Thamizh Talkies: Happy Birthday Rajinikanth

The writer is a content producer and art curator
Thamizh Talkies: Happy Birthday Rajinikanth

Rajinikanth’s Baba releasing to an uproarious welcome tells us only one thing: Nostalgia has a market. But the key thing to note is that while there is a Rajinikanth known to the millennials, there is also another version of him who was way more effective in films that made him the Superstar he is. That Rajinikanth is also a ‘current Superstar’ despite Vijay, arguably, staying put at the number one position for the last few years; this speaks volumes about the depth of love he has earned for himself. There are stars and then, there are superstars. Most of these titles build upon Rajinikanth’s, which has become the calling card of what he represents in his brand of films.

While Baba sees a rerun that’s welcomed with more enthusiasm than what it encountered upon its original release, the real test for our Superstar comes with his next film, Nelson’s Jailer. Hang on—test, what test? Why test a man who’s been a legend for the last four decades? Why is a new film a test of might, like it is the Olympics? A film does not run on one person’s strengths alone, and an actor is only as good as both the story and the director. However, Rajinikanth belongs to that rare breed of legend who can outshine an entire film and draw the spotlight onto himself without even intending to do so. That’s how effortlessly the crown of fame sits on his head. And that’s also why he bears the weight of the cross when his film doesn’t do well at the box office.  

This column began on December 12, 2016, when I wrote on Kabali and Rajinikanth, and at the time, I noted that it would be a struggle for the Superstar to select ‘his’ kind of story and director because on one hand, there were expectations that he must deliver the usual fare in his films. On the other hand, he had to keep up with a changing audience. Rajinikanth is at the same point even now, though he had the successful Petta in between, which remains my favorite post-millennial superstar film after Enthiran. After Petta, there was Darbar, which failed as a film, but for me, Rajinikanth stood much taller as an actor but his presence or acting alone cannot save a film anymore.

Cinema has to be reined in as a whole chariot and Rajinikanth cannot be the sole winning horse. His acting skill is still perhaps under-utilised, and in real life also, he is all style, swag, and panache. His forthcoming films could capitalise on his charisma which is hard to miss even when there is no spotlight on him. My hopes rest on Jailer, which has the scope to have both Nelson’s brand of straight-faced humour (which will fit Rajinikanth to the T), and racy sequences which can show our Superstar in his finest. Rajinikanth shedding his template could be the best thing to happen for his career.  

No piece on Rajinikanth can be complete without a mention of Kamal Haasan, and vice-versa. Seldom has a film industry seen such divergent stardom where two actors created their own fan following through different brands of cinema and carved such uniquely different career paths for themselves. I still think that perhaps it’s best that the last collaboration of both Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan as leads is one which summarised their friendship and stardom best: Ninaithale Inikkum. 

As Rajinikanth celebrates his 72nd birthday, this column also sees its end, which to me is synonymous with new beginnings. If there’s something to learn from the superstar’s journey, it is this: Be in the flow, in the moment, and give it your best irrespective of the result. And when the moment (movie) is over, move on.

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