Dilani Rabindran



The East Asian female tourist who knows who superstar Rajinikanth is


I recently visited Jamaica and while on a group excursion I was fortunate enough to have the popular “Captain” as a tour guide. The Captain is famous for his unique laugh, and as soon as I heard it I knew whom I was reminded of: “He sounds just like Rajinikanth!” I proclaimed, when a young, East Asian female tourist with an Australian accent near to me chimed in with “Yeah, he does!”  I immediately followed up: “You know who Rajinikanth is?” She replied: “Everyone knows who Rajinikanth is. He’s that major Indian actor with the cool hair and that walk and style, right?” “Right”, I agreed, as we were ushered onto our next site.  I walked away elated over her recognition of Rajinikanth, and then disappointed when I realized that “his style” was probably all she knew about him.

If this girl had no other exposure to Indian movies and had to know any one thing about them it was understandable it would be about Rajinikanth. The Superstar is the world’s most recognized icon of Indian cinema. He is known internationally for his mass entries, punch lines and signature walk. Although his immense box office stature has now made him synonymous with globally commercial blockbusters – ex. Sivaji was on the United Kingdom’s Top 10 Films list upon release – I wanted to tell this cultured girl that aside from his style and grandiose films he has a rich and varied career.

Those who only know of the style icon are often unaware of the long list of characters he has portrayed with critical acclaim. Before he had commercial stardom he was different kinds of villains in South Indian films. When he finally became the protagonist he played varying roles, like failed lovers and mentally ill persons. He acted in Hindi films alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Amir Khan, and, during his climb to “demigod” status in the ‘90s, as some call it, he was also artistically outstanding in non-masala films like Thalapathy and Veera. I wanted so badly to ask this girl if she knew that before he had theme songs being written in his honor he had proved his artistic mettle through years of diverse dramatic roles & won numerous awards and recognition.

I also wanted to point out that how Rajinikanth publicizes Indian cinema to the world is very different from how his fellow actors do so. Amitabh is known for his Hollywood-like Hindi films with NRI-related plots, while Kamal is the pseudoscientist who fuses international current events and technology with Indian theatrics. In a way, both of these icons bring Indian cinema to outside audiences by incorporating largely American and European styles into their performances, helping to bridge the gap. But, Rajinikanth, on the other hand, brings global audiences to Indian cinema, by magnifying uniquely Indian stories and characters. Most of Rajini’s films, no matter how large in scope, have authentically Indian values and circumstances at their heart. From the plight of auto drivers (Baasha) to the prevalence of supernatural beliefs (Chandramukhi) to government corruption even today (Sivaji) – Rajinikanth is the well-known face of stories that are relative to the common Indian man that are being seen by huge international audiences thanks to his status. Muthu, a story of familial drama and land disputes, was the first Tamil film to be dubbed in Japanese and earn a record-breaking amount at Japan’s box office, leading to a whole new country’s appreciation of Rajinikanth and Tamil films.

I also wanted to ask this girl if she knew about how he got into cinema. If I had asked her I expected her to guess that he was born to a line of famous film personalities, like the Kapoors of Bollywood. I would be quick to point out that Rajinikanth is a self-made star who remained committed to his dreams of being a famous actor throughout a difficult upbringing – the ultimate “rags to riches” story. Doing odd jobs during grade school and his youth before settling into his famous bus conductor position in Bangalore in his early 20’s, Rajini was no stranger to hard work. After doing theatre & attending the Madras Film Institute on a friend’s loan, his big break finally came from veteran director K. Balachander - contingent on the fact that he learn Tamil, so of course Rajinikanth dedicated himself to quickly learning the language of the cinema he would one day rule over. And even when he reached his megastar status, the ambition that first turned Shivaji Rao Gaikwad into the one & only Rajinikanth has never subsided. After experiencing a few box office setbacks, like Baba, India’s Thalaivar was not down for long. So, sure I would’ve told her that the Rajinikanth legacy is real, but I would’ve told her that it began with him, a common man who worked his way to the top and encourages millions of regular citizens to chase their dreams with his own inspirational story.

There is so much about Rajinikanth I wish I could’ve told the girl who knew his name and his style that day – about his talent, his contribution to the global spread of Indian cinema, his ambitious rise to the top and his living legacy; there is so much I wish I could’ve told her about Indian cinema’s Billa, Baasha, Annamalai, Sivaji, Chitti and all-round Thalaivar…but it was only a three-hour tour! So instead I write what I wish I had the chance to tell her here and dedicate it to the man himself on his 63rd birthday, and to all the fellow fans who agree with me that there is so much more to the Super Star than his super style.

Respond to dilani.behindwoods@gmail.com
Behindwoods is not responsible for the views of columnists.



This page hosts the views of the authors of the column. The views are generally about films, movie reviews, movie news, songs, music, film actors and actresses, directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors, and all others that contribute for the success or failure of a film. People looking for movies online, movie reviews, movie analysis, public response for a movie, will find this page useful.