Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Rajinikanth Is A Superstar?

That Rajinikanth can still command a salary more than any other Indian star can only imagine and that in the recent past his movies evoke strong interest across the nation and many other countries, despite being a Tamil film hero, is pretty intriguing. As a Tamilian, I do feel very proud about that.

I have been a Kamal Hassan fan since I was a kid. I have had fights with my mother, classmates and cousins over who is a bigger/better hero. There would be extreme excitement and nervousness during every Diwali and Pongal to figure out whose movie would be a bigger hit. And most of the times, I would end up with bitterness, as the dark skinned and ugly hero would romp the box office.

Rajini to his fans is demigod.

Interestingly, some ignorant lady tweeted saying that Rajinikanth is only about style and smoking. Or something to that effect. In fact, to many, and even to me for a long time, Rajini was all about style. He has a very weird way of doing things. Whether it was wearing glasses or smoking a cigarette or just a simple walk, his style element has become legendary.

He cannot dance. His range of emotions is limited. Most importantly, as I said earlier, he is anything but good looking. He doesn't even possess a well built body, a must for all the new age actors. Then what is it that makes Rajini a phenomenon?

  • The vacant spot: Before the Rajini-Kamal era, it was MGR-Shivaji period. Quintessentially, while one entertains the masses, the other takes up the cudgels for performance.  Kamal and Rajini were fighting for the dominance till a point came when consolidation of turf became inevitable. And it was during this period that the two stars decided to chart out a different course for each other. With a grounding in the film industry, Kamal naturally filled in for Shivaji Ganesan. And Rajini became the mass hero. But just as Kamal is different from Shivaji, Rajini is completely different from MGR.
  • The style element: There is no denying that style was and is Rajini's differentiating factor. I would be only look stupid if I even elaborate further on this. I have, despite my devotion for Kamal, always attempted Rajini stunts, often failing in it. I especially love the cigarette flick and wearing the glasses. In an industry that has always been crowded with many aspiring for the glamour and fame, his signature styles helped him establish and make a mark for himself.
  • The look: It has often been said that people like Rajinikanth resembles the common man, hence the masses love him. They are able to relate to him, it is often said. Well, it does sound true. But then, MGR was anything but dark. While I don't think it is incorrect, I cannot agree with it completely.
Long time back, when I was servicing Lason India, the then President of the company, Mr. Pradeep Nevatia, said that the more a person grows up the ladder, the more one has to be humble. He went on to explain that a person reaches the top because there are many supporting from below. Losing humbleness, is akin to kicking the very ladder in which one is standing. In Rajini's case, the glamour and fame never got into his head. Rajini's fans hold him in respectful veneration. He is very approachable. I can vouch for it, myself.

While what I have pointed out certainly contributed to his success, I think it is his own story that people like. It's well known that Rajini's is that of rags to riches. He was a bus conductor who, through dedication, perseverance and hard work, grew to stardom. People relate to him, because he is one of them. Not just in real life, but also on the screen. His movies are always, almost always, about a humble poor man who through hardwork and struggle succeeds. It is a recurrent theme. Dharma Durai, Padikadavan, Panakkaran, Velaikaran, Veera, Muthu, Annamalai, Arunachalam, Basha, Padayappa and Sivaji. There may be slight differences but at the core is the story of struggle and success.

Rajini is not a superstar because of his acting skills. He is, because he is a symbol for an ordinary man. He gives hope. He represents struggle. He is a beacon of light for those who want to succeed. In Public Relations, there is a concept called perception reality dissonance. In Rajini's reel and real life, there is just no dissonance. And that makes him the phenomenon, that he is!

Coming this from a die hard Kamal fan, means a lot! :)

PS: A note to Ilaya Thalapathi Vijay and Simbu. You may fancy occupying the space that Rajini might vacate. And I think you are already imitating him. Remember you can easily copy what he does on the screen. But it would be better if you learn more from the true self.


Ramya said...

nice one, but rajni's persona is hard to deconstruct, being a big kamal fan myself, I still cannot ignore his mass appeal. He has oodles of charisma, which are his own, I guess some people just have it, and no amount of sophistication, class or charm can out run that!

oracleofmadras said...

It is good that he has not gone for media overkill and self promotion...

Ramanathan said...

Portraying a common man is of course one of the reasons of his success. And i guess, for the same reason comedians koundamani and vadivelu rule(d) the tamil cinema. They are also super stars in my opinion.

Sambit said...

