What’s next for Rajinikanth?

What is the next Superstar film? That has been one of the hottest questions in Tamil cinema for over two decades now. It has become even more pertinent in the last decade. One still recalls the uninhibited euphoria that accompanied the announcement of Baba, the mysterious excitement that came with the stills of Jaggubhai (yes, do you still remember the dropped Superstar-KSR project), the tense anticipation when he opted for Chandramukhi, the sheer joy when he announced his combination with Shankar through Sivaji, the pleasant surprise when he acknowledged that he would be part of Kuselan and the spontaneous celebration that was sparked off when he said ‘Robot’.

The ultimate success or otherwise of all these films is another matter. But, the ecstasy that this man can spark off with just an announcement of his arrival has to be experienced. Now, it is time again for that expectant wait to commence as we look forward eagerly to the next move by the Superstar.

Ever since the start of the decade, almost every movie, except the last two, have had one common rumor associated with them; that this could possibly be Rajnikanth’s swansong in tinsel town. But thankfully, the swansong never happened and we are celebrating the huge success of Endhiran. Now, the questions have slowly started springing up; what after Endhiran? I am quite sure that this will be the hottest debate in Kollywood in a few months’ time and decided to fast forward the process on the best possible date-Superstar’s birthday. By now, we are all very sure that the term ‘retirement’ does not hold true for Superstar, even if he has crossed the universal retirement age. The man who was supposedly planning to pack his bags after Baba (2002) is still firing on all cylinders and really, age is just a number for him as it is for all Superstar fans. So we can safely dream, debate, fight, pray and speculate about what Rajnikanth can do next in tinsel town.

First; post-Endhiran Rajnikanth has become a fearsomely big colossus. It is no longer easy (it never has been over the past 20 years) to make a Rajnikanth movie without getting the feeling of being inside a pressure cooker. The fan base, the global appeal and mass hysteria generated by Superstar’s screen presence is so immense that making a film with him will be almost like playing God. There are so many expectations to be met, so many prayers to be answered (you have no clue about the number of special prayers that were offered all around the world for the success of Endhiran), so many smiles to be granted that the sheer size of the challenge can make any director shudder. Even the mythical ‘Atlas’ would not have felt such pressure. So, we think, who is there worthy enough to pull off all this at once.

There is only one yardstick by which a Superstar movie is measured, the previous Superstar movie. For a Superstar movie to be considered a success it must be bigger and better than his previous film; nothing less. That is what makes any director’s task so challenging, especially post-Endhiran. To go bigger and better than Endhiran a director will have to go where no one else has ever been in Tamil cinema, in terms of budget, scale and perfection. And as of today, there is only one director who has consistently shown the willingness to go beyond all limits and limitations set by the industry to create awe inspiring edifices – Shankar. His career has been a story of going bigger and higher with every film and he has taken the expectations that are associated with a Superstar film to an entirely new plane through films like Sivaji and Endhiran. Is there anyone else who can take up the gauntlet and make a Superstar film that stays true to all expectations.

We think there are a few names who can do it. Maybe not in terms of the money spent or theaters booked; but in terms of maintaining the international production standards and stylish presentation that have been set as benchmarks by Shankar. We have A.R.Murugadoss who looks every bit capable of making a top notch Superstar movie. After all he is the director who gave us Ghajini and also delivered the unforgettable Vijaykanth movie; Ramana, which defied every stereotype that had been built around the actor. There is also Gautham Menon who has proved time and again that he is one to make classy and stylish movies without resorting to blatant commercial gimmicks; something that the new generation pan-Asian Rajnikanth fan base will love to watch. But, Gautham Menon might also have to learn and adapt to the tastes of audiences beyond urban limits if he is to satisfy all Superstar fans. Of course, there are always respected and experienced names like KSR and Mani Rathnam. KSR is the master of a style that only he knows how to execute and he can create a thoroughly enjoyable entertainer. But the question is, will just another commercial entertainer be able to satisfy all Rajnikanth fans who have been fed on magnificence and splendor since 2007. Mani Rathnam can be relied upon to break the mould that has taken over Rajnkanth the actor and deliver something as pathbreaking as Thalapathi. Then there is the group of young and brave directors who can really surprise us by casting Rajnikanth in an earthy and lifelike character. But, will the average Rajni fan (each one of us has a little bit of that in us, I believe) who loves to see him play the infallible savior be able to accept Rajnikanth in such a role. For all that we know, there were people who groaned because Endhiran did not have the mandatory Rajni ‘entry’ and ‘intro’ song!

That is where perhaps I feel that we need to open up more in our attitude towards Rajnikanth. He will always remain the ‘Superstar’ in our minds, that will not change. But, if he is willing to do meaty character roles that will lend immense weight to movies, become the senior statesman of Tamil cinema, play roles more closer to his age (as he said recently), then we should watch and appreciate the evolution of a master entertainer rather than clamor for intro songs and superman fights.

We love to see him as the supreme entertainer and there is no one who can do it like him. But, perhaps, and this has been said many times, in our sea of expectations we end up stifling a major part of what Superstar has to offer. After having been enthralled by him for all these decades, I think we should offer him the chance to express himself, explore himself. That would be the perfect Birthday gift. Happy Birthday Superstar!

Respond to

Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.

‘Thiraipaarvai’: The fading charm of film criticism!
The significance of Dr. Kamal Haasan
Matching Hollywood: More than just ‘size’
Quarter Cutting: What Shiva did that Vijay and Surya didn’t?
The curious case of moustaches…
Whose tweet is it anyway?
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
“I am 37 going on stronger”
Second marriages – full stop or a comma?
Television or Voyeur?
The New Kollywood
If Aamir had played fair, would    Asin have cried foul?
Slumdog Millionaire –    Unentertaining, Laughable and    Annoying!