Superstar Rajnikanth is often called God in Tamil Nadu, indeed in most of South India. Much like Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano is known as in his country. But Kitano shocked me during my meeting with him several years ago when he greeted me by prostrating. Here was God paying obeisance to a mere film critic from India.
Rajnikanth, said to be a hit in Japan, may not prostrate before men from the media, but he is known to be extraordinarily humble and unpretentious. He is probably the only star who dares to enter public spaces in a simple dhoti and shirt, making no attempt, whatsoever, to hide is bald pate under a fancy fig.
But it is quite possible that Rajnikanth's (now shooting his film, Kochadaiyaan, in London after what seems like a remarkable recovery from a supposedly serious ailment that took him to Singapore for treatment) days as God may be over.
For, there is a new God-in-Waiting. His son-in-law, Dhanush, (Venkatesh Prabhu Kasthuri Raja as he was once called), married to Aishwaryaa.
Dhanush, not yet 30, had a sedate start in 2007 with Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram. It bombed, but his second movie, Polladhavan (2007 as well) did not let the producers down. Based on the Italian Neo-Realist work, The Bicycle Thieves, Polladhavan got rave reviews for Dhanush.
Last year, Dhanush's Aadukalam touched upon a novel theme: rooster fight. It is another thing that the film meandered so madly about that it lost its focus. Director Vetrimaran ventured into too many areas in Aadukalam, and this disappointed me.
Although I do not find Dhanush's screen presence or acting ability anything to get excited about, he appears to have hit the mass appeal key with "Kolaveri Di", the song he has sung for wife Aishwaryaa-helmed 3. On YouTube, it garnered millions of hits some months ago, and even Punjabis in Delhi, I am told, were lisping the song!
Anyway, Kolaveri Di has taken Dhanush to the stars, and encouraged by and perhaps thrilled at this jackpot, he has composed, written the lyrics and directed the music video of another song to celebrate Sachin Tendulkar. Dhanush and actress Anushka will dance to the beat.
Yet, it seems that only the other day, Dhanush was a nobody with a Mumbai-based movie critic describing him as a "pigeon-chested poor guy who looks like a paanwala on probation." Dhanush must have had a good laugh at the critic when he won the National Award for Best Actor for Aadukalam in 2011.
Be that as it may, nobody can tell me why, why exactly, has Kolaveri Di become such a craze. There is no melody in it. It is just noise. Dhanush, who sang it, is no Manna De or Mohammed Rafi or Kishore Kumar. Why then...? Well, I suppose it is like a good film failing to catch the audience eye and a bad one filling up theatres. Possibly for the wrong reasons.
Kolaveri Di has been an exellent PR build-up for 3, opening worldwide this weekend. The hype surrounding the song and the picture may be partly due to the rumour (manufactured in all likelihood) about Dhanush's off-screen romance with Kamal Hassan's daughter, Shruti (who stars in the movie). This is a common tactics that many producers have begun to adopt: spread a story about an affair between a film's lead pair to arouse public curiosity which gets them into the cinemas.
All said and done, Dhanush has created a slot for himself: that of an underdog, making a virtue of his puny looks. But despite his impoverished background, he would go on to win the girl. We saw that in Aadukalam. For millions of poor young men in the country, Dhanush has been a kind of iconic role model. And Indian cinema feeds on the imagination of such people.
The moot point now is, will Shruti and Dhanush light up the screen in 3 and get hearts racing?