Written on : Aug 18th 2010
Disclaimer: It is inevitable not to be inspired by other such similar posts while writing about thalaivar. I have tried my best to make sure no sentence or phrase is repeated from any/most of the other tribute posts that you might have read.
The first ever song that made me go crazy about it, that made me wait for fridays’ Oliyum Oliyum eagerly, that actually made me sing and hum a tune was Rakkamma from thalapathi. I was a 4 yr old kid then. There could have been many reasons for me to get addicted to it, it could have been Mani Ratnam’s way of picturizing it, it could have been the great ilayaraja’s music, it could have been P.C.Sriram’s lighting and camera work. But it wasn’t. What drew me was the simple style of a man, who knew nothing about dancing, but just went about flicking his fingers. A new style. Then one day, I rented the video cassette and watched the movie. I had become a rajini fan that very moment.
What we see now is not the real rajini. Hell, its not even 1/20th of rajini the actor of the 80s. He started off primarily as a villain and then moved to more of an anti-hero character. His portrayals, from what I have seen of those films, were far beyond what any villain does today. It was during this phase that the women hated him. They were just terrified by seeing him on the screen. It wasn’t violence or gore, it was more of the cunning, sly and maliciously menacing roles that he played. If I remember correctly, in 16 Vayathinile where he played a negative character, he hardly does anything grossly violent, but still made you hate him. Now that is what you want your villain to do. You want him to be loathed. But there was another side to this. He was not a normal actor. He had style in whatever he did. The young school and college going kids began to pickup anything he did. There came a stage where filmmakers began to think it wasn’t good for him to play such roles anymore, just because of the impact he had on them. This, in my opinion was the first public pressure that he succumbed to. And it led to the death of one of the finest villains we had. But it was then that Rajini the hero was born.
In the 90s he did films with so much ease that you often wondered whether he took any effort to act or portray those characters. People said he was just happy with doing formulaic commercial cinema. I say, it was his formula, he was the one who invented it, made it successful, film after film. Then why not stick with it? His style was and still is inimitable. There could be a hundred people flicking their cigarettes into their mouths, but they cannot be rajini. He could just carry films just with his charisma and his mere presence, a lot like Al Pacino of Indian cinema. People outside India Tamil Nadu cannot understand this. All they see is a bald man in his 60s trying to do something which even a 20 or 30 yr old cannot fathom. All we see is the charisma oozing out, the ineffable style and a little bit of jealousy from people north of the vindhyas.
I’m sure when endhiran releases, there will be a hundred articles about thalaivar, written by people who claim to be his greatest fans whereas heart-to-heart they know that their knowledge of Rajinikanth is limited to what is available on wikipedia. I dont claim to be his biggest fan, nor am I a film critic. I am just a normal guy who saw an actor when he was a kid and couldn’t stop himself from becoming a fan of his acting, style and charisma. And when endhiran releases, this passion for thalaivar will surely grow exponentially and hopefully help convince a few more people that he is infact the God Of Indian Cinema.