By: Gayatri Shankar
For someone who is born in Tamil Nadu, this man needs no introduction. His name alone sells better than freshly baked cakes, for he is the apple of everyone’s eye. Here’s presenting Shivaji Rao Gaikwad, who is popularly known as Rajinikanth.
In real life, Shivaji played various roles that proved to be a litmus-test of sorts for transforming him from a piece of coal to a diamond. After having lost his mother Jijabai at the tender age of 5, Shivaji had to struggle to make ends meet. He studied at Government Model Primary School and got his elementary education in Kannada. He also worked as a porter before becoming a bus conductor.
The superstar of tomorrow, Shivaji took keen interest in theatre and once played Duryodhana in Topi Muniappa’s play. Raj Bahadur, a co-worker and a friend of his, recognized the exceptional talent in him and encouraged Shivaji to join the Madras Film Institute.
And that is how the ace filmmaker K Balachander discovered him. With the director’s 1975 blockbuster `Apoorva Raagangal` winning the National Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil, Indian cinema got one of its most loved heroes- Rajinikanth.
Despite playing an antagonist in his debut film, Rajini stole people’s hearts. His villainous stint continued with `Moondru Mudichu` where he played a womanizer and a roadside Romeo in `16 Vayadhinile`.
`Bairavi` released in 1978, launched Rajini as the protagonist. A number of films followed as the newly born superstar of South Indian enthralled audiences with his uber cool unique style with élan. He redefined heroism through his performances that could make people believe in making even impossible things happen. He could fire at a note of Rs 100 and turn it into coins of an equal amount. He could even slice a bullet aimed at him by throwing a knife at it in his trademark style. And he continues to make people believe the unbelievable.
The trendsetter has inspired generations of actors and many have tried aping his style of tossing a cigarette and flipping a match stick in the air and making the lighted cigarette ready for a puff. His style is matchless and his persona incredibly attractive.
Want to know who or what Rajinikanth is? You may ask the Japanese people, for he is for Japan what Raj Kapoor was for Russia.
A sexagenarian now, Rajini has gracefully accepted aging in real life. On screen though, he convincingly romances girls half his age. However, what is unique and praiseworthy is that Rajini isn’t someone who is conscious of looking older and different in real life from his screen self. He still rules the hearts of millions and is followed by a sea of humanity even if he is sporting grey stubble and a bald head.
Surprisingly, the man has never been part of any controversy in a field where grape juice turns into wine overnight. He is certainly one of those exceptional souls who are above gossip. In a career spanning over three and a half decades, Rajini has had a pristine journey. Seldom do entertainment professionals manage to live a spotless life.
Perhaps that is something that makes Rajinikanth a demigod. He is worshipped by his diehard followers who can go about doing the craziest of things for him. Recently, when news of Rajini’s illness made headlines, many fans of his, tonsured heads at various temples to pray for his recovery.
Post recovery, Rajinikanth addressed his fans for their unconditional love and support saying, “I am talking to you after speaking to the chief minister who had assured government`s help and to Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) who has immense affection for me. Sorry for not talking to you first.”
That’s Rajinikanth for everyone- someone who is as humble as a modest commoner.
Though he primarily does South Indian films, his performances in Hindi films too have shined. He has also become a subject of a series of gags that present him as an enfant terrible that are incredibly hilarious. That goes to show what Rajinikanth is all about.
For many he is a trendsetter, for many others a demigod, but this institution of learning is class apart- he is a charmer whom God has bestowed on the film fraternity to entertain generation after generation.
Here’s wishing the living legend a very happy birthday (12th December).