The recently concluded 45th International Film Festival of India saw Rajinikanth receiving the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year. It was a noble gesture, but some also perceived it as a trick to get Rajinikanth inside the BJP arena. The BJP tried to pursue Thalaiva even before the elections when PM Narendra Modi went all the way to Chennai to meet the superstar amidst all the media hype and chaos.
But, the star is not willing to dedicate his life to hardcore politics yet, even when there is an advantage for new people in the local politics. Former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is struggling hard with the court cases and the DMK is likely to take some time to regain its lost ground. Overall, it’s a good time for the superstar to join the bandwagon which is riding high in many states and vice versa. But, will Thalaiva get into politics and leave the films, a tool which made him the master of hearts?
Interestingly, Shivaji Rao Gaikwad aka Rajinikanth also knows the importance of this moment and thus he sometimes leaves the parties arranged in his honour, or he simply refuses to be at the venue. He has not been in best of health in recent times and that makes all of us sad, but this also provides him an opportunity to avoid political conversations. And, above all, he remains the man for the common masses, the Shankar-Salim-Simon of the society.
The fifteen minute role in Apoorva Raagangal (1975) began a scintillating career which was to become synonymous with charisma, magic and miracles. The tricks learnt at Karnataka State Transport Corporation made him the man every film fan was waiting for. The style, the ruggedness, the majestic walk, the magisterial persona, things had to fall in place. By now, we have heard and read so much about the man that we almost believe that it was bound to happen. He was born to be the superstar.
His Hindi films didn’t work, even if they worked somebody else took the limelight, but he was not the same man then. Had they been released today, many of them would have gone to cross the Rs 100 crore mark. He was doing the same things naturally which contemporary stars can’t do even with the help of magnificent camera crew and fantastic editing machines. Robot (Enthiran) was also successful in Hindi. Shivaji the Boss and Chandramukhi have become the regular feature of some film channels. Nobody objects to him romancing Shriya Sharan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha. In fact, some die-hard fans would go to the extent of saying that these heroines can’t match up to Rajinikanth’s dancing, screen presence and looks. These people simply don’t give a damn about the fact that Rajinikanth doesn’t have any hesitation in making public appearances without any wig. You see, this is like the idea of police surveillance. It’s not how the police operates after the crime, it’s the acknowledgement of the fact that ‘police exists’. This much is enough to keep the wrongdoers at bay.
It could be a topic for scholars to understand the reasons behind Rajinikanth’s massive popularity in North India, a place where he hasn’t done any ‘original’ film since Bulandi in 2000. And, mind you, those who remember Bulandi do so only for this man and how Anil Kapoor copied him in the second half. In case, you’re trying, his name was Gajraj Thakur in the film.
Initially, it was about ‘Chuck Norris’ kind of jokes but everything turned into respect for the thespian before anybody realised it. Be it his pictures with ailing children or be it his photographs from the sets of his films, he always comes across as a genuine person. His personal life reflects the same. Unlike some other Southern superstars, who used stardom to destroy their own superstar status, Rajinikanth’s never entangled into any controversy that was personal. Whenever he spoke for a cause or about something political, he cared to keep his personal away from it.
It’s difficult for big stars to keep away from politics in Tamil Nadu and other South Indian states. The alluring seats of power attract with so much force that one lets go of legacy and jumps on to the favouring tides without thinking much of the people who made them the stars and masters of the local spheres.
We know of other actors who are desperately trying to fit into the shoes of Thalaiva. It’s so in-our-face yet the audience is making these ventures successful. You think it’s happening without Rajinikanth’s unseen help. He may not have asked for it, but the fans know their duty. They simply can’t see Thalaiva going out of prominence. Now, you understand why that Chennai Express song was such a perfect marketing gimmick.
Now, come back to the initial argument. Should Rajinikanth join politics under the BJP umbrella and create a divide among his fans on the basis of their respective faiths? Probably this is the reason he is taking time and quite possibly this is the cause behind him not attending parties thrown in his honour. In the end, we all faceless Shankars-Salims-Simons wish you a happy birthday Thalaiva.
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