Explaining the Superstar phenomenon!

Traveling on the city roads can be a mundane affair, almost boring you to death. The only respite offered is by the colorful movie posters that are pasted all over the city walls. It was during one such mundane ride along one of the busy city roads that I saw this poster from which this thought sprang. Stopping at a traffic signal, it was clear that all heads had turned in the same direction and were savoring that poster. It carried a still from Endhiran, the name of a local theater, the message ‘Viraivil’ (coming soon) and in a very bold and bright font – ‘Trailer ippodhu Thirayidapadugiradhu’ (Trailer being screened now). This is definitely something new and unheard of. We have seen all kinds of poster advertising films running in theaters. But, this is undoubtedly the first time that a theater has printed and pasted posters to tell people that a trailer was being screened.

What a waste of resources, many would think! But, think twice because what the theater owner has done here makes perfect business sense. If you want to get a better idea of what this is all about, better get a ticket for a movie

in a theater which is screening the Endhiran trailer – you will be able to see the effect for yourself. Over the last fortnight or so, the Endhiran mania has reached fever pitch. Such excitement and euphoria over the trailer release of a movie has never been seen before. Of course, part of that can be attributed to the power and reach of the Sun Network, but the rest is pure Rajini charisma.

Sample this for the amount of excitement Endhiran has generated. Going by the crowd’s reaction in theaters, most of them have bought tickets and entered cinema halls just to watch the trailer, not the main movie being shown (no disrespect to any movie currently in theaters, but this is a fact). There have been ‘once more’ requests from the audience when the trailer has been screened. All kinds of SMSs asking for FDFS tickets for the movie have been circulating on mobile networks. And, a newly opened multiplex in Chennai is now running a Rajinikanth film festival, screening seven of his biggest hits and offering FDFS tickets to those who watch all the seven movies – smart marketing tactic; works only for Rajini movies.

There are some people who still don’t understand what all the fuss is about and why everyone is going nuts over a Rajinikanth film. Some North Indian friends say, ‘he is just an actor, he is not very handsome, nor does he have a great physique, there are many stars who are better dancers etc……. he defies all the definitions of a film star, then why do you call him Superstar?’ The answer is as simple as it is complex. The harder you try to explain the Rajinikanth phenomenon, the more inexplicable it becomes. It is not something that can be counted or measured in terms of awards or hits or crores earned at the box office. The Rajinikanth phenomenon is something that transcends the medium (cinema) itself. He is an excellent actor, a sincere and earnest performer, but to his fans this is not what matters most, it is the man he is and what he remains to be, in spite of his unimaginable success.

For more than 20 years, Rajinikanth has ceased to be just the character on screen. In almost all the films since 1990, there have always been references to his persona, his political possibilities, his previous films, his famous mannerisms etc. Remember the ‘Khushboo-Rajini’ song from Annamalai, the ‘Style’ songs from Basha and Sivaji, the ‘Pokkiri Raja’ song from Kuselan or even the songs from Endhiran (Irumbile oru Idhayam which has the line ‘Superstar come get this’ or the Boom Boom song which goes ‘Autokkara’). There is no other film star in India, not even Shahenshah Amitabh Bachchan, whose personality has superseded the character being played on screen. Any Rajini film is incomplete without the customary dialogue or two being said about his style, simplicity or political clout – and incidentally that is the part that his fans enjoy the most. Think of it; almost all his movies over the last decade or two have had moments where the Rajinikanth personality has taken precedence over the character. There seem to be a few moments even in Endhiran like when Aishwarya asks Rajini to go his own way ‘Thani Vazhi’. In an orthodox cinema outlook, it would not be the right thing for an actor to outgrow the character; but curiously that is what works most marvelously for Rajinikanth all the time.

Another thing about the Rajinikanth phenomenon is its omnipresence. There is no corner of Tamil Nadu, no class of audience that is immune to the Rajini effect. Even self-professed cinema connoisseurs, who scoff at ‘petty’ commercial ways of regional cinema, succumb to the Rajini magic. It is almost impossible to not be a Rajini fan in Tamil Nadu because it is scary to be part of a miniscule majority who are not ready to accept an overwhelming fact.

With respect to all other stars, there are two sets of viewers - first come the fans that adore the actor and like everything that he/she does. The second set is the non-fans who are not very concerned about the star in question and choose to evaluate the movie impartially. But, these rules don’t apply for Rajini- he has two classes of viewers; the fans and the fanatics. Every fanatic is a fan but every fan is not a fanatic; but everyone is definitely a fan. That is why Rajini films always break even (a clear understatement) at the box office unless overambitious producers and distributors overestimate a film’s potential, making a hash of the business (as was seen in Kuselan).

Clearly, the Rajini phenomenon is not the usual star-fan adulation thing. It is something unique that can be felt only by those who have grown up under the full glow of the Rajinikanh charisma. For others, it will always be difficult to understand and explain. Perhaps, it is best summed up in the way my friend, a die hard Rajini fan, chose to put it – mimicking a dialogue from Pammal K Sambandham, - ‘Rajini padam anubhavikkanum, aaraya koodathu’. Let’s wait for another electrifying Superstar experience. To put in the words of the Endhiran trailer – ‘Get ready folks’.

Respond to

Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.

Explaining the Superstar phenomenon!
The Great Inspiration to Science
Truth is stranger than fiction!
Remembering the temptress
The legend of Silk Smitha
The dilemma of being small!
Going Bollywood...!
Fourth Dimension
The booming voice that goes unheard!
A Cinema-TV symbiosis
Marudhanayagam through Endhiran
Seventh Sense
Shankar’s silent victory
A letter to Univercell Vijay Awards Team
Why Singam was accepted
Jo's Space
Television or Voyeur?
Goa Signals….
The Divorce - Why?
The New Kollywood
If Aamir had played fair, would    Asin have cried foul?
Slumdog Millionaire –    Unentertaining, Laughable and    Annoying!