Now it looks like the turn of Tamil superstar Rajinikanth to turn into an actor -- all over again.
In recent weeks, we saw the other Tamil superstar, Kamal Haasan, sinking into Suyumbulingam, the cable television operator in Jeethu Joseph's Papanasam who uses the knowledge he gains from cinema to outwit cops.
Director P Ranjith will transform Rajinikanth into a don in Kabali, a film whose title had lent itself to speculation in recent weeks. But this is not quite news.
What is -- and hot news at that -- is that this 159th movie of Rajinikanth will see him as an actor, not a showman performing tricks that have gone stale over the years and no longer seem to seduce even his diehard fans, whose clubs are about the highest in number, surpassing even those of Amitabh Bachchan's!
Ranjith had said some weeks ago that Kabali would bring back Rajinikanth the actor.
One is not sure whether Ranjith's decision, obviously endorsed by Rajinikanth, has been a fallout of the success seen with Papanasam. Certainly, Haasan's superb performance in the film was one important reason why it did so well, and far better than his earlier releases like Viswaroopam (1and 2), Uttama Villain and so on.
Many may not easily believe this today, but Rajinikanth can be a fantastic actor. He was, at one point. He was discovered by K Balachander, who gave him a small role as an abusive husband (of a character played by Srividya) in the 1975 Apoorva Raagangal. The movie explored a controversial subject in the true Balachander tradition, and it got rave reviews. The Hindu wrote: Newcomer Rajinikanth is dignified and impressive.
Rajinikanth's first pivotal role was in a Telugu film, Anthuleni Katha, helmed by Balachander -- a remake from Tamil, Aval Oru Thodar Kathai, also directed by him. Rajinikanth starred in several fascinating works after that, such as Moodru Moodichu, Avargal, 16 Vayadhinile and Mullum Malarum.
Somewhere down the line. Rajinikanth flicked the cigarette in the air and caught it with his lips -- a style that got fans on a delirious high. But he eventually began to suffocate in smoke. His movies began to flop. His last box-office debacle was Lingaa, and the star was ripped apart for this. Not just by critics, but financiers as well.
Ranjith probably saw one in a million chance to re-image the star into an actor -- in Kabali. One hopes that Rajinikanth -- now well past 60 -- will grab this opportunity with both hands and submit himself to the mandate of the megaphone. After all, he must realise that one can see antics on a circus ring, but a fine piece of performance can emerge only on screen. And Rajinikanth knows this, only too well.