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The Man… The Legend… The Phenom…

How many ever stars come and go in Indian Cinema, none can reach the heights he has breezed by, nor scale the peaks he has brushed past… There may be many legends in Indian Cinema but I am sure that this man is, as every single of his die-hard fans would swear by, the one and only SUPERSTAR, of not just Tamil or Indian Cinema but World Cinema. There have been many rags to riches stories in Cinema, not just on screen but off screen too; none more so than the story of our Thalaivar. It is not a story that needs retelling for many, but for the few uninitiated, here goes my best attempt at recreating a tale that already has been and would be retold countless times in the annals of history.

Born Shivaji Rao Gaikwad on December 12 1950, to not-so-wealthy parents, this youngest child of four siblings, with a lot of dreams and passions started out just like anybody else. Playing truant from school, getting caught and getting punished, were all things that he too went through. To help his family economy-wise, Shivaji Rao joined the Bangalore Transport Service, as a conductor. However, his passion for theatre and histrionics lead him to act in plays, in his free time. Even as a conductor, his style and the way he used to dispense tickets won over the passengers and they used to wait for his bus to arrive and throng it. There began his tryst with attracting the masses. Also, it was here that his lifetime friendship with Raj Bahadur, who was the driver on the same bus, began.

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It was 1973, and Shivaji Rao Gaekwad decided to travel to Chennai, to pursue his interest in acting. With a lot of help from his friends, he joined the Madras Film Institute and began a course in acting. In just a couple of years, in fact in 1975, he made his acting debut in a bit role in legendary actor K. Balachander’s Apoorva Ragangal. The movie winning a National Award might have been a sign of things to come for this dark-complexioned, long-haired, boy-next-door looking lad… K. Balachander took Shivaji Rao Gaekwad under his wings and gave him the screen-name Rajinikanth – a name that resonates the world over with awe, now. A couple of memorable negative roles later, he landed his first role as a hero and despite taking some time to endear to the people as a hero, he has gotten himself engraved in the hearts of his fans in a way that no other star ever did or ever will. After a flurry of negative roles in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu, Rajinikanth shot to fame with his brutally cruel role in Moondru Mudichu and also for his unique style of flicking a cigarette into his lips from a distance. Rajni started playing the lead in the 1977 Telugu movie Chilakamma Cheppindi. With legends like K. Balachander and SP Muthuraman backing him and casting him in their movies, Rajni soon became one of the top-most heroes of the era and got himself a cult-following amongst the Tamil audiences.

The Kollywood audience could relate to the dark complexioned guy on screen, the man who stood up to anti-socials and fought for what is right. This catapulted him into the highest league of stars, on par with the biggest star of those times – Kamal Haasan. The two shared screen space in a lot of movies, with Kamal playing the protagonist and Rajni the antagonist on a lot of occasions. Rajni played the hero’s role for the first time in Tamil, in Bairavi. N just four years since his foray into cinema, Rajinikanth had completed acting in over 50 films across 4 languages – no mean feat. 1983 saw Rajni entering the hallowed Bollywood for the first time, with Andha Kanoon. His 100th movie Sri Raghavendra brought about a change in the overall personality of this brash young actor and his spiritual leanings began to increase. The 90’s saw the emergence of the legend that was to be – Rajinikanth – THE SUPERSTAR.

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It was in 1980 that romance blossomed in Rajni’s life, when a college girl – Lata Rangachari, came to interview him along with a couple of her college-mates. Rajni and Lata got married on February 26, 1981 and have two daughters – Aishwarya and Soundarya, both of whom are married now. The ascension to the unscaleable peak as the King of the Audiences’ hearts continued right through the 90’s and by now Rajni had become a cult, more so a religion. There were strong voices calling for him to enter politics and take over the governing of the state. The call became so strong that a few of his followers even started a new political party. However, Rajni came out in the open and stated that he was not getting into Politics anytime then and condemned his fans for doing such a thing.

Despite not being a native of Tamil Nadu, the heights that Rajinikanth has reached are completely mind-boggling. With fame come it’s share of controversies and even the Superstar was no exception. Rajni has had his share of controversies inside cinema, out of it, at the political level and where not. However, his dignified silence, minimal reactions to these controversies and composure always brought him out of these dark spaces, unscathed. He retains his position as one of the most influential people in Tamil Nadu, at the moment.

A very spiritual person, Rajinikanth has always given quite a fair share of his earnings back to the society and the deserving. His philanthropical side, though well known amongst his fans, has not been publicised much, on his insistence. Many of his generous contributions to various social and charitable causes have never been brought to the attention of those outside his closest circle. Rajni also undertakes regular pilgrimages to the Himalayas and other religious destinations.

The power and reach of just the name Rajinikanth is such that, though made on a lighter vein, many impossible jokes have been made on this Superstar. Some of these jokes might not even seem funny to his die-hard fans who will swear by them being actually true. Here are a few for you to relish:

Rajni and Time got into a race and Time is still running…
Rajinikanth is the only person to have counted to infinity, that too twice…

When Rajni plays cricket, rains get abandoned.
One day, Rajinikanth bunked school, and from then onwards, that day has become known as Sunday.

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Jokes apart, these just show the levels to which Rajni’s fame has risen and grown manifold. In a long and chequered career, Rajinikanth has been showered with many awards, none of them even equalling the lofty place his fans have given him in their hearts and minds. The first award Rajni ever won was the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for his performance in the 1984 movie Nallavanukku Nallavan. Many State and Indian government awards notwithstanding, Rajni has also been named the Entertained of the Year and Entertainer of the Decade. He was also named as one of the 25 Greatest Global Living Legends and as recently as last month, was awarded the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year, at the 45th International Film Festival of India, held at Goa. However, a National Film Award has always remained elusive, but as everybody wishes, is just around the corner.

After acting in the costliest movie ever made in Tamil Cinema, Rajinikanth’s last movie released was Enthiran, in 2010. This was followed by a cameo in Shahrukh Khan’s Ra.One. Then came the innovative experimental project Kochadaiiyaan, a motion capture animation movie. The period following 2010 saw Rajinikanth being hit by a spate of illnesses, some serious enough to have him hospitalised at Singapore, leaving his fans very worried. Much to everybody’s relief, the Superstar recovered and announced his next project Lingaa, under maverick director KS Ravikumar, with whom he has given many a hit. The project is complete now and will be hitting screens on December 12, our Thalaivar’s birthday – his 64th. This movie was made at such short notice on his insistence. Rajni knew that it was well over 4 years since his fans saw him acting live on screen (not counting the motion capture Kochadaiiyaan) and wanted to give his fans something to cheer about. With him recovering from his serious illness, and despite a lot of apprehension from his family members and everybody around him, Rajni shot for and wrapped up the movie in just a little over 6 months. The movie will see the coming together of Rajinikanth, AR Rahman, KS Ravikumar, Vairamuthu and many other stalwarts of the game, resulting in a visual extravaganza for his fans….

Keep rocking Thalaiva… One Sun, One Moon, Only ONE SUPERSTAR – RAJINIKANTH…

– Vicky

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