12. The area hitherto known mainly as the former Chief Minister J Jayalalitha’s thottam (garden) now has only one VIP shining in its corridors. Whether he will or he won’t get into active politics, Rajinikanth’s power and pull over the political climate of a state he does not hail from, cannot be disputed.
The impact of his scorching screen presence, the fast-paced dialogue delivery, and the bell-bottomed long strides quickly gained immense ‘likes’ in my impressionable mind, when I went back to see all the films he acted alongside Kamal Haasan, who was a household name even in the 80s. The two of them were cast in 14 films together, and it meant that one had to watch the films twice over — once for each of them. Ninathaley Inikkum is not just their last film together; the title also denotes how sweet and delectable it was to see two contemporaries in one film, whatever be the length of their respective roles.
Now, almost four decades later and having achieved independent stardom, fame, and success, both my matinee idols, Superstar and Ulaganayagan are now poised to step into the political realm of state administration and winning votes. While Kamal Haasan's plans are focussed on bringing about much-needed change to our state, Rajinikanth’s silence and timely observations convey a willingness to participate in making a difference.
Their public appearances, announcements and fan/welfare club meetings this year tell me that there is one common feature in both their approaches: anti-corruption stance and a determination to not use politics to create personal wealth. As 2017 draws to a close, Kamal Haasan has turned it around to keep us hooked on to his public life — and his upcoming film releases (Vishwaroopam 2 mainly) — and Rajnikanth has been working round the clock to ensure we get to see two films of his next year (Enthiran 2 and Kaala). Acting in sequels also happens to be another common feature between these icons and 2018 promises to be yet another year when we get treated to their work. For fans on twitter, I have only one thing to say: it is OKAY to be a Rajini fan and enjoy a Kamal film, and vice-versa because almost everyone I know will watch both their films, like we have been doing since 1975.
I’m also forced to hark back to a column I wrote last year on how South Indian heroes, especially Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, still remain leading men with the best business pull in the industry and have been working non-stop for as long as I can remember, while managing to stay relevant in changing times. This template owes itself to MGR who set the trend of maintaining his stature as a hero on screen before switching over to become a celebrated Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
2018 may or may not have the answer to who among Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth will step into state politics, but it will certainly have occasions when we will see them on screen and off it. Like in the late 70s and 80s, we can again expect our beloved icons, Superstar and Ulaganayagan, to engage with us through films, interviews, and surprise announcements. Let’s wait and watch.