I agree with you and disagree with the theory that public could be fan of a star just because they can relate to his looks, i.e. he looks like one of them. Generally, people look up to Heroes b’coz they are larger than life....Heroes are what public dream to be like but are terms of personality, style, looks and everything. Therefore, I would imagine that the ‘look-factor’ works definitely against Rajini. Despite of that, if he commands such phenomenal love and respect, he certainly has something which other actors (including Kamal) don't have.

On what you've mentioned on division of area of work (if that really is the case - I have my doubts if that practically could work in film industry) between Rajini and Kamal, my understanding is that, Rajini would still have been where he is today without such so called division. And I bet, Kamal (not to undermine his acting talent) or any other star would give his right arm to command the kind of popularity that Rajini does. Hence if such an agreement, if really there, would mean nothing more than kindness on Rajini’s part and a face saver for Kamal (for the simple reason that Rajini doesn’t need to attempt Kamal kind of roles and Kamal would bite dust commercially in a Rajini kind of role).

My guess is, the success of Rajini lies in the huge brand that he has built for himself like nobody could. He must have done that by extreme hard work, carefully chosen projects that completely entertained people, strategically etched out roles that would make people feel part of that dream world where they always wanted to be, association with the right movie makers(initially, as later on, even the most right of them would have killed to work with that brand). And yes of course, that super human breath-taking humility.

I say only guess, as I am only an outsider, you are a better guy to judge. Sorry for yet another long comment, but the subject of your post was too fascinating to avoid falling into an inter-active mode.

Magan Pathak said...

Good one, you have nicely put together beautiful info/qualities about the Star which one feel nice reading, but it no ways shows that Rajni is great as far acting is concern, please do write some of the great act/ movies which shows that he is extraordinary.

style element : if you see reality shows today you will be astonished to see some of the act by some people, but that does not make them a Superstar.

Humbleness, is a quality of great human being but alone humbleness does not makes a superstar.

I have very limited knowledge about the Star & have watched few Hindi movies alone.

Savitha said...

I would have to admit that this is something coming from you, knowing how much of a Kamal fan you are, just like myself!

I guess for me the reality of all this is just the way we all grow up, learning to understand each one has a place. It becomes easier to respect the good things of each personality without bending over backwards to prove your dream hero is also 'the' perfect human being, which I guess I did many times when I was younger and guess from your post as well that you did.

Bala said...

Good one Ganesh On the last piece to Vijay and Simbu, I don't think we should talk about superstar and these two in the same sentence.Talk about success getting into head, both of them epitomize arrogance and lack of humility (thou Simbu looks like is redeeming himself as he grows older). The humility combined with "likeability" is what makes Superstar what he is.

arul said...

i do not understand why ppl compare Rajni and Kamal. both r diff. and gr8 in their own ways. And u mentioned about division of work. i dont think this s a software company project or a government job, to divide work among themselves. They both do wat they know, wat they love, and wat they r expected and that is why they both r successful.

R.Gopi said...

Well Written Mr.Sriganesh...

Bharath said...

Nice article.

Dark, yes. But ugly? Rajini is ugly? Age has taken its toll on him, yes, faster than one would like. But have you ever noticed his looks in earlier films, when he had healthy, shiny, dense locks which were the subject of people's envy and imitation? He had such sharp features, lovely hair, nice smile, a very symmetrical face, he was taller than most other heroes of his time... He was never all muscle, but has ALWAYS been in trim and in shape, while so many struggle to keep their forms in tact! I am a Kamal fan as well. Kamal is handsome, yes. He might be better looking to many as well (considering the peculiar Indian mind that associates good looks with being fair! As far as I know, fairness is an attribute of the female sex! They dont say tall, dark n handsome for nothing!)... but it baffles me when you say Rajini looks ugly! I disagree. Rajini is good looking. May be I should say 'was' now. :)

Sriganesh R said...

Hi Bharath,

I know Rajini is good looking in his own way.

It was just a manner of saying in comparison to Kamal.

And trust me don't trust women when they say Dark-Tall-Handsome. :) The Dark you think it is, is no the dark they have in mind.

And yes, Rajini has nice features and express emotions well.


True, it is not possible to deconstruct Rajini's persona. What I wrote it only one view.

Deepak, Pretty interesting point. Kamal and Rajini have never ever endorsed a product or brand.


It is not job. In Marketing its called segmentation and targeting.

shankarlal said...

only one actor called a true superstar and that is Rajesh khanna that is a reality Rajnikant nothing compare to Rajesh khanna.